The Well-Being Journal

New Report Ranks U.S. States by Their Overall Well-Being

Madison Agee

WBI State InfographicA recently released report from Gallup and Healthways ranks all 50 states in the United States based on their respective well-being, and at the very top of the list is Alaska. While not a newcomer to the top ten states with the highest well-being – it has made an appearance four out of the last seven years – 2014 marks the first time Alaska leads the country in well-being. Rounding out the top five are Hawaii, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Last year’s leading state, North Dakota, tumbled this year to 23rd.

For the sixth consecutive year, West Virginia and Kentucky have the lowest well-being in the United States, ranking 50th and 49th, respectively. Other states that have appeared in the bottom ten all seven years are Arkansas, Ohio and Mississippi.

This information appears in “The State of American Well-Being: 2014 State Well-Being Rankings,” which is based on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®. The Well-Being Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals across the globe to create a unique view of societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. Read more about the new rankings.

We’re also excited to announce a brand-new way to make sure you’re the first to know when we release new reports based on the Well-Being Index. By subscribing to content from the Well-Being Index, we’ll let you know when we release new reports, insights, analysis and information. Next up, we’ll explore well-being in large communities across the United States.

Topics: Well-Being Well-Being Index Gallup

Improving Well-Being in a Challenging Population

Madison Agee

When you think of the type of organization that implements a well-being improvement program in its workforce population, what comes to mind? If you’re like many people, you’re probably imagining a professional services organization with a predominantly white-collar workforce — the type of environment where employees usually have good healthcare coverage and long employment tenures.

It’s no different when it comes to the scientific literature that has looked at the outcomes of programs such as workplace wellness and employee well-being improvement. Studies have historically focused on professional, white-collar environments, essentially ignoring industries such as retail and warehousing where workers are typically more blue-collar. Thus, the recent publication of a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) provides a much-needed and unique contribution to the scientific body, as it examines the outcomes of a well-being intervention program among a mostly blue-collar employee population.

The study, “Well-being, Health and Productivity After an Employee Well-being Intervention in Large Retail Distribution Centers” was authored by the Healthways Center for Health Research and reveals the positive outcomes that occurred following a Healthways-driven well-being intervention at a large retail employer. Supporting what is perhaps a common assumption regarding blue-collar workers, the participants in this study, on average, faced significantly more challenges than individuals in the surrounding community. These challenges included lower overall well-being scores, physical health, healthy behaviors, basic access and ability to afford food.

Despite these pre-intervention challenges, the employees in the study achieved measurable improvements in overall well-being scores, biometric measurements and workplace productivity over a six-month period. For example, overall well-being improved by nearly 2.5 points, while healthy behaviors improved 12.1 percent. Additionally, total cholesterol dropped an average of 10.8 points, and on-the-job productivity improved by 18.8 percent.

In addition to being traditionally associated with white-collar environments, workplace wellness and well-being intervention programs are often expected to require significant time to produce successful outcomes. Therefore, employers in industries in which high turnover among workers is common (such as retail) may be reluctant to implement programs that are perceived as long-term investments in their workforce. This study shows, however, that after only six months of intervention, participants realized noticeable improvement in all three categories of metrics in the study: well-being scores, biometric measurements and on-the-job productivity.

This may be especially appealing given the significant improvement in productivity that was seen during this study —results similar to the 18.8 percent improvement seen in the study over just a six-month period could be incredibly important in many workplaces. To read more about improving on-the-job productivity, download a copy of Healthways’ eBook 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Improving Productivity in the Workplace.

Topics: Well-Being Business Performance Productivity Science and Research Workplace Well-Being

Are Your Employees Hung Over from the Holidays?

Madison Agee

We’re not talking about the kind of hangover you get from one too many eggnogs, or even a food hangover from too many cookies. We mean a spending hangover. We’ve all been there—opening January’s credit card statement to see just how much damage we did to our wallets during the holidays. Even the most budget-conscious among us may have been a little too generous in December, which means January came as a rude awakening.

Unfortunately, the distraction of financial stress isn’t unique to the holidays. According to a 2014 survey by PwC, nearly a quarter of employees say their finances are a distraction while at work. This is especially a concern for millennials, 35 percent of whom are diverting their on-the-job attention to managing issues related to personal finance. Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management confirms that financial stress is a concern for many HR professionals—61 percent say it’s having “some impact” on work performance, while another 22 percent concede it’s a “large impact.”

The PwC research went a step further and quantified how much productive time organizations are losing to their employees’ financial worries. Nearly one in four employees (39 percent) are spending three or more hours per week thinking about or managing their personal finances. In 2012, MetLife found that another 22 percent have admitted to taking unexpected time off to deal with a financial issue.

And it’s not just reductions to on-the-job productivity that could be negatively influencing your bottom line. As we’ve discussed here before, financial stress can lead to serious health and well-being risks, such as cardiovascular disease, depression and substance abuse. These risks can then translate into a number of unwelcome outcomes for both employee and employer, such as higher healthcare costs and increased absenteeism.

