Musings: Wellness Programs are NOT for Millennials

And it pisses me off!

I’ve had the experience of dealing with at least two wellness programs in my career. And BOTH are not for the millennial type. OR really, those we generally workout and stay active. Honestly, I feel like they should just be called ‘Baby Boomers Need to Get Healthy and Stop Costing Us So Much Money’ plans, cause that’s what they are.

How do I get the SAME amount of ‘points’ for running a 5k and a marathon? A sprint tri and an IRONMAN?

Literally, one wellness program gave 250 points for a half marathon and 350 points for a FULL marathon. Obviously, the people who created these plans have not trained nor ran one, because the 100 point differential does NOT equate with the effort put forth. Just to get started…

Also, why incentivize your employees to be healthy, but TAX them on their incentives? I questioned these things and I was essentially told, “Welp, this plan isn’t really designed for people with your activity level. Your company decides if they will pay the taxes on your incentives or pass it along to you. And they chose to pass it along to you!”

So, you tell me, these companies hire people, multiple people sometimes, to plan and promote wellness, but in the end, they really aren’t that advantageous for me? A millennial. A person who is generally active. A person who enjoys fitness. A person who invests money in their own personal health and wellness?

Don’t get me wrong, I get that they are assisting those who DO need the plans. But in all honesty, they really aren’t. They keep trying, but those who stuck are in their ways are not going to really be incentivized by a gift card — especially when its generally time consuming to maneuver the websites who distribute the incentives.

I love a $100 gift card. I don’t love seeing the $100 counted as income on my paystub, then see my check affected by the taxes applied, however, minute they may be. The principle, people…principle.

Millennials are driven by these types of programs, we like rewards, especially financial. Yet, they are not set up for us. I will spend the time to figure them out and maximize them to receive the best financial benefit I can. But even with my workouts and overall health management, I still feel like people who do much less physically (and for their health) have more financial opportunities with less “work” exerted.

If I were advising someone on how to incorporate Millennials into their wellness plan, here are my thoughts/suggestions:

  • Tech it up as much as possible. Obviously, a Millenial would suggest that, even though I’m technically in that weird space right before Millenials. Allowing me to link my Garmin Connect account to your wellness program is a huge time saver. I don’t have to create a printout or export the data and then upload. It takes the hard work out of it all. Also, don’t just pick Fitbit brand to link with, link with ALL types of companies and devices. Don’t get me started on stupid FitBits!
  • Not everyone works out at a big box gym – 24 hour fitness. There are a bunch of awesome, local gym (or boxes) that aren’t set-up like a large conglomerate. Integrate an easy way to log workouts at these types of gyms. I don’t want to print out a calendar and have the gym owner sign it, then scan it, just to then upload it to your program. If I’m telling you this is where I workout and taking the time to log them, integrate a system into your website/app where I can log these. There will be a handful who make take advantage of this, but I bet there will be more honest employees who find it easier than those who will take the time to lie about it.
  • Equality in points. Assess activities and their points associated with the physical exertion. I don’t care if they walk the entire marathon, that still worth more points than someone who ran a half marathon. The point should better represent the activities they are associated with.
  • Quit having your website link to five other websites for different things. Try to keep it simple and integrated into one website with a mobile application for those tech-savvy millennials.
  • Don’t offer an incentive only to penalize your employees in the backend, aka pay the taxes on the damn gifts. We logged the miles and worked hard to try to stay healthy, the least you could do is pay the damn taxes.
  • Incentivise your wellness ambassadors well, or have them at least. They will be the ones who will motivate their fellow employees to get moving and get engaged. Reward them handsomely and give them the tips and tools to spread the word and encourage. They are your front line, not your HR staff. Let’s be honest, people don’t care what HR are spewing. They work with these people day in and day out and have a real connection, let them work on your behalf to keep your health usage numbers down or exceeding norms.
  • Incentives that matter. Offer things that millennials care about. Really, that everyone cares about. Or have a variety that could reach most people. Again, don’t make them take this as income on their paycheck, just pay the taxes on the reward.

Do you wellness? Do you like your employer’s wellness program? Did you even know your employer offers one? Are you only doing it to get some or part of your HSA?

I get so frustrated with things like this. Companies tout their benefits, but in actuality, there are too many hoops to jump through to validate said ‘touted benefits.’ To be fair, I am NOT complaining about my current employer at all. There are parts of this program that need help, but I’m speaking collectively about my experience with them. And for those that don’t even offer wellness programs (re: State of California), you need to get better.  Wellness is an important component of a business structure. Not just wellness specifically related to fitness, but emotional, financial, and personal wellness are all really important for a company to support as well. The benefits are tenfold with a happy, healthy, less stressed workforce. But don’t take my word for it or anything…

I’m going to workout regardless, but if I can earn something, I’m going to take advantage of it!

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