It’s really a poor long-term motivator for lifestyle change. Here’s why:
- Money gets spent on bills, fast food, gas, and other consumables. Once it’s gone, there’s no visible reminder of the accomplishment.
- Over time, cash incentives are viewed as part of normal compensation. The first year it’s a novelty, a chance for a few extra dollars. But then there’s not a lot of motivation to do more, and the money is expected.
- Once in place, systems are hard to change without upsetting those who liked them in the past — there’s nothing more demotivating than money out of your pocket. So if the program isn’t working, you have to up the ante to get them to buy in.
- It’s difficult to recognize or celebrate the awarding of money tastefully and without making some people feel slighted.
- You hire and pay people for the contribution they make to the organization, not their percent body fat. It’s important they understand unhealthy behaviors hurt the bottom line, but don’t muddle the issue by paying for anything other than their contribution.
- Be careful about jumping on the disincentive bandwagon or a pay-me-now and pay-me-later incentive model. All it takes is a change in leadership and you’re starting over — no matter how good your data.
Health is a personal responsibility. Recognizing individuals for taking that responsibility seriously can be a very positive thing, but paying people to get healthier (or penalizing people for taking it less seriously) is fraught with peril. Proceed at your own risk.