Incentive Programs Meet Health & Wellness

Pali Chhabra

It’s no secret that there has been a growing trend in recent years for employees to adopt healthier lifestyles.  With one-third of Americans considered obese and 75% of Americans considered to be overweight in some way, many companies are asking “What can I do to motivate employees to live healthier lifestyles?”

In short, there are two kinds of ways you can modify behavior:

  1. Extrinsic (external motivation like tangible wellness incentives)
  2. Intrinsic (internal motivation like gamification techniques).


Extrinsic motivation is more conventional and follows the rule of rewarding people for behaviors. You build a system that incentivizes employees who complete a task with tangible rewards and in the process, you modify behavior. Tying the reward option into the theme can further engage participants and a tangible award, such as a new fitness tracker, will hold a higher perceived value.


Intrinsic motivation is something that brings someone personal satisfaction for achieving goals. In this case, you can use gamification as the system, which is the reward itself.  By an employee’s participation in the program, they gain something internal that means something to them. With gamification, the reward is often just the competition with your fellow employees or the ability to claim success by being number one on a leaderboard.

When it comes to incentive programs, the best way to motivate employees to adopt healthy behaviors is a combination of the two to instill those behaviors as part of their everyday routine. Once it becomes second nature, the benefits to both employee and employer become evident.

simple-b-cssdisabled-jpg-h363510ef059f56bb368a27e5f18232f9Here are a few ideas on creating an environment in which your employees WANT to get fit:

Step it up

Create a friendly competition around a step goal using their fitness wearables at work and then use that data to compete for fun prizes. Create a leaderboard for the participating group to drive the competitive spirit, tied to a grand prize. Offer smaller incentives for achieving milestones along the way, such as a free “cheat meal” after reaching the 10k step mark or a sport water bottle for whoever has the highest step count on a given day.

Move it & Lose it

Create teams and compete with total weight loss goal. Whichever team loses the most weight over a period of time wins a trophy or other public/social recognition. Using a social media platform to post results. Some friendly banter between teams will keep the individuals engaged in the program and build culture in your organization.

Walk & Talk

Setup company or group walks outside. Have set professional or industry-specific discussion topics to make the walk as interesting as it is healthy. During the walk & talk have surprise rewards or raffles to drive more engagement and participation. This program is great if you’re looking for a non-competitive option for the workplace. Create a theme for the week which both the conversation topic and spot recognition reward can be centered around. This makes for a more memorable experience.

Insider Advice: Think wellness can’t be incorporated into your incentive travel program? Think again! We designed a custom step tracker challenge for an adventurous group headed to Europe. As they added up their steps touring through the Italian Riviera, we motivated the group with leaderboard updates and special prize-worthy challenges. To add even more motivation, the company made a charitable donation on the group’s behalf in proportion to the overall steps taken on the trip. The challenge boosted camaraderie and made a lasting impact on the winners!

Pali Chhabra

Author Pali Chhabra

Sr. Program Manager | Expertise is developing successful sales incentive programs, marketing, and creative problem-solving.

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