Employers planning to incentivize non-smoking employees should align these perks with a broader health and well-being strategy and ensure the rewards are significant enough to make behaviour change appealing for smokers, says Kim Siddall, vice-president of enterprise consulting for the West at People Corporation.
Possible incentives include additional vacation time, increased credits in a health-care spending or wellness account and a personalized wellness program that pairs rewards and scaled incentives with intrinsic motivators for sustained long-term change, she says. To increase employees’ likelihood of quitting smoking, Siddall suggests employers pair these incentives with other tools and resources like smoking cessation programs offered through benefits plans, health-coaching supports or pharmacy intervention, peer support programs and a workplace culture of well-being.
In 2017, Japan-based marketing company Piala Inc. rewarded non-smoking employees with six extra vacation days, a move that garnered a lot of positive employee feedback.
Harjas Rai, vice-president of talent and rewards at goeasy Ltd., believes this is a great way to incentivize employees and help guide them in the right direction regarding their well-being. While the financial services company is looking into offering such perks, he notes it can be difficult for employers to know which employees aren’t smokers.
Reduced health premiums is another possible incentive, says Rai, since smoking can lead to a multitude of health complications and those who don’t smoke would typically be making fewer health claims. He says this shouldn’t just apply to life insurance or long-term disability, but also the amount of drug or dental coverage since smoking can impact those claims as well.
Focusing on employee health isn’t just the right thing to do, but it’s also important from a productivity standpoint, he adds. “People who are overall healthy are going to miss less time at work. You’re going to get the best work out of people who are feeling at their best.”
Siddall agrees that assisting employees with their smoking cessation journey pays off for employers, by leading to increased employee productivity and less time lost to sickness. “Smoking, along with other modifiable behaviours like physical inactivity, excess weight and alcohol consumption drive increased lifestyle risk and increased costs.
“For lasting behaviour change, research shows that for complex issues like smoking, incentives alone have mixed results. It’s important to reward both the effort toward behaviour change as well as the outcome.”