The Well-Being Journal

Nov. 15: Are you taking the day off? It’s the Great American Smokeout.

Jennifer Rudloff

On November 15, 2012, people across the nation will be taking the day off from smoking and other tobacco products by participating in the American Cancer Society’s 37th Annual Great American Smokeout. Healthways is here to help.

We’re here to educate and supply people with resources and support to quit successfully. Through our QuitNet® program, more than 1.4 million members worldwide have saved almost $5 billion by kicking the tobacco habit for good. And when people become healthier by quitting, they also become happier and more productive, which benefits not just the individual, but families, friends and employers, too.

Learn more amazing facts about the impact of tobacco use, and some of the resources we offer for quitting in the Healthways infographic below. And if you’re a tobacco user, remember to mark your calendar for Nov. 15—take the day off and then quit for good.

Topics: Healthy Living Financial Well-Being Well-Being Workplace Well-Being Engagement Physical Health Business Performance Health Competitive Advantage Productivity Social Well-Being Success Stories Smoking

A resolution checkup and a trend to break for a healthier second half of 2012

Jennifer Rudloff

healthy choicesWe often look at the beginning of the year as a starting point for new well-being goals. Maybe you were one of many who made such a resolution, or maybe not. Either way, this might be a great point to stop and think about it as we continue in the second half of 2012. Read on to learn why.

 

Where are you?

Maybe you are going strong in your resolution, never had interest in setting one, or are somewhere in between and need a boost of motivation. Wherever you are, you might be interested to know that research presents us with a great wellness opportunity for the second half of the year.

What the trends show

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index,® Americans on average experience a decline in healthy behaviors and physical health in the second half of the year. We can all probably name factors that influence the lack of steadiness. The well-known truth is that resolutions aren’t always easy to keep all on our own and momentum can easily fade.

What we can do about it

Well, knowledge is power. So now that we’re aware that the U.S. as a whole could be near a high point for the year in healthy behaviors and physical wellness, we can look at this as an opportunity to do something to prevent a decline. If we all make simple, positive changes, perhaps we can even reach new highs in our individual well-being all throughout the year. Think about how it would feel for you personally and what it would mean for your organization as a whole. Below are a couple ideas that could help.

  1. A simple way to get started could be making one tangible well-being improvement goal for the next 30 days, and listing some related action steps. You can do anything for 30 days, right? At the end of 30 days, evaluate your progress, and then decide if you want to continue with that goal or switch to a new one. Make sure to write down your goal, find some resources to support it, track your progress, and for best results, enlist an accountability partner (or your whole organization). By continually introducing new ideas and evaluating your progress, healthy behaviors can become habit, and therefore more of a lifestyle.
  2. Take it a step further and use Healthways as your source for scientific research and proven programs filled with a breadth of resources, tools and support. We can help identifying the unique needs of your organization, create and sustain effective engagement with individual members, and drive positive behavior change that delivers measurable outcomes for the long term. Read about our approach and our solution to learn more, or contact us.

Just a few of the programs that make up our configurable Well-Being Improvement Solution include:

  • The Healthways Well-Being Assessment™, personal Well-Being Plans online and Health Coaching over the phone
  • Prime® Fitness for access to more than 9,000 fitness centers
  • Innergy™ for sustainable weight management
  • QuitNet® for quitting tobacco
  • SilverSneakers® to help seniors boost physical and social activity

If you’re currently a member of a Healthways Well-Being Improvement Solution, you and your colleagues may already be enjoying the benefits of improved physical, mental and social well-being, as well as the financial benefits such as lower healthcare costs and fewer sick days. Maybe you want to take your program even further or get your whole community involved in an initiative, like our BlueZones Project™. Talk with your benefits manager or with us here at Healthways for strategic input.

Let’s all partner together for the greatest well-being improvement—for the second half of 2012 and for the long term.

Topics: Healthy Living Weight Loss Workplace Well-Being Engagement Well-Being Index

Work Environment: It's More Than Just the Furniture

Jennifer Rudloff

With the average adult spending more half of their waking hours at work, it stands to reason that a person’s work environment and professional relationships play a key role in determining their overall well-being. What may be a little more fuzzy for some is the impact that that person’s overall well-being has on their organization.

Gallup research shows that American workers are disconnected from their work – they found 71% of people are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” with their work. That’s a big chunk of us. Additionally, the Well-Being Index (WBI) shows that workplace well-being has been on the decline for the last few years. Whether you want to blame it on the economy or some other factor, it’s important to recognize the impact it’s having from your organization.

Findings from the WBI and Well-Being Assessment (WBA) reveal strong correlations between a person’s well-being and their engagement, productivity, performance, and healthcare spend. To put some numbers to it, we know that on average, for every 10 points you can move the needle in an individual’s overall well-being, you’ll realize a healthcare cost savings of $409, an 11% reduction in unscheduled absences, and 3 points higher engagement at work. Not bad, huh?

So how can you improve the engagement, motivation and well-being of your people? In this illustrated video, Daniel Pink talks about how workplace well-being can be improved through several key changes – the single greatest being motivation.

Topics: Well-Being Work Environment Workplace Well-Being Engagement Well-Being Index Motivation Productivity Daniel Pink Well-being Assessment

Do Incentives Really Work?

Jennifer Rudloff

Over the years we’ve learned that there are a number of virtues and pitfalls to using incentives to encourage people to live healthy lifestyles. By definition, an incentive is an extrinsic reward that is provided to a person until such time that the value to the recipient is internalized. When it comes to health, many employers use incentives in the hopes that their employees will internalize the need to be healthy and achieve lasting behavior change, which ultimately creates a healthier, and more productive work force with lower healthcare costs. While our experience tells us that incentives do indeed drive participation in health promotion activities, many organizations are struggling to translate that participation into lasting behavior change – and THAT can get expensive fast.

Take this scenario for example: Let’s say Company X offers an incentive to their people for taking a health risk assessment (HRA), and an additional incentive for those who participate in coaching programs to work on health risks identified through the HRA. Of their 10,000 employees 8,000 participate (up from only 3,000 last year). 7,000 of the 8,0000 HRA takers enroll in coaching, up from 1,000 last year. So far so good…but what if only half of the participants really take advantage of the opportunity and work to change their health behaviors? Company X has then invested in incentives for a lot of people who have no real intention to change their behaviors. In this scenario Company X’s participation could skyrocket but the achievement of outcomes could be totally unproductive, throwing the balance between the cost of incentives and health cost savings out of whack. Bummer. Tricky, huh?

When you step back and look at it, it’s easy to see why incentives have become a source of lively debate amongst wellness professionals. Some professionals believe that the practice of taking healthcare premiums from people who take care of themselves to subsidize those who don’t has gone far enough. They would advocate “stick” type incentives to penalize people who do not take care of themselves to offset this balance. To the other extreme, some professionals believe that laws and regulations should be put in place to ban or restrict the use of incentives all together. Others are not opposed to incentives but are concerned that the wide spread use of them is causing employees to feel a sense of entitlement for doing what is already in their best interest. There is merit in all of these positions, and all of them deserve to be heard. While I doubt the industry needs any additional laws or regulations, I do believe that more education is in order.

Employers need to be more aware of the pro’s and con’s of incentive programs so they can make smart decisions about what will work best for their people and their organization – it’s not a one-size-fit’s-all kind of thing. A consultative partner can help carefully craft an incentive plan to fit the needs of an individual organization. You must take into consideration company culture, needs, stage of well-being program development, the communications strategy, and the style of doing business. For instance, studies have shown that the better the culture and communication effort, the smaller the incentive required to drive participation.

If you want to learn more or join the debate on incentives, the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) has an ad hoc incentives group that has been meeting to explore the best ways to leverage the value of incentives. This group is reaching out across the industry to get opinions from experts nationwide. I expect this group will provide leadership in the industry around incentives, so this might be a great time to join the HERO Think Tank if you have a vested interest in being part of the industry-wide incentive discussion. Please feel free to reach out if you would like more information on this effort, or if you have an opinion and want your voice to be heard.

I could say a lot more about incentives, but for now let’s leave it at that. What do you think about incentives? What incentives have been most successful for your organization? Have you been creative with the incentives you offer? Please share!

Topics: Well-Being HERO Workplace Well-Being Engagement Health Wellness Wellness Program Incentive Programs