Benefits and Compensation, Learning & Development

Giving the Gift of Well-Being: How Gift Cards Can Incentivize Wellness in the Workplace

A little treat for employees can go a long way. Gift cards, for example, can play a powerful part in improving wellness, especially when woven into company wellness plans. Since the pandemic, there’s been an uptick in using gift cards to motivate all kinds of positive behavior, including getting vaccines, quitting smoking, getting sober, and completing activities in wellness plans. Companies are already starting to increase their spend on noncash incentives due to recent trends and findings in employee retention, so there’s some great synergy here in rewarding employees’ efforts in a way that will drive joy, motivation, and well-being.

Over the past few years, there’s been an emerging trend in the use of gift cards for improving well-being in corporate, state, and even city programs.

Improving Wellbeing Through Gift Cards

L.A. Care Health Plan recently launched a COVID-19 Vaccination Incentive Program, pouring up to $10.6 million in funds toward gift cards—worth up to $50 each—to motivate locals to get vaccinated. The organization’s approach was supported by a study from UCLA, which found that a payment of $50 would make 31% of people more likely to get vaccinated.

California will soon launch a pilot program that offers chances at gift cards for recovering drug addicts who complete regular check-ins and continue to test negative for meth and other drugs. This method’s effectiveness has been vouched for by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and groups such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse have confirmed that incentive programs are highly effective at helping addicts recover for good.

Similar to the cases above, gift cards can be a powerful motivating force for employees when it comes to company wellness plans. When even a small incentive is added, engagement with the plan can soar, rising from 26% to 90% in extreme cases.

Doling out these rewards as employees participate in activities, complete wellness challenges, or meet larger program goals can create a positive feedback loop. Employees who may be initially driven purely by the excitement and satisfaction of a reward can find themselves transformed by the program they may have otherwise ignored. Results such as improved mental health, physical fitness, or other goals resulting in improved wellness can often end up being their own reward, but in most cases, the continued incentive helps to maximize engagement.

While wellness programs are potentially one of the most direct ways to drive well-being among employees, the effectiveness of gift cards extends to other areas in the workplace, as well.

Gift cards and other noncash incentives have been trending upward in major companies over the last 2 years partly as a response to the Great Resignation. Employee burnout has been at critical mass, which itself is a kind of well-being crisis that has resulted in countless resignations.

The Bottom Line

Respecting and recognizing exceptional employee work—or even just offering the occasional treat just because—has been shown to combat this trend with happier, more satisfied employees. Similar to the well-being program effects, these can create a win-win situation in which employees are driven to do excellent work while reaping considerable benefits to their own well-being.

Considering recent trends in the workplace, companies would do well to consider the advantages of using noncash incentives to drive wellness in the workplace. Whether the goal is increased productivity or improved quality of life for staff, these small ripples of kindness can grow into transformative waves that have a noticeable difference.

David Leeds is CEO & Founder of Tango Card.