Stepping away from traditional workplace wellness programs

Interesting article from Employee Benefits Advisors about workplace wellness programs by Brendan Weafer

Many of today’s business owners are throwing a lot of money into workplace wellness programs because they understand the financial value of healthy employees. They aren’t, however, putting the same amount of thought into what type of wellness programs employees might actually use.

Employers have seen reports like the 2014 study by Virginia Tech College of Engineering that showed unhealthy workers are less productive, most likely to get injured, and need longer rest breaks than employees with a well-rounded lifestyle. They realize that unfit employees also have a higher turnover rate, which results in additional onboarding and training costs for employers. But simply offering a company wellness program doesn’t guarantee a reduction in employee healthcare costs, especially if the programs aren’t teaching healthy lifestyle training.

Many of the workplace wellness programs being offered today still rely on traditional ideas that have proven ineffective. Many programs are metrics-focused, recommending tasks like walking 10,000 steps a day or offer small — often taxable — incentives in an attempt to motivate participants to lose weight in a short amount of time. This kind of goal-oriented program does not actually teach the day-to-day wellness choices that are fundamental to building a healthy lifestyle. A number of programs incorporate wearable technology that measures walking, but walking is only one component of health, just as broccoli is a single component of a well-rounded diet. If you were only eating broccoli, that wouldn’t be a healthy lifestyle.

Moving and breathing

Workplace culture holds the key to fixing the national health crisis, and there are better ways for employers to ensure that an employee wellness program will actually work and provide employees with lasting change.

Since you can’t meditate to a smaller waistline or diet to a better night’s sleep, here are three things that employers should make sure to incorporate into the company wellness programs — things that can actually help employees learn and maintain a healthier lifestyle:

· Improve mobility with movement that can be done right at their desk, or on the fly.

· Increase strength with a bodyweight exercise program that starts small and builds throughout the year.

· Improve their diet with nutritional guidelines and tips including recipes, best times of day to eat, and how to optimize food choices — even for the holidays.

It is commonly misunderstood how small choices made on a daily basis can undermine wellness efforts. By providing achievable daily challenges to reinforce healthy choices, workplace wellness programs that take the holistic approach in teaching healthy lifestyle habits will see better results. Small changes, practiced routinely over time, become the tools of a sustainable healthy lifestyle that produces significant long-term results.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Weafer B. (2016 December 14). Stepping away from traditional workplace wellness programs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/stepping-away-from-traditional-workplace-wellness-programs?feed=00000152-1387-d1cc-a5fa-7fffaf8f0000


Don’t expect tech to solve benefits communications problems

Great article from Benefits Pro about using technology to communicate with your employees by Marlene Satter

Although technology has spawned multiple methods of communication with employees on benefits, that doesn’t mean they’re solving all the problems in conveying information back and forth between employer and employee.

In fact, generational and demographic differences, varying levels of comfort with a range of communication methods and the complexity of information all mean that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution in workplace benefits communication.

A study from West’s Health Advocate Solutions finds employees’ expectations cover a wide range in benefits, health and wellness program communication. As a result, human resources and benefits managers have to dig more deeply in finding ways to convey information to employees.

One finding which may surprise them is employees prefer live-person conversations, although some do prefer the option to use digital communication channels in certain benefits scenarios. And 41 percent of employees say their top complaint about employers’ benefits programs is that communication is too infrequent.

Employee benefits in 2017 will feel the effects of political change as well as cultural change. Here are some trends…

The top choice of employees for communicating about health care cost and administrative information is directly by phone (73 percent) with a live person; second choice was a website or online portal (69 percent), while an in-person conversation was the choice of 56 percent.

For information about physical wellness benefits, 71 percent opt for the website/online portal, while 62 percent want to talk to someone on the phone and 56 percent wanted an in-person conversation. Interestingly, 62 percent of men and 44 percent of women prefer in-person conversations.

For personal/emotional wellness issues, 71 percent want that chat with a person on the phone, 65 percent want an in-person conversation and just 60 percent want to interact with a website/online portal.

