Thursday, January 19, 2017

CES 2017: 4 Noteworthy Topics about Wearables

This year’s Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, brought together 177,393 attendees from all over the world focused on the latest and greatest in technology innovation. We were excited to be a part of the buzz, navigating the aisles to stay on top of the latest fitness technology trends and contributing to the industry dialog by being a part of a Garmin panel discussion. Here are four of the many great innovations happening within the world of wearables.

1. The power houses of device manufacturers continue to shine; the smaller players have started to dwindle.

Although wearables continue to be a good portion of technology innovation, there were less exhibitors with new wearables this year compared to years past. The two big players with a strong presence at CES were Fitbit and Garmin. Fitbit continues to offer strong consumer brand recognition. Garmin displayed a wide range of solutions from a simple, inexpensive device, great for population health, all the way to high end devices, offering a broad range of features. Garmin also released a new series of Fenix devices with the Fenix 5S receiving a CES Innovation Award.

2. Wearables are getting a facelift.

As consumers seek to incorporate wearables into their everyday lifestyle, instead of just their workouts, many companies are taking note.  Several device manufacturers in attendance highlighted devices that are beginning to look more like a high-end fashionable watch, rather than a rubber bracelet.

3. Wearables continue to be used new & noteworthy venues, including clinical use.

During the show, myInertia’s CEO, Michael Troup, participated in a panel discussion sponsored by Garmin on the current state of wearables. There were interesting examples of wearables for both workplace wellness and clinical use. Some innovative uses of wearables in clinical practice included predicting hospitalizations based on significant step count decreases and documented improvements in outcomes for cancer patients who had activity goals with devices. When asked where he saw wearables going in the next 5 years, Michael stated “I see the wellness and the clinical markets coming together as we have the same goal of creating healthier population and can work together on achieving this.”

4. Creating employee population engagement with wearables comes down to simplicity.

The panel also addressed the challenges typically faced with wearable programs and protocols. When asked specifically on the challenge of engagement in wellness programs, Michael shared “It is important that we take out the complexity of wellness programs and simplify to drive better engagement. Wearables can create that simplicity while also creating a buzz that drives interest in wellness programs.”

Overall, despite the decrease in number of wearable manufacturers, it is clear the use for the devices continues to grow in interesting ways. We’re excited to see where the future of wearables will take us in the next year and beyond.

Friday, December 30, 2016

myInertia's Year in Review: 2016 Highlights

We want to start off by giving a big thank you from everyone here at myInertia for supporting us this year. From introducing the Wellness Outlet, to getting entire companies more focused on health, we wanted to highlight what you've helped us achieve this year. Thank you for an amazing 2016, and cheers to the new year!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Launching Your Next Wellness Program

With January here, many of us are in prime planning season for our next wellness program. While you are working on all those last-minute details, it’s also important to stop and evaluate. By asking yourself these eight insightful questions you can guarantee this will be your best wellness program yet:

1. Am I collecting the right data?

Are you struggling to get a clear picture of your wellness program ROI and overall results? It might be because you aren’t collecting the right data. As a baseline, it’s important to collect employee interest surveys, total participation in your program and participation percentage rates of each element.

Better yet, you could include behaviors such as physical activity data from wearable activity trackers and health status via biometrics. This will provide you with the insightful data needed to properly analyze and adjust your wellness program.

2. Is my incentive strategy on point?

Incentives are best used when they are tied to healthy employee actions. For instance, simply completing an on line HRA doesn’t help provide you with the insightful data your program needs. By using a points based structure you can spread incentives across a number of different target behaviors such as physical activity, an annual PCP visit and registering for telemedicine services.

To make the biggest impact, the incentive you give needs to be align with the effort you are asking employees to give. In other words, the employee effort vs. payoff needs to be in balance. If you give a $5 gift card, for a year’s worth of work, employees might not see the value in re-aligning their day to focus on health and wellbeing.

