How wellness dollars can help you boost employee engagement

Does your insurance provider offer corporate wellness dollars? If they do, and you don’t put it to use, you could be missing out on part of your company’s insurance benefits.

Here's how your wellness dollars can books employee engagement.

Does your insurance provider offer corporate wellness dollars? If they do, and you don’t know what this benefit is, or how to put it to use, you could be missing out on part of your company’s insurance benefits.

Encouraging and growing employee engagement takes a concerted effort by company leaders and the human resources team. According to research from Ten Spot, four ways to help employees, especially those working remotely, feel more engaged and connected to their coworkers include:

  • Incentives designed to specifically help them maintain a healthy work-life balance
  • Rewards from their managers/employers
  • Company-supplied equipment or an equipment stipend
  • Virtual social activities with colleagues

Another way is to use the tools provided by your insurance provider to expand wellness programs. One such tool, wellness dollars, puts your company in control and can help you promote social connections between employees while helping them lead healthier lives.

In the wake of COVID-19, hybrid workplace models, and economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to ensure your employees are engaged, happy, and healthy. Wellness dollars can help your company help its employees do just that.

What are wellness dollars?

Wellness dollars are insurance-provided funds that employers can use for health and wellness initiatives. Companies often use them for incentives such as fitness classes, gym memberships, or nutrition seminars, though they have a wide range of applications.

Studies show when companies invest in employees’ health and wellness, employees are happier, more creative, more productive, and more likely to stay. That lowers costs, leads to higher profits, and improves employee morale.

With that in mind, how do wellness dollars work, and how can you use them to improve employee engagement?


How Do Wellness Dollars Work?

Wellness dollars are funds insurance companies set aside to invest in employee health initiatives. These are outside standard benefits, such as covering a visit to the doctor or health screenings. Instead, these funds can be used on a wide range of corporate wellness programs.

While the actual process can vary by insurance provider or wellness broker, here’s how they generally work:

  1. Check to see if your insurance provider offers wellness dollars. They may also be called workplace wellness dollars. If they don’t offer a program, consider negotiating for one by mentioning the benefits, such as lower health care costs.
  2. Ask what programs or items the wellness dollars cover and what vendors they work with.
  3. Purchase covered equipment or schedule activities from workplace wellness vendors.
  4. Submit receipts to the insurance provider for reimbursement.

Some companies do not know wellness dollars exist. This means an organization could be missing out on a wide range of benefits that could improve the overall employee experience — and the bottom line.

What Are the Benefits of Wellness Dollars?

Wellness programs are growing in popularity. In fact, 83 percent of large firms and 53 percent of small firms offer some type of wellness program. Why are so many businesses putting in the effort to implement wellness programs? These five benefits speak for themselves.

1. Helping employees in a cost-effective way

Wellness programs aren’t just good for your employees’ health; they also offer an ROI of as much as $3.80 for every dollar spent. That means everyone wins.

2. Improving the health and wellness of employees. 

Offering wellness programs increases the health and wellness of employees, but what does that look like in practice? Depending on your contract with your insurer, wellness dollars may be available to use for:

  • Wellness programs
  • Wellness activities
  • Gym memberships and other fitness program fees
  • Chronic disease management programs
  • Health coaching
  • And more

In companies with wellness programs, employees reported lower stress levels, better engagement, and lower risk of injury.

3. Offering more competitive benefits packages. 

Some businesses are struggling to attract employees. When companies offer more competitive benefits, they have a competitive hiring edge that can help them attract top talent.

4. Lowering healthcare costs.

A recent study found well-designed wellness programs and wellness dollars can reduce overall healthcare costs. That’s good news for both the company and the employees.

5. Improving engagement — and your bottom line.

Healthier employees are happier employees — and happier employees are more productive. One study found that corporate wellness programs can increase productivity by a full day a month per employee. Furthermore, Gallup research shows that companies with engaged employees have boosted or improved “financial, customer, retention, safety, quality, shrinkage, and absenteeism metrics.”

To use wellness dollars to increase employee engagement, consider the following tips.


Use your wellness dollars to promote employee engagement. 

Wellness dollars cover certain health and wellness purchases and programs that can improve the overall wellness of your team and help employees feel more connected, empowered, and proud of their role at your company. Here’s how to get started.

1. Find out if you have access to wellness dollars. 

Once you find out if your insurance company has a wellness reimbursement program, ask what health and wellness expenses are eligible for reimbursement, such as different types of classes and physical items. Ask if there are spending limits and if they apply per category or overall.

After you learn your budget, it’s time to find out what programs your team is interested in.

2. Survey your team before spending wellness dollars 

Before making a purchase decision, survey your team to see what programs they are most interested in and what programs or incentives they would actually use. You only want to spend wellness dollars on programs that people want to use and benefit from. Emphasize options that will help them connect with their coworkers, such as a group yoga class (in person or over a video call), or feel rejuvenated during the workday, such as a meditation workshop or art therapy.

Also, consider your company’s future plans. For example, an on-site gym may sound like a great idea, but if your company plans to move to a hybrid work model, how often will that gym be used? Or, if most of your staff already have a wearable fitness device, allocating funds to purchase a new Fitbit for everyone may not be the most effective use of your wellness dollars.

Your company culture can also impact which types of programs are most effective. If your team is very open, casual, and comfortable with one another, a mental health workshop may be beneficial. However, keep in mind that some employees may not be comfortable sharing their feelings and struggles with coworkers.

3. Find wellness program vendors. 

Next, find the vendors that offer the programs your team is interested in. Your healthcare provider may have a list of approved vendors, which can be a good starting point. Whichever vendor you select, make sure the program is eligible for reimbursement by your healthcare provider.

Don’t be afraid to invest in virtual programs. COVID-19 and remote work have changed people’s relationships with virtual classes. This option may be more convenient and more engaging than in-person courses for your employees.

If you can, plan to offer a mix of programs. Not all employees face the same challenges or feel engaged at work the same way, so aim to provide an assortment of programs related to both mental and physical health. Track Your Wellness Program Results.

Make sure to track the impact of your wellness programs and wellness dollar spend. You wouldn’t implement a marketing program without tracking results, and this is no different. Look at metrics such as absenteeism, overall employee satisfaction, and engagement with programs.

Use this data to decide which programs to keep. An employee survey about your wellness programs may also provide crucial data about a program’s success.


Where to use your wellness dollars.

Wellness dollars can be spent on a wide range of programs and items. While each provider may reimburse for different programs, here are 15 ideas of how to spend your wellness dollars:

  • Gym memberships
  • Wearable devices, such as Fitbits
  • Live and virtual fitness classes
  • Meditation workshops
  • Self-defense classes
  • Biometric screenings
  • Nutrition seminars
  • Healthy cooking classes
  • Art therapy
  • Health challenges
  • Virtual wellness fair
  • Team-building activities (to improve social well-being)
  • Mental health treatments
  • Conflict resolution training
  • Weight management offerings

Remember, most wellness dollars are a use-it-or-lose-it benefit. Even if a program ends up not working for your employees, your company still needed to spend the money. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to try programs to see what employees respond to.

Wellness dollars lead to employees who are more engaged. 

One way to improve your employee engagement, emphasize the importance of mental and physical health, maximize your wellness benefits, and potentially fuel your bottom line is to use wellness dollars. By investing in your employees, you create a better workplace for everyone.

Danielle Antosz is a Chicago-based writer and content strategist specializing in SaaS, tech, and digital marketing. Her work has appeared on numerous industry blogs. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her knitting and planning her next trip.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.