When it comes to managing a chronic condition, 66 percent prefer to talk to someone on the phone, 63 percent would prefer the website/online portal option and 61 percent want an in-person conversation. Sixty-seven percent of men, compared with 53 percent of women, prefer in-person conversations, while 35 percent of women, compared with 18 percent of men, prefer mobile apps.

And there are generational differences, too, with millennials wanting in-person interactions more than either Gen X or boomer colleagues. But they all want multiple options, and the ability to choose the one they prefer, rather than simply being restricted to a single method.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2016 December 14). Don’t expect tech to solve benefits communications problems [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/12/14/dont-expect-tech-to-solve-benefits-communications


Financial wellness: Here’s what employees want, need in 2017

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by

Recent research into individuals’ financial resolutions for 2017 can tell you whether your financial wellness initiatives are giving employees what they want. It can also tell you whether to expect employees to increase their retirement contributions next year. 

Personal finance company LendEDU recently asked 1,001 Americans about their financial goals for 2017, as well as what their biggest concerns are. The results were published in LendEDU’s “Financial Resolution Survey & Report 2017,” which can help employers determine if their financial programs are on point.

Here are some of the more interesting Q&A’s from the research:

What’s your most important financial resolution in 2017?

  • Save more money — 52.85% of respondents selected this
  • Pay off debt — 35.56%
  • Spend less money — 11.59%

Takeaway for employers: Improving savings should be front and center in any financial wellness strategy.

What’s your top financial resolution?

  • Make and stick to a budget — 21.38%
  • Save for a large purchase like a down payment, household upgrade, or car, etc. — 19.28%
  • Pay down credit card debt — 18.88%
  • Place money aside for an emergency — 16.58%
  • Save for retirement — 13.69%
  • Pay down student loan debt — 7.29%
  • Save for college — 2.90%

Takeaway for employers: Employees need the most help creating a budget they can stick to.

What’s your top financial concern?

  • Unexpected expenses — 53.25%
  • Healthcare costs — 23.98%
  • Higher interest rates — 9.69%
  • The labor market — 7.79%
  • Stock market fluctuations — 5.29%

Takeaway for employers: Helping employees manage healthcare costs can be a key add-on to any financial education program.

Do you think you’re better off financially in 2017 than in 2016?

  • Yes — 78.32%
  • No — 21.68%

Takeaway for employers: Employees’ financial state of mind is on the upswing, which is good. But it could make increasing participation in wellness initiatives more challenging.

Do you make financial resolutions with your spouse or significant other?

  • Yes — 84.83%
  • No — 15.17%

Takeaway for employers: When it comes to finances, very few people go it alone, so invite spouses to be a part of your wellness offerings.

What would make you stick to a financial resolution?

  • Having a reward for reaching the goal — 37.56%
  • Segmenting a longer term goal into smaller bit sized pieces — 20.08%
  • Technology that helps you save money or monitor goals in real-time — 19.38%
  • The encouragement of family and friends — 13.99%
  • Having a consequence for not reaching the goal — 8.99%

Takeaway for employers: Incremental rewards and incentives, can help drive participation and success in 2017 financial wellness initiatives.

Do you think you’ll increase your retirement savings contributions this year?

  • Yes — 63.24%
  • No — 36.76%

Takeaway for employers: This could be a good year to really push employees to bump up retirement plan contributions.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Author (Date). Title [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/financial-wellness-heres-what-employees-want-need-in-2017/


Safety Focused Newsletter-December 2016

Staying Active at Work

Staying active can increase productivity and reduce stress. However, as the weather begins to cool, it can become more and more difficult to get up and move around—especially if you’re stuck in an office all day. Luckily, there are a number of exercises and activities you can do at work to ensure that you stay fit and healthy during the winter months, including the following: During Breaks  Stand up and stretch during your breaks to help reduce muscle fatigue and to help get your blood flowing.  Incorporate a short power walk into snack and coffee breaks.  Walk to your co-workers and have

