Archive for the ‘Health & Wellness’ Category

Creating Specific Employee Health Goals

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

f4429a1a0a658cb0f0b6a1849e15ae8a_SEmployee health programs are still rising at a rapid rate. According to a recent Towers Watson survey 48% of employers are testing employees biometrics as part of an employee health program, compared to only 14% of employers doing the same 4 years ago. Using specific biometric goals like losing a certain amount of weight or lower cholesterol by a certain percentage is a tangible way to lower costs for both employees and employers.

Offering incentives for voluntary participation in programs like this are a great way to help employees reach goals and make long term healthy choices that help your organization and their well-being. Providing even small rewards like gift cards to healthy retailers like CVS/Pharmacy, GNC and Whole Foods Market provide the support and boost employees need to stay the healthy course and meet their goals.

On the flip side, employers’ other option to boost participation in employee health programs is to apply disincentives, or financial penalties on employee premiums for healthcare. While this is permitted, research has shown that providing positive incentives (carrots) rather than penalties (sticks) are more effective in nurturing employees to health rather than threatening change.

Wearable Devices in Your Corporate Wellness Program

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Wearable devices are becoming a growing trend in the fitness community and now for employers looking to track their corporate wellness programs. Wearable technology provides a unique opportunity for both employees and corporate wellness program administrators to track participants’ progress in real time. Here are a few ways incorporating these “wearables” into your corporate wellness programs can boost its effectiveness.

  1. Create Team Challenges- Use the real-time data to create fun team challenges. Can the marketing team take more steps in a week than the IT team? Program administrators can track progress and bolster competitiveness within the office. The competitiveness can become loftier wellness goals for all teams involved in the challenge.
  2. Make “Wearables” Part of Company Culture- Providing a wearable fitness tracking device to participants of your corporate wellness initiative has the capacity to boost participation and get employees engaged with the program on a day-to-day and even hour-by-hour basis.
  3. Use Incentives for Participants- Providing nominal incentives, like small denomination gift cards to healthy retailers like Whole Foods Market, GNC and CVS/pharmacy can give employees a boost in a healthy direction. Promoting wellness by example is a productive way to boost participation and level of commitment.

For more ways to promote your corporate wellness program through wearable technology (and vice versa) head over to Entrepreneur.com.

Healthy Employee Culture Drives Participation

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

f4429a1a0a658cb0f0b6a1849e15ae8a_SInitial engagement in employee health and wellness programs doesn’t always drive long term participation like healthy employee cultures. While new employee health and wellness programs often drive short term engagement through the first few months, or maybe even the first few years, creating healthy employee champions and a culture of wellness is what creates long term employee participation.

Providing non-cash rewards as a component to a healthy employee culture is a great way to drive long term participation. One example of this was offering a discount in the employee portion of the health insurance premium which almost doubled employee participation in Herman Miller Co’s employee wellness program; jumping from 40% to 79% year over year for the first 3 years, but seeing a plateau in participation levels in subsequent years. Offering small denomination gift cards to retailers like GNC, Nutrisystem and CVS/Pharmacy are another way to promote a healthy employee culture by assisting employees in forming a healthy lifestyle.

Instead of using typical carrot tactics to get employees to change habits, providing an environment for creating a healthy employee culture will provide longer term results that will have a greater impact on your workforce and healthcare costs.

Employee Wellness Programs, Positive Results from America’s Top Universities

Monday, August 25th, 2014

The days of sneaking to the break room to meet those afternoon cookie cravings may be long gone. Employee wellness programs have no doubt grown in popularity and some of America’s top universities, like Cornell, Stanford, Oklahoma State, and The University of Alabama are no exception. Seven universities in all were surveyed for their employee wellness programs and chosen based on their strong, established employee wellness programs in the NIRSA report, Employee Wellness Programs: Collegiate Recreation Trends Research.

The Motivation: The study showed that four primary concerns motivated the establishment of their employee wellness programs: health insurance costs, restructuring, employee productivity, and general improvement of health.

The Components: Similar components were found in many of the universities stemmed from common goals like increasing participation, fostering lifestyle changes, smoking cessation and education. Components included everything from health risk screenings and assessments, wellness workshops, wellness websites and newsletters, release time, physical activity, to smoking cessation efforts and incentives.

