Benefits Strategy

Crafting Client Success: 6 Expert Tips to Design an Irresistible Lifestyle Reimbursement Program

Written by Nataly

As a broker in today’s wellness industry, you understand that employees, and consequently, employers, are now placing a higher value on meaningful benefits alongside their standard salaries. A recent MetLife Survey revealed that over 70% of employees exhibit increased loyalty to companies that provide compelling benefits within their compensation packages.

Keeping today’s dynamic business landscape in mind, it’s no surprise that many companies are opting to reimburse employees for eligible lifestyle expenses, particularly in areas like health and wellness, as a strategy to attract top talent. By aiding your clients in creating a lifestyle reimbursement program that is tailored to their workforce’s needs, you can help them to both attract new job applicants with a compelling perk, while also helping to raise overall productivity among current employees.

Reimbursement offerings can include, but are not limited to:

  • Gym memberships
  • Fitness equipment
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Subscriptions to mental wellness apps and services
  • Personal enrichment courses
  • Smoking cessation counseling
  • Student loans

Why are Lifestyle Reimbursements So Compelling?

Employees often juggle a multitude of responsibilities between their work and personal lives, causing their wellness goals to take a back seat. When organizations prioritize their employees’ well-being and actively support their wellness goals, it often leads to increased employee engagement and investment in their work.

Lifestyle reimbursements are also a flexible benefits solution, allowing more room to customize benefits to align with the diverse needs of employees. However, if your clients have ever run an employee reimbursement program, chances are they are no strangers to its challenges.

A tailored list has been curated to identify some of the common hurdles that employers face with launching a successful program, better equipping you with the solutions they need to circumvent these challenges. The following tips can serve to help guide you in developing a successful program for your clients, reinforcing and sustaining the significance of the broker-client relationship.

lifestyle reimbursement program

What are the Most Common Challenges Faced When Running a Lifestyle Reimbursement Program?

1. Administrative Burden

Without a robust system in place, running a reimbursement program can involve an overwhelming amount of time and attention to process all of the paperwork. Depending on the number of employees in an organization, collecting receipts, verifying gym attendance records, and processing the reimbursements can be very time consuming for HR administrators to manage.

2. Budget Constraints

Limited budget allocation for lifestyle reimbursements can impact the program’s ability to cover a broad range of expenses or provide substantial reimbursement amounts. Balancing financial constraints while meeting employee expectations is not always an easy task.

3. Low Employee Participation

Encouraging employees to actively participate in wellness activities and submit reimbursement claims can be a significant challenge. This can arise for a variety of reasons. Perhaps employees are not fully aware of the covered expenses under the program or the claims submission process is too burdensome. These reasons can lead to under-utilization and in turn, low engagement levels may limit the overall effectiveness of the program.

4. Limited/Misaligned Options

Meeting diverse employee expectations and ensuring their satisfaction with the program can be challenging. The more diverse a workforce is, the more crucial it is to allow room for more options, flexibility, and customization. Employees are not a monolith. They may have different wellness needs and preferences, so a one-size-fits-all approach may trigger one-size-fits-none results.

5. Privacy Concerns

Fortunately, despite the obstacles employers may face, there are steps you can take to ensure that their lifestyle reimbursement program is set up for success. Here are several tips for you to keep in mind when devising the right strategy for your clients:

6 Tips to Create a Winning Reimbursement Program

Fortunately, despite the obstacles employers may face, there are steps you can take to ensure that their lifestyle reimbursement program is set up for success. Here are several tips for you to keep in mind when devising the right strategy for your clients:

1. Developing a Clear Plan

Prior to initiating a wellness reimbursement program, it is vital to establish a well-defined plan. This involves:

  • Defining Program Objectives: Clearly outlining the goals and objectives of the reimbursement program. What are the specific goals and outcomes this program is looking to accomplish? What types of behavior changes can a lifestyle reimbursement program help incentivize? This could include improving overall employee health, reducing stress, promoting work-life balance, or enhancing team morale.
  • Setting Up an Administrative Process: Defining what expenses are covered, the budget, rewards time frames, how reimbursements will be handled, and personnel to oversee the program to ensure it runs smoothly. Establishing a realistic budget for the program, determining the amount allocated per employee or per eligible expense, and periodically review and adjust the budget based on usage and effectiveness.
  • Automating the Busy Work: Depending on the complexity of the program, it may be necessary to leverage a benefits administration system to track, verify, organize, and store documentation. Some systems can also automate communications and generate reports to help measure program success, which can save administrators a lot of time.
  • Measuring Effectiveness: Determining the success and return on investment of a wellness reimbursement program can be challenging. Measuring the impact on employee health, productivity, and overall well-being requires robust metrics and data analysis.
developing a clear plan

2. Establishing a Reimbursement Policy

Rather than reviewing and reimbursing employees as individual expenses are incurred, employers should make sure there is a clear policy in place to set expectations about program eligibility and provisions, such as what types (and when) an expense would qualify for reimbursement. The policy should also outline the steps employees need to take in order to receive reimbursements.

3. Effective Communication Strategy

In this age of digital information overload, it’s essential for communication to be as clear as possible about the program, the reimbursement criteria, and the reimbursement process. With so much on their plates, employees might need consistent check-ins, reminders, and encouragement about program offerings.

You can help clients to determine what sort of communication is best received by their employees, whether it be via internal emails, promotional posters or pamphlets made visible in the workplace, or discussed during regular one-on-one check-ins.

Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and program under-utilization, while better communication can significantly help promote a culture of wellness throughout the organization.

4. Ease of Access and Use

Even with a clear communication strategy, it is also important to make sure the wellness reimbursements benefits are easily accessible by keeping the process simple and streamlined. The easier it is for employees to participate, the higher their participation, and the more effective the program will be.

5. Ensuring Equity and Inclusion

Some employees may face participation barriers due to physical disabilities, remote work, or personal preferences. It is good practice to conduct comprehensive assessments and employee surveys to determine how to customize the program to accommodate for diverse needs. Seeking employee input not only ensures they feel valued, but also boosts engagement levels.

6. Regular Program Assessments

On a regular basis, employers should assess whether the program strategy is working by reviewing key metrics, such as employee engagement and requesting feedback. Periodically checking in on the performance of your client’s wellness programs equips you with the necessary information to continuously map out and proactively enhance their program, ensuring it effectively serves their employees’ needs. This is why having a robust system for proper documentation, tracking, and monitoring for the program is so important.

program assessment

Final Thoughts

Overall, lifestyle reimbursement programs play a vital role in promoting employee well-being, attracting and retaining talent, increasing productivity, achieving cost savings, and nurturing a positive company culture. However, launching these programs and maintaining their ongoing success can pose challenges. Anticipating client needs and delivering solutions customized to their unique workforce is key, as they look to you for your guidance and expertise in ultimately achieving their goals and objectives.

Offering a lifestyle reimbursement program to clients is worthwhile for businesses and their employees alike, and will enhance the value you bring to the table as their trusted HR benefits broker, but ensuring its success is often easier said than done. Fortunately, we’re here to help. Please feel free to schedule a time to speak with us and we’d be happy to help you find the best solution to meet the specific needs of your clients.

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