Luckily, there are a number of exercises and activities you can do at work to ensure that you stay fit and healthy during the winter months, including the following: During Breaks  Stand up and stretch during your breaks to help reduce muscle fatigue and to help get your blood flowing.  Incorporate a short power walk into snack and coffee breaks.  Walk to your co-workers and have

During Breaks

  • Stand up and stretch during your breaks to help reduce muscle fatigue and to help get your blood flowing.
  • Incorporate a short power walk into snack and coffee breaks.
  • Walk to your co-workers and have face-to-face conversations with them in lieu of utilizing emails or phone calls. Not only does this get you up and away from your desk, but it can help you build relationships with your peers.

During Your Lunch Hour

  • Take the stairs to and from the cafeteria, if applicable. In general, lunch is a great time to get in some extra activities.
  • Sign up for a fitness class that you can participate in during your short lunch breaks. Just be sure to speak with a manager first to ensure that it’s OK.

Before and After Work

  • Consider walking to work on days where it’s not too cold and the walkways are free of ice.
  • Park your car far away from the main entrance of your work. This will force you to get in some extra steps before and after the workday.

Whatever methods you choose to utilize, staying active is important for your personal health. Even 10 minutes of activity a day has its benefits.

However, prior to exercising, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor to ensure that you are healthy enough for vigorous exercise. Your doctor will also be able to provide you with additional tips on staying active.

For more workplace wellness tips, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. today.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a recurring depression that affects individuals during the cold winter months and then recedes during the spring and summer.

It is estimated that 5 percent of Americans suffer from SAD, with nearly 75 percent of those affected being women. SAD is most common for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, although it can also occur in children, adolescents and the elderly.

SAD can have a serious impact on your desire to work and your overall well-being. Symptoms of SAD can vary depending on the severity of the condition, but generally include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Decreased interest in daily activities, especially social activities
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Increased appetite with weight gain
  • Cravings for carbohydrates
  •  Increased desire to sleep, with more daytime sleepiness

If you believe that you or a co-worker are suffering from SAD, it’s important to keep in mind the following coping strategies:

  1. Expose yourself to more light. Increasing the amount of natural light in your home and at work can have a positive impact on your mood.
  2. Get active. Whenever possible, go outside and get some exercise. This can help reduce stress and anxiety.
  3.  Reduce stress. Managing stress and finding time to relax can help limit the effects of SAD.

If you believe you may be suffering from SAD, it’s important to speak to a health care professional. He or she may recommend medication and other SAD-management approaches. Additionally, you should speak with your employer to ensure that they are aware of your condition and can work with you to find ways to assist.

 


Striving for a Culture Change in Your Wellness Program (Part 1)

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Heather Mills

Many of us have seen or heard about the various wellness programs referred to as “participation–based” programs. These participation-only programs continue to be the starting point for many organizations when they enter the world of workplace wellness. Participatory programs typically include a few individual and team-based activities, offer a level of electronic or onsite seminar education, and offer employees biometric screening and personal health risk assessments. Organizations may even award prizes, hold drawings, or offer giveaways.
These programs are typically created with the goals of promoting and encouraging healthier lifestyles for their employees and their families, reducing healthcare costs of the organization, or simply because ownership feels it is the right thing to do.Fast forward a few years, and the same program is being offered. In most cases, employees have received some education and had fun, but the organization has yet to meet its original goals or experience a real culture change. Employees still seem to be leading unhealthy lifestyles, productivity and morale seem lower than ever, and healthcare claims continue to skyrocket. So why do you even have this wellness program?In my eight years working as Wellness Program Manager for a mid-sized benefits consulting firm, I have been a part of and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the programs. I have learned from mistakes made early on, and I value sharing those experiences with those I have the opportunity to consult with. I share firsthand examples from my own company’s program, as well as the experiences of my clients and other business partners. A program set up successfully – with the right support, tools, partners, and initial incentives – will absolutely reap the reward, and your organization should recognize a true cultural change.These are the key factors that I believe contribute most to the success of a wellness program.1. Secure senior management commitment and participation.

