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Three ways non-monetary incentives can help engage employees

Pippa Andrews, VitalityHealth Director Corporate

Updated: 29th December 2020

Gone are the days of just showing up, doing the job, getting paid and going home.

We spend about a third of our lives at work and nowadays the pressures of modern life have put an unprecedented strain on our mental and physical health. Stress is at an all-time high. At least 29% of UK workers feel stressed because of work ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’, according to Qualtrics’ 2018 employee engagement research.

Health and wellness have perhaps the biggest direct impact on engagement and subsequently productivity levels at work. Findings from Britain’s Heathiest Workplace 2019 showed that on average, employees lose the equivalent of 38 days’ productive time each year because of ill-health and presenteeism (where employees are at work but aren’t functioning at 100% because of health or other issues). It’s proven that healthier employees are more engaged and more productive so now more than ever, the onus is on employers to support employees’ overall health and wellbeing.

And in these remarkable times, engagement becomes even more important. Lockdown has made remote working the new normal for many office-based workers and new research shows that being ‘shut in’ has had a negative effect on health and wellbeing. Vitality pulse data from May 2020 shows that 20-30% of our members aren’t sleeping or eating as well as before lockdown. For many, the already fine balancing act now teeters on a knife-edge – especially for those with children, managing education, entertainment and work alongside the usual domestic responsibilities. If it’s easy for engagement to slip under normal circumstances, the pressure has now been notched up ten-fold.

So, how best can we reverse this trend and support employee health and wellness so people stay engaged and perform at their best? Incentives are a proven method of boosting participation and they don’t always have to be financial. Here are three ways your business clients can incentivise a culture of engagement in their organisations.

1. Encourage physical activity

Exercise is one of the main drivers of better health outcomes. According to the NHS, regular exercise can reduce the risk of the most common chronic illnesses by up to 50%. Offices are traditionally sedentary environments and not conducive to physical activity, something that’s equally likely at home. Often, when people feel under pressure, they don’t take regular breaks to get up and move around. By providing an incentive, your clients can empower and encourage their employees to do so.

One way we do this (as part of our business health insurance plan) is by covering monthly Apple Watch payments for our people when they hit regular exercise and movement goals. Findings from RAND show this initiative has proved successful in building positive long-term lifestyle habits – leading to an average of 4.8 days’ extra activity a month for watch users.

2. A community spirit

Staying connected is good for morale – another important factor in engagement and productivity – especially now. And it’s not just about work-related video conferences or calls either. While these are needed, they don’t necessarily help to alleviate stress or boost morale. Fostering a sense of community through shared interest can though. Hosted through our intranet, we have groups for everything from baking to running and while we’re apart, we’ve taken them virtual – using the power of technology to maintain connections.

3. Advocating advocacy

In general, we engage more with people we relate to. The WHO found that advocacy is key in building and maintaining health programmes at work, so if your business clients appoint advocates around their business, this could help to embed their health and wellness messages in a more tangible way.

They should identify passionate, approachable people who can be on-hand to give out useful tips and tricks and offer peer support to the rest of the workforce, inspiring long-term behavioural changes that positively impact their business culture.

The author is Pippa Andrews, director corporate, VitalityHealth.
This article is provided by VitalityHealth.

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