The Well-Being Journal

National Employee Wellness Month

Jennifer Rudloff

The third annual National Employee Wellness Month (NEWM) kicked off on June 1st nationwide in an effort to promote existing healthy living programs and share successful strategies for corporate health initiatives. NEWM gives employers a great opportunity to jumpstart or enhance your company’s well-being programs and maybe even try out some new initiatives. If properly administered, these programs will not only have the potential to lower healthcare costs, but they will also ultimately create happier, healthier and better performing employees.

As a proud sponsor of NEWM, Healthways is implementing our own initiatives to improve our employees’ well-being on a number of levels, and encourage everyone to be healthy and social. Here are a few of the things we’ve put in place.

  • Fitness classes: We are offering our colleagues a variety of fitness classes on site to fit their schedules. They can choose to exercise before work, at lunch, or at the end of the workday.
  • ‘Workout Wednesdays,’ allow and encourage employees to wear workout gear to the office to help remove some of the barriers to exercise. We also offer additional fitness classes on these days and encourage group walks.
  • Walking workstations: our employees can get away from their desks and get moving by working from one of our walking work station treadmills.
  • Healthier and Fresher Food: In addition to providing healthy options in our Café, we’ve also startedan herb garden on site which our chef can pull from, and we offer a weekly farmers market for employees to get fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • We offer Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes to employees to help them better manage their stress.
  • All of our many web-based, telephonic coaching, and disease management programs are available to our colleagues, just going to show it is so good we eat our own cooking
  • Company sports leagues: We help employees form teams for local sports leagues. Employees often gather together at lunch to practice in the courtyard.

In addition to our own workplace initiatives, we have launched Healthways|Blue Zones Vitality Cities, a community-wide well-being improvement initiative in the Southern California’s Beach City Health District. Read more about what we’re doing to help communities.

When talking about workplace well-being initiatives, it’s important to note that success often requires a cultural shift that starts with leadership but is accepted at all levels of the organization. As discussed in a previous post, “wellbeing is highly valued by employees and a key driver in their level of job satisfaction, loyalty and motivation.” A new study finds a disconnect between employers and employees regarding wellness initiatives. The report found that 42 percent of employees say that their bosses do not look out for their physical health enough, while only 14 percent of management thinks the same. National Employee Wellness Month provides a wonderful opportunity for employers to open up a dialogue about well-being with their employees and renew their commitment to wellness in the eyes of their people.

**NOTE: Healthways was recently chosen to be one of Baltimore’s Healthiest Employers by the Baltimore Business Journal. To read about some of the initiatives that helped land us on this list, click here >>

What are some well-being initiatives you are thinking of or already have in place? What kind of wellness initiatives would you like to see implemented within your organization?

Topics: Well-Being Company Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Business Performance Health Competitive Advantage Prevention wellbeing and health How to Improve Employee Performance Health in the Workplace National Employee Wellness Month Wellness Healthways Employee Performance Improvement

How to Live Happier and Healthier Longer

Jennifer Rudloff

We launched Healthways|BlueZones Vitality Cities as a community-wide well-being improvement initiative in Southern California’s Beach Cities to help people live longer, better. Here are some facts that inspired this project and drove a community to take action:

  • Discover your Purpose: People who know why they wake up in the morning live seven years longer than those who don’t.
  • Discover and share your values: People who discover and embrace their values, passions, and talents (and share them regularly) live up to 4 years longer.
  • De-stress: Turn stress-shedding strategies into daily routines. This will help you avoid major age related diseases.
  • Eat Wisely: Those who adopt concrete health habits about their food intake live up to 8 years longer than those who don't.
  • Don’t skip your Vegetables: The healthiest cultures on earth eat a few more plants and a little less food.
  • Snack on nuts: Eating about a handful of nuts a day could add 2-3 years to your life.
  • Enjoy wine daily: Individuals who drink 1-2 glasses of wine a day outlive those who don’t.
  • Move Naturally: Find ways to make yourself walk more! Park further away, walk your dog, do your yard and house work. This can help you gain up to 4 years of life expectancy.
  • Discover a sense of belonging: Those invested in a positive, committed relationship can add up to 3 years of life expectancy.