It is easy for business owners to say they want a wellness program, but it is a different story when they actually embrace the concept, support the process, and engage in the program themselves. Owners of organizations have come to me for help in implementing a wellness program. They assign one person to be in charge of the program, typically someone whose time is already limited, and for one reason or another the program stalls. If the top leadership of the organization is not supportive or engaged, it could take anywhere from six months to five years trying to get a sustainable wellness program off the ground. The program may not even take off at all.

I have seen these programs fizzle for many reasons, including a shift in business objectives, lack of established goals, or lack of participation or role-modeling from management or ownership. It can be recognized early whether a program is going to succeed by the support it has from its leaders. Think of a successful program much like the game “follow the leader.” Good leaders and owners should not only sponsor the program, but should also be actively engaged and supporting it, leading by example. When employees see owners and employers participating and supporting the program, they too will “follow the leader.” Once you have backing from the people who invoke change within your organization, laying the groundwork for the program will become a smoother process.

2.  Survey the organization and gather aggregate data to establish need and risk areas.

Once you have built the foundation, it is a good time to collect and gather data to determine need and evaluate aggregate risks in the organization. Of those organizations that created the participatory programs we discussed earlier, how many of them do you think actually asked their employees first what they wanted or needed in order to change unhealthy behaviors or lead a healthy lifestyle? What lifestyle-related claims is the organization experiencing that might be able to be controlled with interventions? What health risks exist within the organization? Organizations typically roll out the program before they gather the data, and then look back and wonder why their participation in their program was so low. Logically, it is because the employees didn’t want or need it or see the value.

When working with a benefits consulting firm, organizations ask for employees to be surveyed annually on their likes and dislikes in medical and dental coverage. It only makes sense that employees also be surveyed about their needs in a wellness program. The employee wellness survey may include questions about areas where they may want help, programs they would be willing to participate in, what would motivate them to engage in the program, and whether or not they are even looking to make any changes. Do not worry or be discouraged, as there is always five to ten percent of a population that is resistant to anything and will never participate regardless of what you provide.

Additional data is then obtained by analyzing your organization’s aggregate claims, if data is available. Along with claims data, organizations may also compile aggregate data through health screenings, biometrics, health and fitness diagnostics and assessments, blood work, and more.

3.  Utilize existing tools and resources, establish partnerships and seek guidance.

Many organizations may not be aware of the variety of wellness program tools and resources available to them. First, look to your benefits insurance consultant. Qualified, reputable benefit consulting firms now have credentialed wellness program managers or coordinators on staff to work alongside you and your team. Consultants can help navigate what is available to you from your insurance carrier or third party administrator and are likely tapped into local and national resources, wellness vendors, and other workplace wellness tools. One of the best parts of my role as a Wellness Program Manager is to share my passion for wellness with our clients and help them design a sustainable program. If you have a benefits consultant that is not providing this level of support or staff, it is worth inquiring.

Establish a partnership with a wellness vendor. This is one resource that is often overlooked because organizations try to do it themselves. Sustainable programs have vendors that can design programs based on need and risk, manage day-to-day program tasks, provide ongoing reporting, and recommend best practices for goal achievement.

Over the last few years, hundreds of new wellness vendors have entered the marketplace. I have worked with great vendors and vendors that I will not work with again. Employers should not settle for a “cookie cutter” program. Look for a partner that shares a similar view on wellness, one who will customize a program to satisfy your organization’s objectives. Ensure that you partner with a vendor that offers actual guidance and management of your program. CAUTION: Many vendors promote account management as a top service they provide, but few deliver. A great way to find the right vendor is through the partnerships your employee benefits consultant has established or from other business referrals and testimonials. When I place a client with a vendor, the most important thing I look for is the type of service my client will receive. Accept nothing but high quality and service.

Subscribe to the UBA blog for part 2 in this series, which will cover the final steps to successfully set up a program with the right support, tools, partners, and initial incentives.

