This article was last updated on December 13, 2023
In today’s competitive job market, companies are seeking ways to improve their employee benefits packages and promote a healthier workplace. However, budgets can be a limiting factor when rolling out new well-being initiatives, especially with increasing operational costs and economic pressures such as inflation. For organizations looking to boost employee engagement on a tight budget, their insurance plans may offer a cost-effective solution in the form of wellness dollars.
This article covers what wellness dollars are, ways to spend them, and how to use wellness dollars to increase employee engagement.
What Are Wellness Dollars?
Wellness dollars are insurance-provided funds for health and wellness initiatives within organizations. Employers use these funds to provide employees with health and wellness programs, often at reduced costs or even for free. This investment in employee well-being aims to reduce healthcare claims, serves as a powerful tool for talent attraction, and boosts employee engagement, delivering mutual benefits for the company, its employees, and the insurer. These funds typically expire annually, but some insurers allow mid-year wellness program implementation.
How Do Wellness Dollars Work?
Wellness dollars support initiatives that are distinct from standard healthcare benefits, such as medical appointments and health screenings. Here’s a brief guide on using them:
- Check availability: Confirm if the insurance plan offers wellness dollars. If not, consider discussing their potential benefits, like reduced healthcare costs, with the provider.
- Understand coverage scope: Learn which wellness activities or items the insurance allows. This varies, so it’s important to know the plan’s specifics.
- Implement programs: Use these funds for approved health and wellness initiatives.
- Reimbursement: After the wellness expenses are incurred, submit proof of these expenditures through receipts or invoices to the insurance provider for reimbursement.
The key to effectively using wellness dollars is to understand the terms of the insurance plan and apply these funds towards initiatives that align with employees’ needs and the company’s wellness goals. This leads to greater workforce participation, boosted engagement, and improved health.
Wellness Dollar Programs: 12 Ways To Spend Wellness Dollars
Some examples of ways to spend wellness dollars include:
Wellness dollars can subsidize gym memberships, allowing employees to access fitness centers, participate in group classes, and work with personal trainers.
Wearable fitness devices, like Fitbits and Apple Watches, monitor steps, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more. These real-time health insights can shape employees’ fitness goals and help them track their progress, creating a sense of ownership over their health. They can also supplement corporate step challenges, sleep challenges, and other wellness initiatives.
Live & On-Demand Fitness Classes
Wellness dollars can be used for in-person and on-demand fitness classes, catering to various preferences and schedules. Group fitness classes create an opportunity for colleague socialization, improving team dynamics. For these, provide shower facilities or choose low-intensity workouts like yoga or Pilates, which require minimal post-class amenities.
Mindfulness & Meditation Workshops
Wellness dollars can support mindfulness and meditation workshops, teaching employees stress-reduction techniques that help them manage daily pressures and improve their mental health.
Use wellness dollars to fund self-defense classes, empowering employees with the knowledge and skills for personal safety. This boosts their confidence in confrontational or dangerous situations.
Healthy Cooking Classes
Wellness dollars can fund healthy cooking classes and food demonstrations, both in-person and virtually. These can be hosted in a workshop space, allowing employees to get hands-on experience preparing nutritious dishes. For a simpler option, host a smoothie demonstration, which is easy to organize and participate in while encouraging healthy food choices.
Health and wellness challenges can encompass various goals, from achieving a certain number of steps to practicing sustainability. These initiatives encourage friendly competition and healthy lifestyle changes.
Health fairs allow employees to explore available health and wellness resources and services. These fairs, whether virtual or on-site, can feature online booths or physical stands with information on benefits, wellness programs, and resources for improving various dimensions of well-being. A virtual health fair enables employees to conveniently participate without leaving their workspaces, while an on-site option enables in-person interactions. Both formats increase accessibility and provide opportunities for employee education and engagement in wellness initiatives.
Use wellness dollars for team-building activities, promoting collaboration and social wellness. Activities like team outings, workshops, and community service projects help employees build meaningful relationships and improve their sense of belonging in the workplace.
Mental Health Care
Prioritize employees’ mental health by funding therapy and other mental healthcare. This can include individual or group therapy sessions, counseling services, and stress management programs.
Conflict Resolution Training
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, so why not invest in conflict resolution training programs? These programs teach effective communication strategies, emotional intelligence skills, and conflict prevention tactics.
Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA)
Wellness dollars can fund employees’ LSA stipends, giving them flexibility in their well-being journey. Employees can spend their funds on various lifestyle-related expenses, from fitness memberships and financial wellness workshops to personal development courses and wellness retreats.
How To Improve Employee Engagement In Wellness Initiatives
Wellness programs improve employee health and demonstrate a commitment to workforce well-being, contributing to a positive, people-centric work environment. To effectively engage employees in wellness initiatives using wellness dollars, consider the following steps:
Verify eligibility: Start by confirming the availability of wellness dollars through the insurance provider. Understand the scope of eligible expenses and any spending caps to make informed decisions.
Conduct employee-centric surveys: Conduct surveys to gauge employees’ health preferences and needs, ensuring that the chosen wellness programs are relevant and resonate with the team. This leads to higher participation and improved health outcomes.
Select wellness vendors: Choose wellness program vendors whose offerings match the team’s interests and check that these programs qualify for insurance reimbursement, ensuring a seamless integration into the wellness initiative.
Measure impact: Regularly track and assess the effectiveness of the wellness programs. Focus on key metrics like employee satisfaction, engagement levels, and participation rates. This data will guide future decisions, helping to maintain or adjust the programs for maximum benefit.