Implementation and Engagement: While resource allocation varied across all campuses, most campus-based employee wellness programs were not directly integrated into benefits packages, even though funding sources may be linked. Populations that were targeted also varied across schools; some campuses focused on those least likely to participate, like staff from facilities, while others focused on deans and department heads. Depending on the scope of the program, marketing efforts were also implemented at some schools. To increase participation in all wellness programs, incentive structures were put into place in virtually all schools, with anything from high cash rewards at the end of the year, to gift card rewards for drawing winners and successful program completion.

Overall, the results from the universities surveyed was generally positive. Both Stanford and Cornell characterized their employee wellness programs as “a way of life,” and all of the schools cited the data they’ve taken from surveys and assessments as a basis for measuring employee wellness program success. Positive results were also shown in key areas; in return on investment, health outcomes, job performance, effects on campus, and program sustainability.

Time to start looking closer at your employee wellness program? The findings from these universities can be applied to any corporate wellness program for any organization. Take a closer look at the full NIRSA report here.

3 Points in Favor of Employee Wellness Programs

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Employee Wellness ProgramEmployee wellness programs work well for a lot of reasons. While they may not be the most scientifically measurable, metrics-based programs, there’s still a lot left to learn about employee wellness programs? These programs are relatively new in the space of human resources and employee benefits and while we don’t claim to know everything, here’s some great points you may find useful:

  1. Healthy employees take fewer sick days. According to the CDC, a healthy weight man misses 3 days of work a year due to illness, where an obese man misses 5. Does 2 days annually make or break a career? Probably not, but if I were a business owner and I knew that employees at a healthy weight were more consistently attendant at work, I would work to help them achieve their weight goals.
  2. People like wellness programs. Access to exercise, convenient health screenings and support or work-out groups bring people together and are seen as an employee perk. Providing access to and support for the tools employees need to get healthy and maintain an healthy lifestyle are a great way to boost morale. Give the people what they want, because the comparative cost can be high.
  3. Measurable benefits do exist. One meta-analysis of a 42 program set of employee wellness programs revealed that at the onset of the wellness programs the organizations experienced a 25% reduction in absenteeism and health costs as well as a 32% drop in worker’s comp and disability claims. These results help to prove the point, employee wellness programs are here to stay and can make a positive impact on your workforce.

If you still need convincing about why employee wellness programs work (or some more skepticism about what we still don’t know) check out this article from Fast Company.

Growing Workplace Wellness with Digital Health Tools

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Digital Health Tools Are a Growing Part of Workplace Wellness Programs article, iHealth Beat

Workplace wellness continues to thrive.  Currently more than 90% of employers with at least 200 workers have some type of workplace wellness program in place.  Employers see unhealthy habits, i.e. smoking, poor nutrition, and alcohol consumption, as major contributors to higher health care costs for employers;  21% of the total national health care spending is due to obesity alone.  For employers there is also a cost due to lost productivity, overweight and obese workers miss an estimated 450 million additional days of work each year compared to healthy workers – an estimated $153 billion dollars just in lost productivity!

So let’s go viral. Digital wellness tools allow employers to more efficiently track and support their employees’ progress towards their health and wellness goals.  As more behaviors become monitored, it’s possible to gain a better sense of an employees health fingerprint and influence people’s behavior in real-time.  Wearable devices can track physical activity, calorie intake, and sleep and mobile apps and software that can remind employees to get up and take exercise breaks are piquing employers interests.  Employees typically appreciate these programs, 93% of consumers participating in healthy eating say they or their family were helped, 85% said fitness activity were useful and 83% benefited from stress management programs.

While digital solutions are useful and allow for many features that were not possible in the past, do not rely too heavily on just digital solutions alone.  Digital can be more efficient, but not necessarily better, it really depends on what exactly a company is trying to achieve.  Digital health solutions will continue to grow, and there will be many more innovations seen over the next 5 or so years, which will benefit both the health care system and workplace wellness programs.

Learn more tips for your employee wellness programs at iHealthBeat!

Building Employee Health into Your Culture

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Do You Have Healthy Rewards at Your Company?Employee health and cost of healthcare are relevant to all businesses, regardless of size. Whether you have 2 employees or 200, keeping healthcare costs in check as more provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect is crucial. Making employe health a part of your organization is a great way to ensure these costs remain manageable.

