Thursday, November 30, 2017

7 Things to Stop Doing in Your Wellness Program in 2018 (and What to Do Instead)

With no gold standard on what makes up an effective wellness program, it’s hard to know how to put one together. Oftentimes it ends up being built on what’s always been done before… (think biometrics and HRAs.)

However, based on the continued decline of American’s health, (2/3rds are overweight, over 103 million have high blood pressure and 1 in 10 adults have type 2 Diabetes) 2018 is a great time to change up the way companies do wellness to create more positive health outcomes.

You can do your part by stopping these 7 things and focusing instead on the key components that drive real results:

1. Ditch the scattered approach.

Many companies begin wellness by providing a Health Risk Assessment, throwing in a lunch and learn here and there and introducing some online learning modules.

We call this the scattered approach, where you throw it out there randomly and hope something triggers health improvement. The problem is, it’s hard to define your program with this approach, and even harder to measure its success and impact.

What you can do instead: It is worth the time and energy to plan out an annual in advance. This will help you get strategic with what you are offering, determine what to budget for and ensure continuous wellness effort and attention. It also allows you to more efficiently track progress and monitor results.

2. Rethink the HRA model.

Health questionnaires that require employees to answer question after question, can be a barrier to employees’ participating in your wellness program. Many are uncomfortable sharing that information with their employer.

Furthermore, these questionnaires do little to improve the health of the individual, as it offers nothing about their health that they don’t already know.

What you can do instead: Instead of lengthy HRAs, offer action-based wellness initiatives that drive behavior change and provide something employees want to participate in. Some examples include offering wearable activity devices or healthy cooking classes.

3. Don’t pay employees for only taking a biometric.

Yes, knowing your numbers is an important first step to identifying health conditions that can be treated or better controlled. But it isn’t a wellness plan in and of itself.

Many corporations spend all their available wellness dollars the cost of biometrics and incentives for employee to take it. Not only does this set a precedent to employees that they should be paid for each health action, but it often doesn’t leave funds for other important wellness programming.

What to do instead: Focus on what is being done throughout the year to keep employees from moving into a lower health category next year. Ask yourself, what high touch programming can be offered to improve health status for the entire population?

Also, if there simply isn’t enough wellness budget to do it all, consider skipping the biometric every other year and implement programming in-between that focuses on healthy actions throughout the year.

4. Say goodbye to health libraries.

Let’s face it, if someone has a health condition or symptoms they are concerned about, they can easily pick up their mobile device and Google it. They aren’t going to take the time to login to the wellness portal and search for articles on their concerns.

Plus, information overload on your portal just makes it that much more difficult for employees to navigate and focus on the more impactful programming.

What to do instead: Focus on key health initiatives that have been shown to make a big impact, like physical activity and promotion of annual physicals, and leave Google to answer the rest.

5. Take out the guesswork with your wellness program results.

Is my program working? What do the employees think about it? Is it worth the investment? Are we truly changing behavior? Often, companies get so caught up in managing their wellness program they forget to put measures in place to answer the questions above.

What to do instead: Consider capturing and evaluating the following metrics in your program:

  • Participation rates (# eligible vs # signed up)
  • Engagement rates (# signed up vs. # completed/engaging in multiple offerings)
  • Participant satisfaction
  • Physical activity trends with wearables
  • Health metrics from health kiosks
  • Health changes through biometric or claims data on wellness participants vs. nonparticipants
  • Missed days of work

6. Stop boring participants with your program.

Questionnaires, biometrics, flu shots, oh my! These things may provide your program data, but rarely do they generate enough excitement for employees to talk about them around the water cooler.

What you can do instead: If you want your wellness program to go viral, look at programming that includes challenges, team events, or scavenger hunts.

Also, make sure your program offers significant recognition, so your non-participants start to wonder what all the fuss is about and decide to join the program.

7. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

No matter what wellness program you put together you will hear good and bad things about it. When getting feedback, consider the source and how it aligns with the goals of the program.

