The Well-Being Journal

Secrets to Success for Workplace Wellness Programs

Jennifer Rudloff

As companies begin to look for ways to reduce costs and improve the engagement and productivity of their people, many organizations turn to workplace well-being programs for the solution (and for good reason). In this video blog John Harris shares some secrets to success around creating the culture of well-being necessary to create and sustain successful wellness initiatives.

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Topics: Healthy Living work Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Health Competitive Advantage Health in the Workplace Wellness Culture Secret to Success Wellness Program Leadership Occupational Health

Are You Seeing the Big Picture?

Jennifer Rudloff

It’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of your organization to stay in tune with employee needs and challenges, and engagement levels. You can’t move what you can’t measure. This need to measure has led to a seemingly endless stream of surveys. There are health risk assessments, engagement surveys, presenteeism surveys, and the list goes on…Like many other people in the market, we recognized that there had to be a better way.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to look far for the answer. Realizing the power behind our work with Gallup on the Well-Being Index (WBI) Healthways quickly asked how we could apply the science and research behind the WBI to individual employers or health plans. As a result, Healthways went to work building a tool that combined elements of the WBI with those of other common surveys, creating a comprehensive tool to measure the health and well-being of an employer population. This resulted in the birth of the Healthways Well-Being Assessment™ (WBA).

This is not your typical survey. It goes far beyond the standard HRA question set and shifts focus to include the entire individual - and for good reason. Research increasingly reveals vital linkages between healthcare costs, productivity, physical health, emotional health, health behavior, work environment, social support, and basic access to necessary resources. Shifting away from purely physical health, the WBA leverages WBI questions for a baseline comparison against the nation, with an emphasis on employee health, productivity, and the work environment. With an understanding of employee engagement, health, and well-being, organizations can better determine where to focus efforts to influence the greatest performance opportunities, both financial and personal, within their populations. Makes sense, right? Individual and population-level reports generated from the WBA provide an intimate, holistic view of the workplace and actionable information that can help guide decisions on health benefits, work environment, corporate culture and overall business performance.

In more detail the WBA allows organizations to:

  • Gain a comprehensive view of employees’ social, emotional, physical and financial well-being to understand how to target investments that best support those needs.
  • Assess the real quality of the work environment, including its stressors, culture, leadership, wellness and prevention programs, and recruitment and retention strategies to determine exactly where improvements are needed for a more engaged workforce.
  • Benchmark your organization or institution nationally, regionally and locally; or by job, business unit or location. (Who else can provide a real-time benchmark against the nation.)
  • Create customized solutions for your unique workforce to provide a more supportive work environment and earn recognition as an employer of choice.
  • Understand the health conditions the workforce is experiencing and how you can support them for optimal productivity and minimal absenteeism.
  • Learn what the significant contributors are to direct medical costs – whether they are systemic or exist in unique locations within the organization – and apply the findings to design and target ways to better address health cost drivers and reduce healthcare costs.
  • Use the results as a market differentiator to retain and attract customers. (for health plans)
  • Make specific comparisons among subsets of their populations and conduct year-to-year comparisons to gauge progress over time.

Human performance drives business performance in every organization. While many organizations use HRAs to understand and improve workforce health and guide programs to reduce healthcare costs, they’re missing the big picture. There are many factors that influence our well-being and impact performance. The Healthways WBA offers organization-specific insight on these factors. Results magnify opportunities to maximize the outcomes of health and performance program investments, and to measure their impact and effectiveness over time.

Do you believe this broader approach to assessing the well-being of your workforce seems like the right idea? Is learning more about emotional, social, work culture, and the access variables of your organization important to you? Is it time the standard HRA evolves into more? We’d love to get your thoughts.

Topics: Well-Being Benchmark Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Business Performance Innovations in Healthcare Health Well-Being Index Competitive Advantage Prevention HRA How to Improve Employee Performance Health in the Workplace Wellness Healthways Employee Performance Improvement WBA WBI Well-being Assessment

Well-Being and the Workplace: Is Yours Stressing or Supporting Your People?

