In 2012, seven employees of Kansas City were indicted for defrauding their employer out of over $300,000. The employees cheated the city’s wellness program out of hundreds of gift and prepaid cards intended to be incentives for completing fitness activities. They falsely claimed they’d participated in marathons, triathlons and other events, then accepted cards they hadn’t earned. One woman even enrolled a three-year-old in the program and claimed he’d finished two duathlons, three half marathons and four triathlons!
This is an extreme case, but there’s no doubt employees are tempted to cheat on wellness programs to earn incentives. Some falsify their wellness logs stating they’ve worked out, lost weight or stopped smoking when they haven’t. Others come up with a variety of creative ways to fool their pedometers including logging extra “steps” by shaking their pedometers, driving around with them, putting them in the dryer and even attaching them to their dogs’ collars!
Most employees are honest, but even so, their logs may not be that accurate.
If you don’t log your exercise every day, and many of us don’t, it’s easy to forget how much or how hard you worked out two or three days ago.
Some employers try to prevent fraud by requiring biometric screenings to see whether employees’ cholesterol levels and resting heart rates have dropped. These assessments are accurate, but many employees find them intrusive. Plus, biometric screenings only measure a person’s data at a single point in time and can be affected by factors that have nothing to do with how much or little they’ve exercised, such as their stress levels.
A less invasive way to determine if your employees have actually improved their fitness is to hold on-site fitness assessments. At Rival Fusion’s assessments, called FitIns, employees perform a series of four exercises and receive a score called the Rival Rating. The next business quarter, they take a second FitIn and see whether their Rival Ratings have gone up. Administrators can award incentives based on the ratings, without having to rely on easily-falsified logs or pedometers.
You can also reduce the temptation to cheat by making your wellness program more of a communal activity. Encourage your employees to join wellness teams, which create accountability. Provide many opportunities for social interaction, like events and challenges. When employees see their coworkers actively engaged with the program, they’ll be less inclined to take shortcuts.
A thoughtfully designed wellness program is your best defense against people who try to game the system. Pick one that rewards measurable results and emphasizes social interaction and cheaters won’t prosper at your company.