The good news is that many employers are realizing the negative impact their employees’ finances are having on their bottom line and addressing this through financial wellness programs. MetLife revealed that 40 percent of employers are offering some sort of financial education program to their workers, although the makeup of these programs can vary considerably. Having an annual visit from the 401(k) representative may be a good start to managing employees’ financial stress, but this may not be the most important way you can help your workers.

It’s important to remember that financial well-being is part of a larger well-being context, interrelated to your employees’ sense of purpose, physical health, social relationships and community connections. Addressing all of these elements together can bolster the overall success of efforts aimed at helping your employees avoid spending hangovers and other sources of financial stress in the future.

To learn more about financial well-being, its impact in the workplace and holistic methods for addressing it, listen to a recording of our webinar, “Healthcare's Quiet Emergency: The Impact of Employee Financial Well-Being on Health, Productivity and Your Bottom Line.”

Topics: Financial Well-Being Workplace Well-Being

What Happens When an Organization Creates a Culture of Well-Being?

Madison Agee

To truly maximize the potential benefits of a well-being improvement program, organizations would be well-served to take a close look at their corporate cultures, asking themselves probing questions such as:

  • Do our underlying attitudes and assumptions reflect a true commitment to well-being?
  • Are we actively supporting our employees’ well-being?
  • Have our leaders fully bought into the business case for improved well-being?
  • Are we properly encouraging and rewarding well-being behaviors?

The answers to these questions can help determine whether the organizational culture is supporting or inhibiting the eventual success of the well-being improvement program. Without a true well-being culture, organizations may never see the types of measurable results they’re expecting for their investment. On the other hand, organizations that purposefully set out to create, implement and sustain a culture of well-being have a much better chance of realizing outcomes such as reduced healthcare costs, improved on-the-job productivity and lower rates of absenteeism.

Over the last several years, Healthways has focused on creating an environment that recognizes and fosters well-being for its colleagues. We’ve done this in conjunction with a well-rounded well-being improvement effort, which includes programs and policies designed to address all elements of well-being — purpose, social, financial, community and physical. As a result, our colleagues enjoy what they do, are motivated to achieve their goals, and cultivate the supportive relationships and good health they need for optimal performance.

With this twin focus on culture and programs, we’ve achieved some remarkable success — for example, we improved overall well-being among our colleagues by 16.3 percent in five years — and we’re looking forward to sharing many of these outcomes with you in the near future. But one exciting result of our efforts is the external recognition and acclaim we received in 2014 alone.

For example, Healthways received the 2014 Gallup Great Workplace Award, which is given to organizations that understand that employee engagement drives real business outcomes. Award recipients have mastered how to engage their workforces and have demonstrated a quantifiable impact as a result of having a more engaged workforce. In fact, Healthways is currently trumping the U.S. average of less than two engaged workers for every actively disengaged worker, with ten engaged associates for every actively disengaged associate.

Here’s a sampling of some other recognition Healthways received last year:

  • 2014 National Business Group on Health (NBGH) Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles Awards. NBGH recognizes the best workplace well-being programs for employees and their families in the United States and globally. This is the sixth consecutive year that we’ve been recognized by NBGH for our employee well-being improvement initiatives.
  • Healthiest Employers’ 2014 Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America. Honorees “have moved beyond healthy living sound bites to the development of a practical, effective and continuously improving framework for creating a sustainably healthy workplace.”
  • American Heart Association’s Fit-Friendly Worksite Gold Achievement. Criteria include offering employees physical activity support, increasing healthy dietary options and generally promoting a wellness culture, with at least one documented behavior change, cost savings outcome or positive return on investment.
  • Nashville Business Journal Best Places to Work 2014. This recognition measures key engagement categories including team effectiveness, trust in senior leaders, and managerial effectiveness.
  • 2014 Boston Globe Top Places to Work. More than 73,000 Boston-area employees completed surveys rating their employers according to factors including direction of the company, employee engagement, execution of ideas, management support, and pay and benefits. Healthways’ MeYou Health, a wholly owned subsidiary of the company, ranked number one in the top small employer category for 2014.
  • 2014 Coolest Nashville Companies to Work For. Healthways was selected by HR consulting company O.C. Tanner as one of the ten coolest companies to work for in Nashville for its culture that inspires colleagues to live their best lives every day.
  • Nashville Mayor Karl Dean’s 2014 Healthy Workplace Challenge. The Healthy Workplace Challenge encourages organizations to foster an environment that promotes a more active and healthy workplace while also encouraging local workplaces to strive to make Nashville a healthier city. Healthways received Platinum-level recognition for promoting physical activity; offering healthy foods and beverages; encouraging active transportation; providing lactation support; and leading a tobacco-free workplace.
  • Tennessee Governor’s Volunteer Star’s Middle Tennessee Business Honoree. This award identifies outstanding volunteers from each of Tennessee’s 95 counties, reflecting our commitment to engage and improve the communities in which our colleagues are based.

If you’re interested in creating a culture of well-being within your own organization and maximizing your potential for external recognition, we’ve put together some questions you can use to help establish how mature your well-being culture currently is. These questions also provide some guidance to help you develop an action plan for taking it to where you want it to be.