Your healthy and active people may say it is too easy, or they don’t get enough credit for the triathlon they are training for. Considering this is only 10% of your population and they are doing all the right things already – is this who you want to tailor your program to? Probably not.

On the other end of the spectrum, be aware of the chronic naysayers. They will criticize whatever you put in the wellness program no matter what. They likely do this for anything new at the company and are unlikely to participate in your program regardless of offerings or incentives. This is usually about 20% of your population.

What you can do instead:
Focus on the 70%. That make up the majority and can gain the most from your program. This is a great population to target your wellness offerings to drive engagement and results. Listen to what they need and success will follow.

So, let’s not do wellness as usual in 2018. With obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions on the rise, this is a great time to implement strategies for more effective workplace wellness!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

3 Ways to Help Employees with the New Blood Pressure Guidelines

New blood pressure guidelines were released by the American Heart Association this November. The release means millions more Americans will need to lower their blood pressure. The number of Americans in the high blood pressure category will rise from 72 million to 103 million.

These new guidelines are designed to help people take steps to control their blood pressure earlier. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are two leading causes of death around the world.

So what can you, as an employer, do to help employees with these new guidelines?

1. Empower healthy lifestyle changes. Healthy lifestyle modifications remain a powerful choice for reducing blood pressure. Help employees understand the importance of diet and exercise modifications by encouraging healthy actions through your wellness program.

We recommend using wearables to achieve this step. Not only does it add a fun element to your program, it can truly change behavior.  
Find out why we love wearables, & why you should too>

2. Inform & educate employees. Provide educational materials on the new guideline definitions in the form of emails, PDFs and videos.

You can find great resources here on the American Heart Association website >

3. Help employees know their numbers. Make sure employees know if they are at risk by encouraging annual physicals, and providing an onsite blood pressure monitor employees can use.

Overall, the new guidelines are a way to encourage more people to take a step in the right direction, which can help them live longer, healthier, happier lives. Do your part by educating and motivating employees today.

To read more about the new guidelines click here >

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

6 Ways to Get Past Participation Excuses in Your Wellness Program

Through our work with wellness program administrators, we’ve heard all the excuses in the book for not participating in the wellness program…

…“I have to run errands at lunch”
…“I need to complete these tasks, so I can’t attend the webinar”
…“I can’t take the time to figure out how to login”

So, how do you get past them and engage more of your population in healthy behavior?

1. Make it a true priority

If employees believe the wellness program is not an important and integral part of your culture they will promptly put it on the back burner. Show employees that you want it prioritized by having leaders communicate the importance. Also consider sending monthly reminders of ways they can get involved to keep it at the forefront of your organization.

Another way of looking at this method is the plate metaphor. Employees only have room on their plate for so many things during the day. Are you making it clear that your program is a top priority, and worthy of plate space? If not, it may be time to rethink your strategy.

2. Highlight the value of participating

We’ve written extensively on this topic, and also had industry leader, John Weaver, Psy.D., write an inspiring guest blog. (you can read it here).

Bottom-line, if you don’t show value in participating in your wellness program, employees will leap at the chance to use excuses to opt out.

One way you can highlight the value is to bring the health & social benefits (increased energy, less stress, more fun, better colleague camaraderie, etc.) to the forefront of your program messaging.

Additionally, bringing the value back to the plate analogy, are you giving them enough value to WANT to put it on their plate of to-dos?

3. Give a clear path to success

By providing a simple, easy to digest program you can help eliminate excuses around not understanding what to do. Start by looking at your current program and try to identify places where you can streamline the processes. Also, consider that too many options may be daunting for employees.

4. Don’t offer an out

One easy, psychological way to eliminate excuses is to not offer an out, or make the out the alternative. In other words, automatically opt them into the program. You can read more about this topic here > 

5. Offer 24/7 access

Also, when thinking about the spectrum of opportunities, consider the timing. Are you only offering “in office” options or once a year biometrics? Provide multiple times and locations for initiatives and make sure to include options that are 24/7, like physical activity tracking. Another idea is to take your lunch and learns and record them, thus allowing employees to watch/engage during the time frame that best suits them.