For additional trends among wellness programs, download In UBA’s new whitepaper: “Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization”.

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way. With over 20 pages of comprehensive guidance, examples and frequently asked questions, this is an invaluable employer resource.

For the latest statistics from the UBA survey examining wellness program design among 19,557 health plans and 11,524 employers, pre-order UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary which will be available to the public in late September.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Mills, H. (2016 September 9). Striving for a culture change in your wellness program. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/striving-for-a-culture-change-in-your-wellness-program-part-1


Wellness Programs Benefit Employers, Employees

Original post benefitspro.com

Offering employee wellness programs isn’t just an exercise in altruism for employers. It pays off where most companies would value it most: the bottom line.

According to Forbes, companies are jumping on the wellness program bandwagon right and left, to varying degrees. In fact, Society for Human Resource Management statistics indicate that in 2015, 80 percent of employers offered preventive wellness resources and educational information, with 70 percent providing full strategic wellness programs.

But while companies are happy that such programs pay off in healthier employees — 59 percent of employers offering such programs believe they’ve resulted in improved worker health — those programs also pay off in ways that have more to do with the balance sheet than the scales.

The cost of wellness programs is nothing to be sneezed at, but on the other hand, employees involved in them often shift their diets to healthier foods, quit smoking, have a better mental outlook on life, and watch the pounds come off through diet and exercise. That means they’re less likely to have to take so much advantage of company-provided health plans, if they’re reducing or eliminating some of the risk factors that could send them to the doctor more often.

Healthy employees might exercise more and weigh less, but they’re also more engaged, and thus more productive. Better health can also keep them on the job longer, with better results and better job satisfaction. They’re less stressed, miss fewer days at work and don’t look for a new job as often; all those things add up to an 8 percent improvement in productivity.

All of that can translate, for most programs, to dollars and cents: a return on investment of approximately 3:1. It can, however, go as high as 6:1, thanks to reduced health care costs that result when workers are eating better, exercising more, and forestalling some of the conditions that can result in mega health care bills — and equally mega premiums.


What Percentage of Your Life Will You Spend Exercising?

Original post benefitspro.com

How much of your life will you spend exercising?

Reebok and Censuswide, a global consulting firm, studied exercise habits of people in nine different countries and came to the conclusion that the average person spends 0.69 percent of their life working out.

Or, as the shoe company chose to frame it: Of the 25,915 days the average human lives, only 180 will be spent on fitness. “25,915” is the name of Reebok’s new brand campaign focused on encouraging exercise.

To be sure, “fitness” is not the same as physical activity. Manual laborers throughout the world burn calories effectively without ever getting a gym membership. Reebok acknowledges that fact, pointing out that the average person still walks or runs the equivalent of the Earth’s circumference nearly twice in their lifetime.

But in an increasingly mechanized world in which more and more workers spend their days in offices, it is more important than ever for people to make a conscious effort to get exercise.

“As a brand dedicated to promoting and supporting health and fitness around the world, we felt compelled to shine a light on the disparities between what we may aspire to achieve and what we’re willing to do about it,” said Yan Martin, vice president of brand management at Reebok.   “It gives us a renewed urgency to get out there and live fuller, healthier lives. If we all traded in 30 minutes of phone time for a jog, we could actually help change the dynamics of global wellness.”

To highlight the point, Reebok calculated that 41 percent of the average person’s life is spent engaging with technology. That amounts to 10,625 days in a lifetime.

In addition, the average person will spend 29.75 percent of his life sitting down, 6.8 percent socializing with a loved one, and 0.45 percent having sex.


Americans Don't Do Much to Avoid Hearing Loss

Original post benefitspro.com

Have you ever even heard of healthy hearing habits?

If not, you’re probably not alone. Relatively few Americans appear to pay much attention to their ears, according to a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of EPIC Hearing Healthcare.

The survey found that only a quarter of U.S. adults have had their hearing checked in the past two years.

In contrast, nearly two-thirds of Americans make a trip to the dentist at least annually. Three-quarters wear some type of corrective lens — either glasses or contact lenses — to address poor eyesight.