As part of the Vitality Cities initiative, we’re helping residents of the beach cities community achieve these goals. Some of the programs we have in place include:

  • Vitality City Purpose workshops: These workshops are designed to help people understand their strengths and articulate their purpose. They help people discover new energy for life and connect individuals to volunteer opportunities where community members can apply their strengths to helping others.
  • Walking Moais: Moai comes from Okinawa, Japan and it means “meeting for a common purpose”. It originated as a way for villages to support each other in times of need. Vitality city Moai walking Teams encourage that same social support while adding the physical benefits of walking.

This initiative is just beginning and there are many more programs to come. There’s been a tremendous response from the community and local employers. The first walking Moai program has been a hit; In April more than 1000 beach cities residents formed walking teams and have been walking weekly with friends (new and old) ever since. In addition, some local employers were inspired and have launched walking moais at work. More than 200 workplace walkers at companies like AAMCO, Aerospace, Body Glove Crowne Plaza, and Redondo Beach Unified School District are participating in this program. These employers are seeing some positive cultural shifts with more enthusiastic employees at work, a greater sense of camaraderie between employees, and a greater sense of engagement in healthy choices.

Since April 1, 2011 we’ve had 32 employers who together employee 17,413 people sign on to become vitality employers with more interest every day. Since June is National Employee Wellness Month, we’d like to applaud these employers for taking this important first step to make a difference in the lives of their employers and throughout their communities.

To learn more about Vitality Cities, check out this video:

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHKWMG6FDZE']

Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being Healthcare Health Community Demand Vitality Prevention Beach Cities Healthways|BlueZones Vitality City Wellness Healthways vitality cities How to Live Longer Finding Happiness Blue Zones Project

Behavioral Change: The Science Behind MeYou Health

Jennifer Rudloff

Reposted from the Well-being Wire by MeYou Health

It would be nice if we could all just wake up one morning and say to ourselves, “Today I’m going to start eating healthier foods,” or, “I’m going to start working out today.” Well, actually, it is easy to say it, and sometimes we even stick with our vows to change. All too often, however, our will fails to attain what ourwords promise.

The truth is that change is a process, not a one-shot deal. That’s why all of our products at MeYou Health encourage taking small, achievable steps toward better well-being, not shooting for the moon and running the risk of seeing your lofty goals plummet to earth. Our products also include a huge social component, so that you’ll never have to walk alone on your journey of small steps towards positive change.

Cutting-edge behavioral-change research helps inform the design of products like Daily Challenge, the Path to Well-Being, Munch 5-a-Day, and Monumental. Even the lighthearted adventures of MeYou Health’s Small Action Man, are based on serious science.

Psychologists James O. Prochaska, Ph.D., John Norcross, Ph.D., and Carlo DiClemente, Ph.D., developed one of the seminal theories of behavior change in the 1970s and 1980s, when they wrote that change is not an event but rather a process that occurs in five stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. MeYou Health’s Daily Challenges, for example, raise awareness of problem behaviors, get you to weigh the benefits of change, and encourage you to take small actions toward lasting change — the “action” stage where people “have made specific overt modifications in their lifestyle, and positive change has occurred,” according to Prochaska.

Of course, how ready we are to change varies widely from person to person. “What is unique about Daily Challenge is that the challenges we offer up on a daily basis may touch on a new or an existing behavior, depending on the user, but it helps to move all users to make positive impacts on their well-being — whether they’re doing the action for the first time or repeating and reinforcing a behavior they’ve attempted before,” says Josée Poirier, Ph.D., director of program design and research at MeYou Health. “In either case, the completed challenge influences the user, regardless of what stage he or she is in.”

Just as there are many paths to enlightenment, there are many pathways to change, as well. Researcher B.J. Fogg, Ph.D., of Stanford University describes behavioral change in terms of “dots,” “spans,” and “paths”: dot behaviors are those that take place one time, span behaviors take place over a duration of time (a month, for example), while paths are lasting changes.

