Benefits Strategy

Types of Wellness Reimbursements and 6 Best Practices for Implementing Them

Written by Kate

In today’s modern workplace, employees are increasingly seeking meaningful benefits beyond a regular salary. In this dynamic landscape, a type of fringe benefit that has gained a lot of traction is employee reimbursements. To attract and retain top employees, many companies are offering their employees the option to get reimbursed for certain eligible expenses – including wellness reimbursement benefits that aim to support employee wellness at work.

These may include reimbursements for health and wellness activities, educational expenses, or – since remote work arrangements have become more mainstream – home office equipment. When employees feel that their employers care about their well-being, they tend to be more invested in their work.

employee invested in their work

What are Some Common Types of Wellness Reimbursements?

Whether they stand alone or are incorporated into a wider company wellness program, employee reimbursement programs come in various forms, and their offerings may vary depending on the industry, company size, and the specific needs and preferences of the workforce. Below is a list of some common types of employee reimbursement benefits at the moment:

1. Health and Wellness Reimbursements

This type of program typically covers expenses related to health and wellness activities. It may include reimbursement for gym memberships, fitness classes, wellness workshops, races, and even expenses related to mental health, such as counseling services.

2. Education and Professional Development Reimbursements

Companies may offer reimbursement for education and professional development expenses. This could include tuition reimbursement for courses or degrees, costs associated with professional certifications, training, workshops, or conferences.

3. Home Office Stipends

With the rise of remote work, many companies offer reimbursement for technology expenses and home office setups. This may include reimbursement for laptops, ergonomic furniture, internet costs, and other expenses related to maintaining an effective home office.

4. Transportation Reimbursements

These include costs associated with commuting, whether it’s public transportation expenses, parking fees, or even bicycle-related expenses.

5. Cell Phone and Internet Reimbursements

As part of remote work support, some companies offer reimbursement for employees’ personal cell phone and internet expenses, especially when these are used for work-related purposes.

6. Meal and Food Expense Reimbursements

Companies may reimburse employees for meals and food expenses incurred during business-related activities, such as client meetings, business travel, or working late.

meal reimbursements

What are Some of the Challenges of Running a Wellness Reimbursement Program?

If you’ve ever run a wellness reimbursement program, chances are you are no stranger to these challenges:

1. Administrative Burden

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

2. Budget Constraints

Limited budget allocation for wellness reimbursement 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 often a delicate task.

3. Employee Participation

Encouraging employees to actively participate in wellness activities and submit reimbursement claims can be a significant challenge. This can arise from a variety of reasons. Perhaps employees are not fully aware of the wellness reimbursement program, or they may not understand the range of eligible expenses. This lack of awareness can lead to under-utilization and missed opportunities for employees to take advantage of the program. Whatever the reason, low engagement levels may limit the overall effectiveness of the program.

diverse workforce

4. Limited Options or Misalignment

Meeting diverse employee expectations and ensuring satisfaction with the program can be challenging. Employees may have different preferences for wellness activities, and tailoring the program to accommodate these preferences can be very complicated.

5. Privacy Concerns

Handling sensitive health-related information, especially in the case of reimbursement for mental health services, can raise privacy concerns. Implementing secure processes and communicating clearly about data protection is crucial.

6 Best Practices on Implementing a Wellness Reimbursement Program

Fortunately, despite these challenges, there are steps to ensure the wellness reimbursement program runs more smoothly. Here are several tips that may be helpful to keep in mind:

1. Develop a Clear Plan

This involves:

  • Defining Program Objectives: Clearly outline the goals and objectives of the wellness reimbursement program. What are the specific goals and outcomes this reimbursement program is looking to accomplish? What types of behavior changes can a wellness reimbursements program help incentivize? This could include improving overall employee health, reducing stress, promoting work-life balance, or enhancing team morale.
  • Defining Program Offerings: Define what expenses are covered, the budget, rewards time frames, and personnel to oversee the program to make sure it runs smoothly. Establish a realistic budget for the program. Determine the amount allocated per employee or per eligible expense, and periodically review and adjust the budget based on usage and effectiveness.
  • Automate 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 you 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. One way that health insurers measure the effectiveness of wellness reimbursement programs, is to look at medical billing statistics and figures, for companies that have programs, and companies that don’t have programs.
measuring program effectiveness

2. Establish a Wellness Reimbursements Policy

Rather than reviewing and repaying employees as individual expenses are incurred, establish and communicate a clear policy to set expectations about what types (and when) an expense would qualify for reimbursement. The policy should also define the steps employees need to take to receive the reimbursements.

3. Clear and 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 regular communications to remind and encourage them about program offerings. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and under-utilization, while better communication can 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 and quickly accessible. Keep 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. Ensure Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Some employees may face barriers to participation due to factors such as physical disabilities, remote work situations, 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. Requesting employee input also helps them feel heard and boosts engagement.

6. Review, Assess, and Re-iterate

On a regular basis, review employee engagement and other key metrics to assess whether the strategy needs to be adjusted. This will allow you to continue to improve your program over time and ensure that it is working for your employees and that your offering is in fact needed.

Also, you should be open to receiving regular feedback from participants in order to proactively make your program better and more in line with their needs and goals. This is why having a robust system for proper documentation, tracking, and monitoring for the program is so important.

Corporate Wellness Benefit Managers having a discussion while looking at an electronic tablet.

Get the scoop on wellness

Running a wellness program is a big job! We're here to help.

Join the 19,000+ other readers who visit this blog every month!

Subscribe to our bi-weekly Tuesday newsletter for the latest wellness program tips, insights, and stories.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter