Controversial – I know.
When I was young, I was given a life insurance policy by my father. He was a migrant to Australia and worked hard to put aside some money each month to pay for it. When I turned 18, he pulled me aside one day and handed it over to me – including the responsibility for maintaining it. I cashed it in of course – I have no recollection of what I spent the money on but it’s all gone. I don’t regret that as much as the fact I never thanked him for his efforts.
It’s a sad but true axiom: people don’t value what they get too easily. Or to put it another way – the more people invest in something – the more highly they regard it. (see Cialdini’s “The Psychology of Influence and Persuasion”). We’ve noticed that ourselves when we’ve been approached to run events for charities for free. We’re happy to do it but we often find our service is relegated to the back of the queue and ‘paid’ services are prioritised. So we now ask for a small fee – even a donation to a good cause just to ensure that our service is scheduled and actually runs.
In your workplace program, you might have noticed that when you book, for example, a masseur, yoga practitioner, or exercise class that initial interest is high but on the day many people drop out. They know that if they came they would get a lot out of it but other more pressing issues take precedence. In some cases, it’s fair enough – but it can result in empty slots, wasted money, and a devaluing of your wellbeing program.
One solution is to charge for the session. Charging forces people to commit and raise the importance (and value) of your event in the minds of participants. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money – a co-payment as small as $5 will do. If there’s a philosophical objection to charging you can always donate the funds to a good cause or re-invest it in your organisation’s social club or wellbeing program. Another way to increase attendance is to ensure that everyone signs onto an attendance schedule that is posted in a public place. Both of these will help.
Co-payments also send an unconscious message to your staff – looking after your wellbeing does have a cost associated with it – be it money or time or effort. You might try to minimise it but like all good things – you get out of it what you put into it. Your wellbeing is important enough to put effort into. Just keep the co-payments small enough not to exclude anyone.