3. Is the wellness committee functioning properly?

Your wellness committee should be functioning as champions of the program, not designers of the program. It’s important to focus on expert advice when designing the program. Although the committee can give feedback and input, it’s a more important job for the committee to be champions, or cheerleaders of the plan. They need to be visible supporters, promoting and encouraging employees to participate.

4. Do my employees know the benefits of participating?

Not only do employees need to know the how, who and what, but they need to know the WHY. Do they know the health benefits associated with the program? The energy boosting benefits of a 30-minute walk? Or how social connection and teamwork can create more happiness? It’s important to show employees the true value of participating. (you can read more about ways to show employees the true value here >)

One easy way to communicate the benefit is by using employee testimonials. This provides recognition to the employee who has already seen success and helps their peers gain a sense that they can achieve similar outcomes.

5. Is there a clear communication plan in place?

Did you communicate frequently enough last year? Did employees understand the details? Employees are more apt to avoid the program if they don’t clearly understand the program details.

Not only do employees need to know the incentive strategy you have developed, they need a clear path to success. An “In order to earn the incentive follow these steps” documentation. By giving them a clear and detailed understanding you can allow them to feel more comfortable with stepping outside their comfort zone. Having this annual plan summary available in one central location aids in both the communication process (always pointing them to the same place) and employee understanding.

We advise developing a communication calendar which will help you better monitor the frequency of communications. Make sure to also consider multiple forms of communication throughout the year, including printed pieces, email campaigns and videos.

6. Could leadership be doing more to show their support?

Has the CEO, or other leadership team members, truly shown support this year? Ask them to visibly show their support by joining in initiatives, recognizing employee achievements and when applicable, having them say a quick positive health message before the initiative starts. Those simple adjustments can go a long way to program success.

For example, one client, Terry Albrecht, founder of Green Bay Packer Fastener, visibly shows his health and wellness support by personally engaging with each individual employee, shadowing everyone in the company at least once a year. During that time he makes sure to review health goals, supporting and encouraging employees’ journey throughout. (read more about Terry’s real-life culture of wellness here >)

7. Are my employees having fun?

It’s hard to make a true positive health impact on your population, if your wellness program has created a “I have to do this” mentality. Although we understand the importance of initiatives like flu shots, annual physical exams and biometric screenings, there also needs to be a focus on developing initiatives that employees enjoy doing.

So, if you’ve answered no to this question, consider adding fun initiatives like a physical activity challenge powered by activity trackers to see which team can rack up the most steps within a week, or hosting health & nutrition trivia lunch and learn.

Engaging events like these give employees a chance to not only do/learn something healthy, but also gives them the ability to develop deeper social connections with collogues, which is crucial to boosting productivity, long-term engagement rates and overall program satisfaction.

8. Is our program easy for employees to understand?

While it is true that more elements to your wellness program promote employee choice, there is also the danger of creating the “deer in headlights” syndrome. Where do I start? What should I do first? Bob said he was going to do that – is that what I should do? Do I have to do ALL of these things?

In most cases “more is less” when it comes to driving sustained engagement in wellness initiatives. This is particularly true if you are looking to start a program, or revamp a program that may have low participation. Focusing on a couple of elements in year one and adding more over time is the right multi-year strategy to promote engagement.

Friday, December 9, 2016

myInertia's Top 5 Blog Posts of 2016

From a real-life healthy culture example, to over 30 wellness program name ideas, here are myInertia's five most popular posts from 2016.

Want more articles like this? Sign up here to get our wellness posts delivered to your inbox each month!

35 Wellness Program Name Ideas

Branding your wellness program is a great way to increase awareness and gain participation from your employees’. A key part of your branding strategy is the name. We’ve complied a helpful list of wellness program names to get your creative juices pumping.

read full article

When you think nuts & bolts, what do you think of next? I bet you didn’t guess wellness. But that’s a main focus at Packer Fastener, a fast moving, innovative company based out of Green Bay, WI. Competitive by nature, Terry Albrecht, the founder of the company, sets up a unique structure for employees to succeed, fostering and encouraging each employee to be the best. He does this through leveraging 15 core values, which includes health & wellbeing.

In honor of myInertia’s CEO, Michael Troup, winning one of the Digi Benefits Technology Innovator Awards we wanted to highlight his history with technology, and how it has continued to shape his companies’ purpose in the benefits world.

While intrinsic motivation should ultimately drive an individual’s healthy behavior, we work with many clients who use financial incentives as an extrinsic catalyst. Encouraging employees to take notice of a program and engage in wellness initiatives can help set them on a pathway to understanding what will ultimately keep them personally motivated long term. However, in order to kick-start a healthy culture and gain the most benefit there are key strategies employers should focus on:

read full article

As the benefits landscape continues to evolve with narrower networks, higher deductibles and increasing pharma-costs there is one constant that will put companies in a stronger position to slow their potential pace of change – healthier populations. Whether it is avoiding medical visits altogether, negotiating with carriers or reducing the need for drugs, a healthier employee base will put your clients in a more proactive position when it comes to managing future benefit programs. Here are four reasons why working towards a healthier population truly matters in 2016.

read full article  

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Make Wellness Stick with These 7 Healthy Habit Ideas

You have the wellness program, the wellness committee, and even leadership support, but you still feel like you are spinning your wheels to see a healthy shift in culture at your organization. You are looking for ways to make wellness stick. Creating your organization’s wellness actions into wellness habits is the key to making the healthy shift. The extensive research and strategies on creating individual health habits can be applied to creating organizational habits. Here are some good places to start:

1. The Habit Loop

 In the book “The Power of Habit” Charles Duhigg describes the process of habit forming: “First there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. The there is a routine which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time, this loop-cue, routine, reward-becomes more and more automatic. What cues can you put in place to trigger healthy routines at your organization? A bell on the hour that cues employees to stand and stretch. A day of the week that signals no fast food.

To cement these actions into habits be sure to add a reward, which could be things like socially connecting during the stretch or recognition to those choosing a healthy lunch.

2. Keystone Habits

 It is tempting when creating a wellness program to try to tackle all health habits at once: nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress, financial, disease. However, there is an abundance of research that shows if you want the habits to form and stick it is important to tackle one at a time.

 In deciding where to start, Charles Duhigg also shares information about a special type of habit that when started triggers wide spread change. These are called “keystone habits.”

 In the book, James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher states, “Exercise spills over. There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.” It can be as infrequent as once per week but the evidence shows with this one little habit, people smoke less, show more patience with coworkers and family, use credit cards less, and report they feel less stress.

3. Tiny Habits

 “When you know how to create tiny habits, you can change your life forever.”,- BJ Fogg, PhD from Stanford University. 

Fogg explains in his Tiny Habits program that the health behaviors we want to create are really habits. The premise of the Tiny Habits program is that you start with very tiny behavior changes that are easy to repeat and eventually turn into a habit. He gives the example in his TED talk to do two pushups overtime you go to the bathroom, or start by flossing one tooth. When you build on these tiny habits, it becomes easier not to give up. You can promote this philosophy to your program by encouraging employees to accomplish small tasks like, walking 1,000 more steps today, or eating an apple instead of a donut.

4. Praise

Praise builds on top of the reward part of the habit loop discussed above. When it comes to healthy choices the reward is not always obvious or immediate. Think about taking a daily vitamin. You may have the cue in place such as eating breakfast that triggers the habit – take the vitamin, but where is the reward? This can be the same with your wellness initiatives.

Encouraging to take part in a Fruit Friday instead of a Doughnut Friday may not bring an immediate reward, but you can provide that through recognition and praise.

Some companies even encourage coworkers to deliver that praise through “Caught you being healthy” initiatives where employees can recognize coworkers for their healthy choices. These little rewards can be an important step to keeping the habit loop going.

