The Well-Being Journal

New Study Reveals a Better, More Comprehensive Way to Measure Well-Being

Madison Agee

Improving well-being can create a vast range of positive outcomes, such as better quality of life, increased longevity, greater on-the-job productivity and lower healthcare costs. Research has shown that overall well-being is a stronger predictor of health and performance outcomes over time than factors such as people’s demographic characteristics, the amount of healthcare they’ve used, and their behavioral and physical health risks alone.* According to Jim Clifton, Gallup chairman and chief executive officer, “The most important dial on any leader’s dashboard for the next 20 years will be well-being”.

If your organization understands that well-being is an important aspect of its success, step one in putting this knowledge to work, then, is to establish a baseline measure of well-being. This will enable you to determine the effectiveness of any programs you put in place to improve well-being. Sounds easy, right?

It’s actually a highly complex endeavor. Health risk assessments abound in the market, but well-being is much more than physical health. Therefore, measurement tools need to capture information about all five of the interrelated elements of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

A recent study published by Population Health Management details the development and ultimate success of such a tool, known as the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being 5. The study, co-authored by researchers at the Healthways Center for Health Research, Gallup and Pro-Change Behavior Systems, shows that the Well-Being 5 comprehensively measures, reports and tracks well-being at individual, local, national and global levels.

The Well-Being 5 is based on decades of scientific research by Gallup and Healthways. Experts evaluated hundreds of well-being questions and millions of responses to determine specific question and response wording and question order. The final set of questions in the Well-Being 5 was chosen based on its power to identify risk, comprehensively capture well-being, and predict outcomes with optimal validity, accuracy and precision. The survey experience is designed to maximize both engagement and action, applying principles that include:

  • Making the best choice the easy choice
  • Suggesting direct action
  • Moving the individual through the experience in increments that allow for learning
  • Providing feedback on what is most valuable to that individual

The new study concludes that the Well-Being 5 “comprehensively captures the known constructs within well-being, is reliable and valid, significantly relates to health and performance outcomes, can be diagnostic and informative for intervention, and can be used to track and compare well-being over time and across groups. Using the Well-Being 5 instrument, well-being issues within a population can be effectively identified, prioritized and addressed, yielding substantial improvements to the health status, performance, functioning, and quality of life for individuals.”

As more organizations look to well-being improvement to help them reduce healthcare costs and improve performance, a reliable and validated tool such as the Well-Being 5 can help. Learn more about the Well-Being 5.

* This sentence was edited on August 28, 2014 to include the word "alone."

Topics: Well-Being In the News Science and Research

Which Has a Greater Impact on Employee Productivity: Well-Being or Chronic Disease?

Madison Agee

Having a chronic condition no doubt has an impact on your productivity at work. Employers are well aware of this fact, and typically structure their wellness programs to focus on improving their employees’ physical health to prevent productivity loss. This approach is understandable, given that the existing body of scientific literature supports the idea that physical health (such as the presence or absence of chronic illnesses) is the primary contributor to worker productivity.

However, findings from a new study recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has called this commonly held belief into question. The study showed that employees’ well-being is actually a more important contributor to on-the-job productivity than their chronic disease status. The study, “Comparing the Contributions of Well-Being and Disease Status to Employee Productivity,” is the first to challenge the common belief that physical health is the primary contributor to employee productivity levels. It’s also the first study to specifically show that well-being improvement can increase productivity in both healthy populations and those with disease.

Well-being is a more complex and holistic measure. Well-being considers not only the important role of physical health but also a person’s sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security and community attachment.

“As individuals, we intuitively know that we are not at our best when we are stressed about anything that is important to our well-being,” said James E. Pope M.D., chief science officer at Healthways and coauthor of the article. “What this research has shown is how these elements of well-being interact to drive decreased productivity. Equally exciting is the discovery that programs designed to help improve the overall well-being can improve the productivity of both healthy and chronically ill individuals alike.

“Measuring employee well-being and understanding the unique aspects of their populations will help employers achieve more successful outcomes with their programs. Higher well-being manifests in greater degrees of creativity, innovation and employee engagement, all of which can improve value for employers by shifting the focus from productivity loss to productivity gain.”

The two-year survey tracked the well-being of more than 2,600 employees at three different companies. Researchers divided the employees into two groups: those that had no chronic conditions and those with diabetes (these individuals may have had other health conditions). Diabetes was selected as the focus chronic condition due to its prevalence and demonstrated impact on productivity.

The study showed that employees with higher well-being demonstrated greater workplace productivity, regardless of whether they suffered from chronic conditions. In addition, well-being was more important than chronic disease or demographic factors in defining how productive a person would be in any given year. Over time, changes in well-being contributed significantly to shifts in productivity beyond what could be explained by any individual characteristic, such as disease status, age, gender or socioeconomic status.

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 In the News Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Competitive Advantage Productivity Health Conditions Science and Research Health Status

Arianna Huffington: Changing the Definition of Success

Madison Agee

Arianna Huffington has a mission: She wants to evolve our society’s thinking on how we define success. Traditionally, we’ve seen it as twofold: money and power. Huffington believes that this is far too limiting, not to mention borderline dangerous. In putting too much importance on accumulating more power and more money, we’re putting ourselves at risk of burnout and exhaustion, poor physical health, unhappiness, and low well-being. We’re also negatively affecting connections with our family, friends and community.