6. Empathize

By understanding and relating to why your employees use excuses you can better tackle the issues at hand. Do this by simply and truly listening to what they are saying, and then work together with your employee to come up with a solution.

Lastly, understand that regardless of what program you put together, or the changes you make, not everyone is going to participate, and that’s okay. As long as your program is set up to overcome the common excuses, you can remain confident you are impacting the majority of your population.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Apple Watch Now Integrates with myInertia’s Portal

We are excited to announce the integration of Apple Watch with our myInertia corporate wellness platform. The Apple Watch joins Fitbit and Garmin as the best in class devices we use to support physical activity in your workplace.

As a company, we continue to focus on these strategic wearable integrations based on factors like: popular appeal, durability, affordability, and most importantly - future longevity as a corporate health activity device. The Apple Watch matches these requirements exactly, providing a unique experience that more and more employees want to be a part of.

How it works:

myInertia’s system will sync the activity data collected from Apple’s iHealth data through an app called MC Link. From there the participants can join other Fitbit and Garmin colleagues to:

  • Earn points and be rewarded for steps and active minutes 
  • Set and track activity goals
  • Rank in company-wide leaderboards
  • Compete in individual or team activity challenges

Learn more: If you are interested in using Apple Watch in one of our comprehensive wellness programs, schedule a time to learn more here.

Monday, October 30, 2017

9 Initiatives to Help Ease Workplace Stress

Studies continue to show that workplace stress is becoming a leading source of stress for many Americans. 

What is causing this increase? According to a DHHS (NIOSH) Publication, there are many factors at play, including:
  • An employee’s work demands have risen, and they don’t feel supported
  • Job responsibilities don’t match an employee’s skill set
  • Lack of recognition and feeling unappreciated
  • Lack of work/life balance

So, as an employer, what can you do to help ease workplace stress?

It’s easy to go to the usual tactics: stress management flyers, lunch & learns and learning modules -but we want to encourage you to go beyond simply educating employees. Instead, let’s focus on recognizing the above causes of stress, and implementing action-based management intiatives to combat them.

Here are 9 ways you can begin to tackle workplace stress:

  1. Set policies that allow employees to take a break for quiet time or exercise
  2. Create a separate space for quiet meditation/down time
  3. Implement 5 minute stretch breaks every hour and include a handout of various stretches that can be done at the employee’s workstation
  4. Encourage and create social activities amongst employees to inspire team building and positive emotional connections
  5. Host onsite yoga classes
  6. Encourage exercise with walking groups
  7. Offer an open-door policy to encourage communication
  8. Offer flexible scheduling 
  9. Provide healthy snacks in the break room

By taking a step back and looking at what can be done to decrease workplace stress rather than simply educate about it, you and your employees will both feel the benefits.

...What initiatives do you use to ease stress in the workplace? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Physical Inactivity – The Hidden Disease State

Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol – these lifestyle diseases are often the common targets of corporate wellness programs, because eliminating them can help lower healthcare expenses and improve workplace health.

But one very significant lifestyle state is often skipped over in that list - physical inactivity.

A newly released employer guide, Physical Activity in the Workplace, prepared by The Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, sheds light on the importance of targeting inactivity.

Physical inactivity was responsible for 11.1% of healthcare expenditures between 2006-2011.

The employer guide also emphasized the fact that increasing employees’ physical activity can create significant improvements to the workplace.

These benefits included:

  • An average of 4.1 fewer missed days of work per year
  • Lower healthcare costs
  • Decreased risk of developing costly and debilitating chronic diseases
  • Decreased worker’s compensation claims
  • Increase productivity and focus

Another benefit of adding physical inactivity as an area of focus is the fact that getting your population more active can have a positive ripple effect on the other disease states.

The evidence is powerful for increasing physical activity and the impact that has on diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Compare this to simply making sure someone with hypertension is compliant with their medications. One disease state is impacted, versus many with a good physical activity program.