5. Create Connectedness

Healthy habits are easier to create and maintain with a support system. There is no better place to capture a social network than the workplace where people spend up to 40 hours per week together. Some ideas for creating connectedness include onsite health events, team challenges, and walking groups at lunch.


The phenomenon of Fear of Missing Out or rather FOMO can be a powerful motivator for people to jump into your wellness program. People naturally want to be part of something and therefore don’t want to miss out.

You may never get 100% of employees to join in but if you communicate to 100% of the employees about all the great things that are happening, new skills being learned, and prizes being won you’ll be sure to attract additional participants.

Attracting participants to you program is a key step to creating the new health habits. To be even more effective with this be sure to use the typical marketing techniques of setting deadlines to register or offering limited spots to create a sense of urgency to participate and the need to avoid that FOMO feeling.

7. Puppy Dog Sale

The concept is brilliant – bring a puppy home overnight with the option to return it the next day for a full refund. It is likely that most these new pet owners will keep the puppy once they have tried it out. You can do this in the workplace too.

There may already be all the right cues for habit formation, but if your participants are not comfortable with the routine they won’t engage. Help participants get comfortable with the routine by trying it out first. Whether that is a new food, new exercise, or meditation, providing a comfortable environment in the workplace to experiment will increase the chances of employees committing to the habit.

Applying the techniques for habit formation to your wellness program can be the key to creating the long-term behavior changes for your organization. Go outside the box of simply planning and implementing a wellness program and put into place the cues and rewards for the healthy routines you see growing to keep them sustained.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Make One Simple Switch to Boost Wellness Participation Rates

“How can I get more employees actively participating in my wellness program?”

This is a top question most organizations ask about their wellness program. Though there are many complex strategies out there about boosting engagement and participation, there is a simple psychological switch that can have a positive impact. Have employees opt-out vs. opt-in.

A recent study sheds more light on this concept. In the study, researchers found that making 401(k) accounts opt-out instead of opt-in, meaning employees were automatically enrolled, but could stop at any time, raised contribution rates from less than 40% to nearly 100%.

The study further highlighted this phenomenon by stating: “Employees often follow the path of least resistance. Employees generally do whatever takes the least effort -- generally doing nothing -- a phenomenon these investigators call passive decision-making."

Why do employees indulge in passive decision-making? It often boils down to option-overload. Individuals are faced with thousands of choices on a daily basis. By making the healthy choice, the default choice, it’s easier for individuals to simply say yes and move onto their other daily decisions.

Or, as Richard H. Thaler, and Cass R. Sunstein, authors of “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness”, put it, “Offering a default option of opting in, rather than opting out, doesn’t take away choice, but guides us [employees] to make better ones.”

So what does this mean for your wellness program initiatives?

It means employees are looking for the path of least resistance. If you can make your wellness initiatives the default option - make it so easy it’s almost effortless - employees will be more likely to engage.

Here’s some ways you can put this thought process to work:
  1. For the lunch and learn, make it “regrets only”. Automatically sign everyone up for the lunch and learn and ask only if they CAN’T attend to let you know. 
  2.  Automatically enroll employees in activity challenges, just remember to communicate when the challenge is starting and the physical activity goal associated. 
  3. One of our automotive clients schedules their employees’ biometric screenings for them, allowing them to complete the task while at work. Employees can opt-out if they do not wish to have the testing completed, or re-schedule if the time doesn’t work. Over the past 3 years they’ve had nearly 100% of their employee population participate in this annual screening. 

Although we understand this may not work for every wellness initiative you offer, the principle remains: opt-out vs. opt-in can increase participation rates.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Clearing the Confusion on Tying Rewards to Spousal Wellness Program Participation

by: Barbara J. Zabawa

Since the EEOC issued the final rule under the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), there have been a number of questions relating to what is permissible with respect to rewarding employees for spousal participation in wellness programs.

First, to recap, GINA prohibits employer wellness programs for imposing a penalty or disadvantage on an individual because a spouse’s disease or disorder prevents or inhibits the spouse from participating in the wellness program or from achieving a certain health outcome. 29 CFR s. 1635.8(b)(2)(i)(A).

