Wellness schemes are a positive influence but how can you ensure they succeed?

We know that workplace wellness is key to having happy staff, healthy staff, and saving money.

Employee sickness and presenteeism costs, on average over £1200 per employee every year.

We’ve given you advice on things you can do within the workplace to encourage changes to fitness and well-being.

But when is it a helpful nudge to encourage change, and when is it trying to force people into a decision?


Many workplace wellness employee benefits schemes offered by employers work on incentives, but often fail due to not following the basic rule of incentives:

“Only offer incentives when the total value over time of all the incentives required to drive the new behaviour is less that the total savings over time that the new behaviour generates”.

In the minds of the participants, most incentives offered do not equal out with energy and time expended. Those who do respond to the initial incentives can then feel that the value appears less over time, and something called incentive fatigue begins, as people expect increasing incentives for the habits they are changing.

One of the other issues with incentives is that it makes the activity switch in our minds from being something for enjoyment, to a task. You can love dressmaking in your spare time, but the moment someone offers to pay you for an item, it can suddenly become something that you want to put off as much as possible. It can even lead to wanting to do the activity even less than originally, once the incentive is removed.


Rewards can be a different area. “We started putting free fruit in the office, and you guys have eaten loads this month, here, have this to celebrate” will have far more effect than “If you eat all the fruit, we bring in each week, you’ll get this.”


“If people won’t change for rewards, how about penalties?”

“If you don’t do x, you will get less y.” “If you don’t do a you will have to pay more for b.”

How do you react to that situation? Does it make you enthusiastic for x and a, or does it make you feel like you are being bullied into a decision?

So, you do it because you don’t want the consequences. Then what? If the threat is removed, do you continue with it because it has become a habit that is good for you? Do you stop doing it because it was forced upon you?

Most people will choose to stop doing it, if they began in the first place.

So where are we left?


Many employers take the third route of “nudges”.

Dr. Richard Thaler, 2017 Nobel Prize winner for his work in behavioural economics explains that, because of our cognitive and decision-making limitations, human beings need “help” when it comes to making the choices that will be most beneficial for us in the long run.

He explains a nudge as being:

“Any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way, without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”

Nudges have three key points:

1. All nudging should be transparent — people don’t want to feel tricked or lied to.

2. Opting out should be easy — don’t make people jump through hoops to get crisps if they don’t want the apples.

3. There should be good reason the believe that the nudge will be overall positive.

Employee support

At DocHQ we provide support for you to be able to achieve the best, both for yourself, and your employees. We offer suggestions for workplace wellness changes that can be offered — positive options that provide encouragement and ideas, rather than regimes to implement and enforce. These will help you build your dream team.

Nudges and suggestions alone aren’t enough to change behaviours. They are just the start. Once you have the inspiration and suggestions to help employees access beneficial choices easily, it is essential not to stop and think change is achieved.

They are just the beginning. Providing the opportunities for people to think for themselves, for them to learn new skills, and helping them to feel a sense of purpose are essential, or those small nudged changes will never become lifestyles that improve mental and physical health.

Sources: 1,2

DocHQ Ltd is a Health Tech company improving choices. We help you connect efficiently to health support and advice whether you are at home, work or travelling. See our website for our services or call us on 0330 088 0645.