9 February 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
A third (33 per cent) of UK workers believe that their bosses should pay them for keeping healthy, reveals research.
The study by Willis Towers Watson (WTW) also shows that 34 per cent of employees would only participate in a company health initiative if there were a financial incentive to do so - up from 26 per cent in 2013.
Although traditional financial incentives include performance-linked bonuses, profit-sharing, and living or car allowances, more contemporary rewards include 'wellness payments', which employees spend on keeping healthy, for example, on health screenings, physiotherapy treatment, gym or sports club membership or spa days.
The findings show that this incentive demand is part of a wider problem with employees' engagement in their company well-being initiatives, as 70 per cent of workers do not believe they meet their needs.
Mike Blake, well-being lead for Willis Towers Watson, said: "The figures suggest that despite employers increasing their focus on health and well-being, existing schemes are not appealing to employees and, as a result, many feel they need extra motivation to participate, in the shape of financial incentives. Having a healthy workforce does, of course, greatly benefit employers, as it leads to lower levels of sickness absence, productivity loss and employee turnover, but employees reap the rewards of living healthier lives too.
"Taking care of health and worker well-being should be a shared priority of both employee and employer, not seen as additional workload that workers should be compensated for. Companies which struggle to engage with their employees would be wise to review their current health and well-being initiatives, so that they are truly valued by employees and meet their needs and personal health goals."
The research found that, over the next three years, 33 per cent of organisations believe their strategy for encouraging healthy behaviours, such as smoking cessation, weight management or increasing exercise levels, will focus primarily on direct financial incentives, an increase from 12 per cent currently.
But Blake advised companies to be cautious about adopting such an approach.
"It is understandable that companies - particularly those who are frustrated at a lack of engagement - are tempted to offer financial incentives to their employees. But this can be a knee-jerk response to problems that may require deeper answers.
"Often a more sustainable solution is to ask more searching questions about the programmes and initiatives that are already in place, for example, are they joined up? Do they connect to employees' wants and needs, is there a broad enough range, and are they well communicated?
He added that employers could consider appealing to the "tech-savvy, time-strapped, fitness-conscious worker, for example, by offering wearable technology subsidies, promoting the use of meditation apps and introducing health-league tables".