Second, GINA prohibits employer wellness programs from retaliating against an employee because of a spouse’s refusal to provide information about his or her manifestation of disease or disorder to the wellness program. 29 CFR s. 1635.8(b)(2)(v).

So, with those rules in mind, how can an employer wellness program tie an employee’s reward to his or her spouse’s participation, if at all? Let’s look at a few examples:

Employee can earn reward (the value of which is no more than 30% of the total cost of self-only coverage) if both the employee and spouse meet a certain cholesterol level. If either employee or spouse fails to meet the cholesterol target, the employee does not earn the reward. Permissible?
Answer: No, this is not permissible. This program is tying the employee’s reward to the spouse achieving a certain health outcome. As noted above, GINA prohibits employer wellness programs from imposing a penalty or disadvantage on an employee because the employee’s spouse has a disease or disorder that prevents him or her from achieving a certain health outcome. The spouse in this case may have high cholesterol, arguably a “disease or disorder” that prevents the spouse from meeting a certain health outcome. Denying the employee the reward because of the spouse’s disease or disorder is not permissible under GINA.
Employee earns a reward equal to 15% of the total cost of employee-only coverage and another 15% of that cost if both the employee and spouse do the following:

a. Complete an HRA
b. Attend a biometric screen (results are irrelevant for purposes of reward)
c. Attend four seminars
d. Provide evidence of a physical exam by their primary care physician

If either the spouse or employee fail to complete all four activities (which all four are presumed to qualify as “participatory” programs under the HIPAA/ACA rules), the employee’s reward is $0. That is, both employee and spouse must complete all four activities to earn the full 30% reward. Is this permissible?
Answer: Yes, this is permissible as long as the employee does not feel like they are being retaliated against for a spouse’s refusal to participate in the biometric screen, for example. The activities listed above do not ask the spouse to achieve a certain health outcome. Thus, the reward is not tied to the spouse achieving a certain health outcome.
Same facts as #2, above, except the reward is equal to 30% for the employee’s participation and 30% for the spouse’s participation. Would this be permissible?
Answer: No, this is not permissible because the reward equals 60% of the total cost of employee-only coverage, which exceeds the 30% maximum award available under GINA. The employee only gets the reward if both the employee and spouse complete all four activities. If either the spouse or employee fail to complete all four, the employee’s reward is $0, which is the same as a 60% penalty if the spouse refused to provide their biometric information (which violates GINA) or a 60% penalty if the employee refused to provide their health information (which would violate the ADA final rule).
Employee can earn a reward of up to 60% of the total cost of employee-only coverage if both the employee and spouse join a fitness club, attend at least three health education classes (from a list of over a dozen options), and volunteer in the community. Is this permissible?
Answer: Yes, this is permissible because all of these activities are “participatory” under the HIPAA/ACA rules, which does not place a limit on the reward amount. Also, none of the activities involve the provision of health information by the employee or the spouse, so neither the ADA nor GINA rules (and their 30% incentive limits) would apply.
Many of the responses above were confirmed by EEOC Attorney Chris Kuczynski at the HERO Form 2016. The take away is that employer wellness programs should not tie an employee’s reward to a spouse’s health outcome. Also, the program should be careful not to structure an employee’s reward so that the employee feels retaliated against if his or her spouse refuses to provide his or her health information. 

If your wellness program needs compliance assistance, please contact the Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC at

About the Author:

Barbara J. Zabawa owns the Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC a law firm dedicated to improving legal access and compliance for the health and wellness industries. Before graduating with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School, she obtained an MPH degree from the University of Michigan. Immediately prior to starting her own firm, she was Associate General Counsel and HIPAA Privacy Officer for a large health insurer where she advised on Affordable Care Act matters. She was also a shareholder and Health Law Team Leader at a large Wisconsin law firm. Barbara is licensed to practice law in both Wisconsin and New York.