In attempts to motivate employees to lose weight, companies sometimes offer financial incentives. A report published in Health Affairs (2016; 35 [1], 71–79) suggests this practice could be a waste of time.

Researchers recruited 197 obese individuals to participate in a workplace weight loss intervention. Subjects were challenged to lose 5% of their preprogram weight. They were then assigned to one of four protocols: nonincentive control; health insurance premium adjustment beginning the following year; health insurance premium adjustment beginning the first pay period after the goal was reached; or daily lottery. Each of the three incentives was valued at $550.

The results were bleak. Study authors found no significant differences in weight among any of the groups after 12 months.

“The apparent failure of the incentives to promote weight loss suggests that employers that encourage weight reduction through workplace wellness programs should test alternatives to the conventional premium adjustment approach by using alternative incentive designs, larger incentives, or both,” the authors stated.

Are you part of a workplace wellness program that has used incentives successfully? We want to hear about it. Email your story to [email protected].

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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