It also doesn’t take many individuals to have this impact. The CDC guide shows that after introducing a wellness program 2011, O’Neal Industries found in an analysis in 2014 that 400 of their 3000 employees had initiated or improved their exercise levels, contributing to an overall net cost savings of $556,100. That is huge savings coming from moving about 13% of their population.

There is a large area of opportunity for improvement for employers when it comes to physical inactivity considering that 80% of American adults do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity and 45% of Americans are not active enough to achieve any sufficient health benefits. 

Employers can help to change these statistics for their employee population. Below are just a few ideas to increase physical activity in the workplace.

  • Encourage walking meetings
  • Put signage by the elevator to encourage stair use (check out our 3 free posters here)
  • Leverage the power of wearables to drive high engagement, the daily touch, and verifiable data (Learn more about driving engagement with wearables with our ebook)
  • Encourage participation in a local 5K run or walk
  • Encourage and allocate time during the work day for an exercise break
  • Arrange a company picnic or outing that involves some type of physical activity 
  • Offer secure bicycle storage for employees who bike to work
  • Implement 5-minute stretch breaks every hour throughout the day
  • Add standing or walking work stations as options throughout the workplace. 

Though often not considered a disease, the bottom-line is that physical inactivity in a population can lead to multiple lifestyle diseases and problems in the workplace including: missed days of work and decreased productivity. 

On the positive side, there is a lot of room for improvement and this is an area where employers can offer the right programs, policies, and environment to have a positive impact.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 HERO Forum Recap: 3 Noteworthy Topics

At the recent HERO forum in Arizona the theme of the conference was engagement. While we were there to highlight the success of one of partners – Cleveland Clinic – I took the time to attend other sessions and three specific issues struck a chord with me…unlike the 108 degree temperature outside!

1. “Small-e” engagement versus “Big-E” engagement.

During the opening remarks Paul Terry, HERO CEO, introduced this interesting concept, essentially making the point that not all engagement is made equal.

In his words, when we are simply going through the motions from day to day we are only participating – “small-e” engagement. However, when there is a positive state of mind that drives dedication in a behavior then there is purpose - “Big-E” engagement. Similarly, not all wellness initiatives are made equal in terms of driving health risk reduction.

While it may feel good to have employees involved in completing an HRA, or attending a lunch ‘n learn, these type of one-time actions have very little impact on overall population health.

On the other hand, creating an environment where employees are physically active year-round can have a huge impact on both individual and aggregate health outcomes.

Where the right type of engagement is critical to employers is when financial rewards are on the line – having incentives pointed at “small – e” not “Big-E” behaviors can be a costly mistake.

2. Acting on real time data.

Jeremy Corbett (CEO Envolve) was among a number of speakers who shared examples of how the collection and analysis of real time data allowed clients to impact the on-going engagement of their programs.

He highlighted this acts on a number of levels – at a base level knowing who is registered or enrolled helps to highlight those who are non-engaged. Digging deeper into the detail of those who are actively participating allows you to identify those who are compliant or successful with the behaviors or actions versus those who may be struggling.

Different communications can be prepared for each sub-group focusing on the issues that are likely to keep them or help them become successful. Having access to real time data is therefore one key element in developing a comprehensive engagement strategy.

3. Community volunteering. 

Stephen Post (Director & Founder of the Center for Medical Humanities) spoke about the positive impact of doing the right thing – “It’s good 2B good”.

For instance, volunteering is clearly doing the right thing for others, but I was also excited to hear the research that shows the impact on those who are also “giving” of their time and resources. Studies highlighted that volunteering provided meaning and purpose to the volunteers.

In an employment setting research was shared that showed employees who volunteered in the community were both healthier and more productive than those who did not. Even more interesting for organizations was the finding that when the employer sponsored the time off for employees to volunteer, 76% of those participating felt better about their employer.

It was encouraging to hear thought-leaders at the Health Enhancement Research Organization support concepts and ideas that we have incorporated as core to our philosophies here at Motion Connected. We strive to engage populations in meaningful behaviors, collect and deliver real time data, and integrate any community or local based activity that promotes employee health and productivity.

Author: Dave Hoinville
Director of Business Development