Especially concerning for Huffington is that our modern culture fetishizes this. Being overworked, exhausted and burned out is a badge of honor. We constantly talk about how many hours we’ve logged at the office, how few hours of sleep we got last night, how many emails we sent, how many projects we’ve completed.

In Huffington’s case, she was a model of traditional success – lots of money and power – but it led her to have a serious wake-up call. She passed out in her office, sending her to the hospital with a fractured cheekbone, a gash above her eye, and the start of a medical journey looking for answers to why she passed out. With few definitive reasons for her accident other than “exhaustion,” Huffington realized that she needed to change her thinking around success.

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Huffington shared her story at Healthways’ 2014 Well-Being Summit and in her latest book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. Each one of us needs to start thinking of success as having three metrics instead of two – the third necessary to truly thrive. This “third metric” has four pillars:

  1. Well-being. Huffington remarked that we take care of our smartphones better than we do ourselves, and this needs to change. Because 75 percent of our modern healthcare costs go to treating preventable, stress-related chronic illnesses, taking time for our better well-being can make an enormous impact.
  2. Wisdom. We need to take time to just think, engage in intellectual activity, and connect to ourselves and the people and the world around us. This requires that we disconnect from our electronic devices and pay attention to things we wouldn’t otherwise see.
  3. Wonder. This entails bringing back to the joy in everyday life – taking note of the usual “occurrences and small miracles that fill our lives” and reveling in them.
  4. Willingness to give. Huffington suggests that we, as human beings, are wired for giving. Our empathy for other people encourages us to complete selfless acts, which in turn creates good feelings within ourselves. This is a “virtuous cycle” that contributes to our better well-being.

Huffington also discussed how this third metric is playing itself out in workplaces, hers included. At the Huffington Post, there are nap rooms and meditation spaces, and employees and journalists are not expected to check email during non-working hours. She also drew attention to a Volkswagen policy of disabling its employees’ phones after hours.

Huffington believes that by pursuing this third metric of success, we can lead more fulfilling lives with deeper connections to the things that really matter.

Topics: Well-Being Well-Being Summit Thrive Arianna Huffington

The 3 Leadership Tenets Behind a Strong Well-Being Culture

Madison Agee

 

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Are your leaders actively -- and visibly -- improving their own well-being?

If your organizational culture and your stated commitment to well-being improvement aren’t in close alignment with one another, you could be unconsciously undermining the potential of your wellness programs. In other words, culture counts – a lot. It doesn’t matter how excellent your benefits package and well-being improvement offerings are if they’re at a constant disconnect with your overall culture. For example, what’s the point of having a generous paid time off (PTO) policy if employees are never actually taking vacation days?

An essential step in determining the state of your well-being culture is to turn a critical eye on your organization and ask some important questions. Once you’ve completed this self-evaluation, you can focus your attention on those areas that you’ve identified for further development. For many organizations, the commitment and behavior of their leaders is a crucial area for improvement.

In a popular webinar from June, experts from Gallup and Healthways provided a great deal of insight into the important role leadership plays in creating, cultivating and sustaining a culture of well-being. According to Ross Scott, Chief Human Resources Officer at Healthways, there are three key leadership tenets behind a strong culture of well-being:

  1. Leaders should be grounded in the value proposition of and fully understand the business case for well-being. Do your leaders truly believe in the value of well-being – that healthier people cost less and perform better? If they do, then they’re much more likely to participate in and encourage their teams’ participation in well-being programs. But if there’s any lingering doubt in a leader’s mind, that could inhibit the success of your well-being improvement program.
  2. Leaders’ own well-being impacts their ability to show up and lead effectively every day. Employees, of course, will model the tone and behaviors set by your leaders, so leaders can’t just expect that employees will embrace and embody better well-being without them. Demonstrating their individual dedication to well-being improvement can make leaders healthier, happier and better in their roles. At the same time, doing so shores up the strength of your well-being programs by not only making it okay, but actively encouraged for employees to engage in well-being improvement activities.
  3. Leaders have the opportunity to influence the well-being of others with every interaction. As described by Gallup, there are “20,000 moments in a day” during which organizations can positively impact their cultures of well-being and help their employees on their own individual journeys. Leaders who remember this and continuously take advantage of the multiple touchpoints and opportunities they have with their employees can make a tremendous positive impact. Relatively simple actions – smiling, taking a moment to listen to an employee, starting a meeting with a question about well-being – can be incredibly powerful actions.

So, how well are your leaders doing in terms of supporting your culture of well-being? Are they exhibiting these three key tenets on a regular basis? Simply educating them on these three principles could help you cultivate your well-being culture – perhaps your leaders aren’t totally aware of the enormous impact they have.

As you’re building your well-being culture, you may want to consider a few thought-provoking ideas that can continue to guide your organization. Luckily, we’ve collected nine of the top ways organizations can create and grow their well-being cultures – complete with easy tips for getting started today with little to no major investment of resources or budget.

Topics: Well-Being Workplace Well-Being Engagement Business Performance Productivity