The survey also revealed that very few understand the risks to hearing presented by a number of different conditions and behaviors, including diabetes (22 percent) and smoking (14 percent).

Granted, it’s hard to believe that evidence showing how smoking harms hearing would be the game-changer that gets people to quit their habit, considering that people are more than aware of the other substantial health risks linked to tobacco use.

But overall hearing health would likely improve if the topic was more often emphasized by physicians and other health experts. According to EPIC, only 8 percent of employer-based wellness programs include hearing health.

But according to EPIC, only one in five people who would benefit from hearing aids actually have them. Even worse, people who don’t discuss hearing issues with their doctors often do not adopt habits to prevent hearing loss.

Hearing loss is often a problem that snowballs, explains EPIC. Dr. William Luxford, medical director of House Clinic. He says that people who begin to lose their hearing engage in behavior that exacerbates the problem, such as turning up the volume on their TV.

“A lot of people aren’t aware how important preventive care is for their hearing health,” he says. “Regular, comprehensive hearing exams by an audiologist are the best way to establish a baseline for your hearing and ensure any hearing loss is caught early so further damage can be prevented or minimized and hearing can be improved as quickly as possible.”


Study Suggests Plan Transparency Doesn’t Reduce Costs

Original post benefitspro.com

“Transparency” and “choice” are keywords associated with health plan consumers these days. But there’s no guarantee those key words will lead to the keyword phrase “lower health plan costs.”

One survey of the employees of two large employers reports that, given transparency and choice, plan members did not reduce their costs, and even increased them a bit.

As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a Harvard-led study of plan member choices showed that when employees spent more time reviewing plan options, they did not necessarily choose a cheaper plan. The study compared two groups of employees — one with a plan that included a price transparency/comparison tool, and another that did not.

The end result: The group with the transparency tool at its disposal spent slightly more (about  $59 per member) on a plan in 2012 than in 2011. The control group with no tool spent about $18 more.

However, the study included a big caveat: “Only a small percentage of eligible employees” used the tool.

Such studies can offer some value to the overall discussion of reducing health costs. However, this study’s small focus (employees of two companies), when it took place (before comparison tools had truly entered the health plan lexicon), and the relatively few folks who used it, probably suggests that perhaps it could be used as the starting point for a broader study based upon more recent data.


Remote Workers Are Happier

Original post benefitspro.com

People who work remotely are happier, according to a new survey conducted by TinyPulse, an employee engagement firm.

The firm polled 509 U.S. workers who always work remotely about their job satisfaction and compared their responses to those of the roughly 200,000 U.S. employees the firm polls on a monthly basis.

On a scale of 1 to 10, remote workers report an average level of work happiness of 8.1, compared to 7.42 for other employees.

They may rarely see their colleagues and superiors, but remote workers also feel more valued by their employers. On that metric, they have an average score of 7.75, compared to 6.69 for other workers.

The one area in which remote employees come up short, unsurprisingly, is their relationships with colleagues. They rate their co-worker relationships at an average of 7.88, whereas conventional employees rate their ties to officemates 8.47.

The study by TinyPulse suggested strongly that the benefits of allowing employees to work outside of the office outweigh the risks.

Only 27 percent of the remote workers polled said they had experienced a problem due to not being in the same place as fellow employees. And 91 percent said they were more productive in their current arrangement than in an office context.

Another surprising finding: Those who work more days a week are the happiest.

In fact, remote employees who report working seven days a week, but shorter hours, were the most satisfied of all, with an average satisfaction rating of 8.49. The next happiest were those who worked sporadic hours throughout the week, with a rating of 8.12. Those who worked a typical, 9-5 schedule, came in third, at 7.88, just slightly ahead of those who worked consistent but unconventional schedules, such as nights or Sunday-Thursday.

Telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements are all the rage these days, particularly among Silicon Valley firms. Studies have suggested that employers who ease up on attendance and scheduling policies will have happier workers who are just as productive.