For some employers even the location of the office is a matter of employee health. For a software company in Cedar Rapids, choosing an office on the third floor of a building helps employees get away from their desks during the day; climbing two flights of stairs to get to the cafe to eat. Building fitness into the day is a way for employers to promote behavior that will help control organization costs. This approach can be more sensitive to employees who are unwilling to have either indirect or direct conversations with their employer about their health. For some employees it will be a topic they are unwilling to broach, and employers have to be sensitive to that population of their staff as well.

Other employers take a more direct approach. A biometric screening found that 56% of the young workforce at a Tax Services firm in Dallas were considered overweight. As a result they took steps to change the lifestyles of their employees, offering cooking lessons, health club memberships and health fairs in the office to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. Adding spot rewards, like small denomination gift cards to healthy retailers like CVS/pharmacy, Whole Foods Market or GNC, for reaching a goal like losing weight, or completing a 5k is a great way to support more independent employee efforts.

CVS Caremark and IBM Announce “Technology Solutions for Smarter Health” Program

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

CVS Charitable Trust logoCVS Caremark, along with IBM, announced a commitment to the “Technology Solutions for Smarter Health” grant program, which is in partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers.  The $1.5 million contribution supports the use of innovative technology among community health centers to improve patient care as well as increase patient engagement.

These grants are awarded to community health centers across the nation that are in need of technologies that can help people get on a path to better health.  The funds can be used to enhance the current infrastructure, to help the community health centers communicate and share health information with patients through electronic messaging and allow patients the ability to view, download, and transmit their health information online.

There are more than 9,000 community health centers throughout the United States that are providing care to over 22 million people, especially in rural and urban neighborhoods, where the community health centers make access to health care easier and more affordable.  For over 40 years these health centers have been such an integral part of the U.S. health care system, especially for the poor.  Increasing technology capabilities in these health centers can improve the health of populations that are being serviced by the community health centers.

The CVS Caremark Charitable Trust has also been involved with awarding grants over the past 2 years to community health centers with “Innovations in Community Health,” which has focused on the treatment of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.  This grant program helped increase access to quality health care and produced better health outcomes while reducing costs for both patients and the health care systems.

Read the full CVS Caremark & IBM press release here!

Use Employee Wellness Programs to Combat Absences

Friday, July 25th, 2014

According to a recent Aon Hewitt survey, most employers do not measure the cost of employee absence in their business. Employee absence and the costs associated can add up to almost 8% of their total payroll in benefits payouts, lost productivity and temporary employee salary. Since most employers see these as a “cost of doing business,” those employers are missing the opportunity to combat the issue head-on.

Employee wellness programs, such as a quarterly weight loss challenge, biometric screenings or a lunchtime walking club can be an easy way to promote wellness in the workplace and avoid employee sick days. Keeping employees focused on their health is, in a way, keeping employees focused on the health of the business and the culture of your organization. Minimizing work stoppage and maintaining continuity are important in maintaining productivity.

When introducing an employee wellness program to a potentially skeptical staff, be sure to communicate the goals and parameters of the program clearly. Adding small rewards like gift cards to healthy retailers like Nutrisystem, GNC and CVS/pharmacy can go a long way in boosting employee participation and bringing co-workers together to focus on employee wellness across the organization. Absences can hurt your business, minimize them by focusing on employee wellness.

Health and Wellness Benefits On the Rise

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

As certain benefit costs shift from employer to employee, there are key benefits that will have a high impact on satisfaction improvements. Health and wellness benefits are expected from employees and they assume that employers are going to cover a significant portion of the costs, regardless of the rising cost of healthcare. Well employers are taking note, 45% are offering HSA’s in 2014, compared to 33% in 2010.

Other benefits like tuition support or a personal car subsidy benefit have been on the decline since 2010, down 13% and 17% respectively. These are benefits less expected by employees and therefore have a lower impact on employee benefit satisfaction. Health and wellness benefits have endured for employees as an expected benefit.

Investing in preventative healthcare checks like blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI measurements for employees can allow employers to maintain health and wellness benefits without exceeding budgets. Implementing employee health and wellness benefit reward programs can also motivate employees towards health and wellness goals by using small spot rewards to encourage employees who have reached health and wellness milestones.

For more information on how to maintain the level of health and wellness benefits your employees expect, check out the latest SHRM Employee benefits report, and this article from Associations Now.