“Our Daily Challenges are all ‘dot’ behaviors” points out Poirier. “We believe in focusing on the present: what can you do today to improve your well-being? We’ve all made long-term commitments in the past and see them fail. What we aim to do with Daily Challenge is keep our members away from the all-or-nothing mentality: go to the gym 6 days a week or don’t work out at all. We want to empower our members by making them realize that it’s okay not to become an athlete or a gym addict; what matters is to take one step toward a more active lifestyle today.”

To connect these dots, so to speak, MeYou Health draws on the pioneering research of Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, who found that behaviors — good ones like quitting smoking, or bad ones like obesity — can be spread, virus-like, through our social networks. The “contagion” of positive behavioral changes is at the core of MeYou Health products like Daily Challenge, Community Clash, and Change Reaction, where your social networks are engaged to support your efforts, while at the same time you can encourage your friends and family to join and improve their own well-being.

“Feedback and member posts have demonstrated again and again how helpful these social interactions are to our members,” says Poirier. “We also see that members who have a close circle of connections within Daily Challenge — friends and family — tend to complete more challenges than those who do not.”

“If we affect our friends, and they affect their friends, then our actions can potentially affect people we have never met,” write Christakis and Fowler in their book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. “We discovered that if your friend’s friend’s friend gained weight, you gained weight. We discovered that if your friend’s friend’s friend stopped smoking, you stopped smoking.

And we discovered that if your friend’s friend’s friend became happy, you became happy.” So, by completing your Daily Challenges, “climbing” Mt. Everest with Monumental, or eating your daily recommended intake of fruits and veggies with Munch-5-a-Day, you’re not only changing your life for the better but possibly your friends’, too — heck, maybe even your roommate’s brother’s cousin in Cleveland!

Topics: Healthy Living Change Reaction Well-Being Community Clash Small Steps Health Prevention Stages of Change MeYou Health Path to Well-Being Munch 5-a-Day Wellness Monumental Daily Challenge Paths to Behavior Changes Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks well-being wire BJ Fogg Social Well-Being James Prochaska wellbeing wire Nicholas Christakis James Fowler Small Action Man

Does your company have a Chief Well-Being Officer?

Jennifer Rudloff

When people ask me about my job, the description is often met with surprise. Chief Well-Being Officer is not a common position in today’s C-Suite – and I think that’s a mistake. I can think back to a time not that long ago when the concept of a Chief Technology Officer was foreign; thought to be a “creative” title commissioned only by the Googles and Sun Microsystems of the world. Yet today, the absence of a CTO is almost unthinkable.

I challenge companies to think differently about the health of their employees, their most valuable asset. Research shows that employee well-being can play a key role in establishing a competitive business advantage. For instance, while 30 percent of a company’s healthcare spend is linked to medical care and pharmaceutical costs, the remaining 70 percent is spent on health-related costs associated with worker productivity (Spector, Bruce. The Cost of Absenteeism in the Workplace. Nov. 1, 2010. www.employersweb.com.). The research also demonstrates that companies with effective health and productivity programs generate more revenue per employee, attain a higher market value and generate higher shareholder returns.

The impact doesn’t just positively hit a company’s bottom line ... you must take into consideration the top-line benefits that coincide with a focus on well-being. Employers that focus on prevention, provide value-added benefits and demonstrate that they care about their employees’ physical and emotional needs are more likely to attract and retain top talent. They are also more likely to earn and maintain employee trust and foster a productive environment through a high performing, engaged workforce. Bottom line: these companies are more likely to succeed.

The job of a Chief Well-Being Officer is to focus on how employees can be impacted at work, at home and in the community and how this impact can improve the overall business performance.

At Healthways, we understand the importance and value of maintaining happy and healthy employees.

Yes, happy employees are good for business ... just ask the Chief Well-Being Officer.

Topics: Strategies and Comparative Advantage Business Performance Competitive Advantage Prevention Motivation How to Improve Employee Performance Employee Performance Improvement