Budgets can be a limiting factor for any HR department looking to roll out a new wellbeing initiative. Even though 9 out of 10 companies see a positive return on investment from employee wellness programs, it can be difficult to convince your organization to set aside money for gym subscriptions when just continuing to operate is getting more and more expensive. (Thanks, inflation.)
This is where the magic of wellness dollars come into play. These funds can allow your organization to provide employee wellness programs for free or at a discounted rate. Here’s how!
What Are Wellness Dollars?
Wellness dollars are funds insurance companies set aside to give corporate clients to pay for qualifying employee health and wellness programs. The idea behind this investment is that wellbeing initiatives improve employee health, reducing the number of healthcare claims the insurance company has to cover. Also known as wellness incentives, health dollars, fitness rewards, and wellness credits, this is a use-it-or-lose-it benefit. The money set aside for a client to spend on a wellness program expires at the end of the year. But they are available year-round if your company wants to roll out a new wellness program mid-year.
How to Use Wellness Dollars
The first step in leveraging wellness dollars is assessing whether or not your company has access to this resource. Start by asking your insurance company if it offers wellness dollars and, if so, whether your current policy includes access to this fund.
If it does, you can then inquire after what kind of programs are eligible for your company to provide employees. Every insurance provider has its own criteria for what constitutes as a qualified program, but these offerings go beyond the traditional scope of coverage provided by health insurance (think routine doctor’s appointments or dental treatments) to include initiatives that promote holistic or preventative wellness (like meditation classes, Gympass subscriptions, or nutrition counseling).
If your insurance provider has wellness dollars but you cannot access them with your current policy, consider negotiating this addition before renewing your policy to help empower you to expand your employee wellbeing programs.
Wellness Dollar Program Examples
The programs that are eligible for wellness dollars typically focus on enhancing overall employee wellbeing and providing extra resources for a more balanced, enjoyable life. This might include everything from yoga classes and therapy sessions to massages and acupuncture services. Some examples of programs that can often be paid for by wellness dollars can include:
- Gym Memberships. Gym memberships are included in wellness initiatives that may not fit under other healthcare categories. These are a great way to get your team access to health and fitness resources that they can utilize to boost their overall wellness. Gyms also offer individuals access to fitness classes and group workouts that can help motivate them to achieve their wellness goals.
- Fitness Classes (Live or Virtual). Fitness classes can include anything from a live yoga instructor in the office to virtual access to a library of recorded classes. However your company decides to set up the program, giving your team access to these classes is giving them access to support for their wellness goals and instruction on how to improve their health. You might consider virtual access for a remote workforce or live classes if your whole team is based in your community.
- Holistic Health Offerings. Holistic health programs are all about approaching wellness from all angles, making flexible wellness dollars extremely useful. Holistic programs can include offering therapy and mental health resources, incorporating financial counseling, including regular meditation through virtual access or classes, or providing volunteer opportunities.
- Weight Management. Weight management programs aim to help your team keep their weight at a healthy level and avoid any associated health risks of low or excess weight. Such initiatives might include a walking program with step counters, nutrition counseling and tracking, or regular health seminars with valuable information.
- Nutrition Seminars or Cooking Classes. Nutrition is an important part of health you don’t want to let fall to the wayside. Wellness dollars can often be used to offer nutrition seminars where experts teach your team all about setting up great nutrition habits. You might also consider offering cooking classes (or using wellness dollars to provide access to classes in the community) where your team can learn how to make delicious and healthy food.
- Therapy and Mental Health Treatments. Supporting mental health is absolutely vital in today’s workplace, so using wellness dollars to supplement mental health for your employees is a great way to support their overall wellbeing. Therapy is a great way to provide treatments and support, and other mental health treatments can come in all shapes and sizes that may not be included in your employees’ healthcare plan.
- Health and Wellness Challenges. Health and wellness challenges can get people excited about a wellness initiative so it can be a great idea to take advantage of wellness dollars to fund one. You might create a meditation challenge to focus on mental wellbeing, a cooking challenge to boost nutrition, a reading challenge to improve learning, or a social challenge to help your team make connections.
- Devices (Fitbits, etc.). Fitbits, trackers, and other fitness devices can help your team track their progress toward health goals, and wellness dollars provide a way to make that happen. Wellness dollars can open the door to provide your team Fitbits to track their steps as part of a walking challenge. You could even consider using sleep trackers to make a sleep challenge or initiative easier for your team.
Check with your insurance provider to see what kinds of programs your wellness dollars can help make a reality.
Once you know which programs are eligible under your insurance company’s wellness dollars program, begin researching which wellness options will be most attractive to your employees. You can do this by sending out surveys or emails asking for feedback on the chances of an individual opting into the service if it were to be provided. Or, request a quote from the program you’re considering and bring it to your insurance carrier to discuss your options.
Using Wellness Dollars to Support Every Employee’s Wellbeing
Every employee is on a unique wellness journey. Kelly in the finance department may love a nutrition tracking app while Dwayne on your social team can’t get enough of online yoga classes and Li over in legal would love to take part in a smoking cessation program. Add on the distributed nature of today’s workforce, and addressing employee wellbeing gets even more complicated. How can you meet so many different needs in so many different places?
Gympass’ integrated wellness program helps HR leaders support every employee. Our flexible subscription to thousands of fitness activities and dozens of wellness apps lets every employee meet their wellness needs, even in a distributed work environment. We are a qualified initiative within many wellness dollar programs, so speak with a Gympass wellbeing specialist today!
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.