Jennifer Rudloff

Does employee well-being affect the workplace? Most people intuitively answer yes, and we’re seeing more and more evidence to support this belief through the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index® data and other research. One recent analysis showed that employees with the lowest well-being scores cost businesses about $28,800 per person per year in lost productivity due to sick days, while those with the highest scores cost only $840. But what about examining the relationship from the opposite side? Does the workplace affect well-being? It’s an equally important question, and as it turns out, the answer is also yes—in many ways.

Commuting Stress
Let’s start with getting to and from the workplace. An analysis of WBI data found that the longer the commute, the lower the overall average well-being score. About one in five U.S. workers spend more than 30 minutes getting to work. Those who do are more likely to be obese, have high cholesterol, and experience neck or back pain. When compared to individuals who work 10 minutes or less from home, those with a one-way commute longer than 90 minutes are more than 42% more likely to report feeling worry for much of the previous day. They’re also 9% less likely to report feeling enjoyment, and 14% less likely to report feeling well rested. They also exhibit more anger, experience more stress, and eat more poorly.

Work Stress
Nearly three-quarters of Americans reported work as a significant source of stress in a 2007 report by the American Psychological Association. Another report indicated workplace stress can be linked to heart disease, apart from other health factors such as weight, smoking, or family history. People with higher self-reported levels of stress have measurably higher cortisol levels—a hormone that, if elevated over time, can lead to negative health symptoms and disease. One study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found a 30% difference in rates of heart disease between those with positive perceptions of their work environment and those with unfavorable perceptions. The study measured aspects of the work environment influenced by management, including getting criticism, praise, and information from a boss.

Reducing Stress & Boosting Well-Being
Organizations seeking to reduce workplace stress—and positively impact well-being—might consider:

  • Offering flexibility in work hours or work-at-home options to reduce commuting stress.
  • Providing management development programs that encourage positive on-the-job feedback and strengthen supervisor skills in areas like interpersonal communication

The Healthways Well-Being Assessment™, a comprehensive tool for measuring well-being within organizations, considers other influences on work environment, including:

  • An individual’s level of satisfaction with the work
  • The ability to use professional strengths on the job

Is your organization taking steps to boost well-being through a better work environment? Please share your thoughts and strategies.

Topics: Commute Well-Being Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Well-Being Index Competitive Advantage Stress Stress Management Boost Well-Being work stress

Remember the Being in Well-Being

Jennifer Rudloff

The concept of Well-Being is generally accepted to represent the confluence of physical, social and emotional health, though there is a good array of more extensive definitions.

But if we think of the two words that comprise the term – Well and Being – we might arrive at a different place. It’s easy enough to understand Well, which can be thought of as not sick, or feeling good, or even feeling great or fantastic.

The idea of Being, though, brings on a deeper exploration of meaning, quite literally in fact. Being is well known to advocates of mindfulness who emphasize areas of self-awareness and presence. Through meditation and other means of “paying attention” that focus on the here and now, we can learn to attain a greater sense of Being.

This usually leads to a feeling of inner peace, calm, relaxation – and when done with regularity, it can also have profound positive health impact.

A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed article (A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress) spoke of the clear benefits of transcendental meditation – described as 20-minute meditation twice-daily –and how it has led to some powerful results for veterans with PTSD. One recent study cited a 50% reduction in symptoms after just weeks of TM, and the article noted that there over 340 peer-reviewed papers on the beneficial effects of TM.

Within Healthways, we too, are actively examining the well-being benefits of mindfulness with Elmo Shade’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) course. Over 100 Healthways colleagues have participated in MSBR over the past year both in-person and virtually, and Elmo is currently collecting effectiveness data for future publication. We are also planning to incorporate elements of mindfulness in our Well-Being Solutions roadmap.

Sometimes viewed as a “fringe” practice for “new agers”, mindfulness is moving into the mainstream for many reasons, not the least of which is its value proposition – it doesn’t cost anything to practice it!

On a recent vacation trip to upstate New York, I enjoyed an early morning experience of gazing out at the lake while watching a YouTube clip of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the originator of the mindfulness movement, giving a talk to employees of Google. Take a look, you may find it to be an eye-opening experience…

Expect to hear more about mindfulness in the weeks and months ahead. And the next time you consider the elements of Well-Being, remember it’s not just about Being Well, it’s also about Being.

Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being Jon Kabat-Zinn Business Performance Well-Being Index Mindfulness MBSR well Being Transcendental Meditation