The Well-Being Journal

Well-Being at Work, Healthways Style

Jennifer Rudloff

What would you think if you saw a co-worker walking to the printer sporting workout attire and wearing a camelback? At Healthways, it happens weekly. We encourage our colleagues to spend time during the day doing something to improve their well-being. In this video one of our colleagues talks about the culture at Healthways and how he gets involved.

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To learn more about some of the health and well-being initiatives we offer our colleagues, click here.

Topics: Healthy Living work Work Environment Workplace Well-Being Engagement Health Health in the Workplace Wellness Culture Wellness Program

Well-Being: How You Doing?

Jennifer Rudloff

You probably hear it almost every day, and for folks that are pretty social, maybe many times during the day…

”How you doing?”

Most often, a “fine” or “great” satisfies, and the conversation moves on. Sometimes we might give a little more detail about some aches or a personal situation, but those are rare and usually superficial.

So how are we really doing? The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index can give us a snapshot or a trend line of the pulse of the nation or a subset, but how about on an individual basis? How often do we take the time to truly take stock of our own well-being?

While we generally have a good sense of our physical health, at least when symptoms are present, how conscious are we of our emotional and social health, areas that are core to our well-being?

Emotional health touches on areas most of us don’t often or ever consider: our self-awareness, taking time to be more mindful, being in touch with our feelings and sensing how they can guide or impact our behaviors. With our daily lives moving at a pace where it’s hard to keep up, it takes some effort to really pay attention and listen to the “beneath the surface” components that can be suppressed by our transactional days.

And in our interactions with others, whether colleagues, friends or family, the dimension of social health comes into play in how we choose to interface on an individual or group basis. What do you bring into each of these relationships, in those moments of interaction you share? How we initiate, communicate, respond and choose to agree and support or disagree and oppose help make up our social health. With whom we opt to invest our time and energy in relationships helps guide our well-being in positive or negative ways.

As a leader in well-being, we need to do more to promote our insights and ideas around social and emotional health, to provide deeper and more meaningful context about these elements of well-being so there can be greater understanding and appreciation of these areas.

As individuals, we can give ourselves a gift by making efforts to better know our own well-being, to make time to build better self-awareness, both for our own reflection and in interrelating with others.

So think about this, the next time someone says to you, “How you doing?”

Topics: Healthy Living Relationships Well-Being Workplace Well-Being Health Emotional Health Wellness Social Well-Being

Hidden Factors Influencing Well-Being in the Workplace

Jennifer Rudloff

While everyone agrees a sick work environment is detrimental to your well-being, most people would have trouble articulating how, and how much. Interestingly, findings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® (WBI) and the Healthways Well-Being Assessment™ (WBA) are starting to bring more clarity about the work environment a person is experiencing. When we compare individual’s answers against their responses to other questions, we’re able to recognize the overall impact on well-being. Some of the factors are obvious, while others are subtler, or even hidden.

Let’s start with the more obvious. In more restrictive work environments workers are less likely to exercise and eat right. This is because leadership is less likely to establish a culture that is supportive of well-being. In this environment the building is less likely to be mindfully engineered to make the healthy choice the easy choice, and policies aren’t likely established to allow flexible time for exercise. As the result, employees will feel less support for work/life balance.

Unfortunately, much of the negative impact of the work environment on well-being is less obvious. Take Life Evaluation for example. We ask people to rate their current lives and how they think their lives will be in five years on a scale of one to ten. This allows us to gauge their level of optimism and hope. The group that scores the best, we call them “thrivers,” are generally more skewed toward lower risk, and have less chronic illness. We believe this is because they have their emotional and social houses in order, and thereby have more time, energy, and propensity to take good care of themselves.

Our data shows that the thrivers do better on 16 different social and emotional variables, or perhaps said in reverse, doing well on these variables is what allows them to “thrive.” Of the 16 variables, 7 are impacted by a person’s experience in the work setting. These include: job satisfaction, job overload, co-worker issues, technology, supervisor issues, training, and resources. If the work culture does not support workers in these areas there will be a social and emotional impact that reduces the chances they will take care of themselves. This results in more risk factors and higher disease prevalence, which adds to health-related costs and leads to deterioration in their work performance. Thrivers have less activity impairment, less productivity loss, and higher presenteeism than their workforce peers.

We have information on many other factors too. Here are a few highlights:

  • People who report poor work environments are more likely to have a high BMI. In fact, poor work environment has almost as high a correlation to BMI as does low physical activity and poor eating habits. In this sense, an aggravating boss can make you fat, because it causes stress, which can distract you from taking action on a healthy lifestyle.
  • 31 percent of people who report being in a poor work environment also report being angry “a majority of yesterday.” To put this in perspective, that level of anger is on par with the poorest 100 hundred counties in the US, as well as the troubled countries of Sierra Leone and Haiti. Anger is one of those emotional factors that keep people from living a healthy lifestyle. Can you imagine trying to establish an effective worksite health management program in an environment where over 30 percent of the people are angry on any given day?
  • There is a negatively compounding link between poor work environment and chronic illness. People with one to three chronic illnesses who report a poor work environment, also report having 6.6 more days a year of activity impairment than their counterparts in a positive work environment. That number increases to 16.2 days for those with four or more chronic illnesses. (Note: About 54 percent of the workforce has at least one chronic illness.)
  • Even commuting to work has risk! Statistics show that for every 15 minutes more people commute their anger and stress goes up, their rest and exercise goes down, their eating behaviors worsen, and they become more over-weight.

There are many interesting findings on how work environment affects well-being, these are only a few. Is there anything you can add, even if it is just observational? What would you do about it at your worksite? I look forward to you responses.

Topics: Healthy Living work Work Environment Workplace Well-Being Health Well-Being Index Health in the Workplace Wellness Culture Wellness Program Leadership Occupational Health

Brazil's Opportunity for Action

Jennifer Rudloff

A couple of weeks ago I jumped on a plane and woke up in a different hemisphere – to be more precise, Sao Paulo, Brazil. This was my second visit, and I’m already looking forward to returning again in October. I love the people, the culture, the sense of purpose, and the food (it’s ohh so delicious).

While in Brazil, I made my rounds to several companies including a client, and a government supported organization. My week culminated with a speaking engagement at Congresso Abramge, the Brazilian equivalent of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). While touring and talking with people I began to draw comparisons between Brazil and the US. When comparing the well-being needs of Brazilian people, businesses, and private health plans the one thing that really stood out to me was that their well-being needs are very similar to ours in the US.

Given that the health/wellness status of the Brazilian population is not yet as dire as ours in the U.S., Brazil is behind us in creating solutions. It is often difficult to recognize a need in its early stages. But Brazilian leaders are showing signs that they recognize the need and are searching for the same proof of concept for well-being solutions that we were in the U.S. a few years back. And they’re just in time. While Brazil trails the U.S. in obesity and other lifestyle risks, obesity is on the rise and lifestyle behaviors are getting worse. As a result of this, healthcare costs are rising (regardless of who the payer is). But we know that healthcare isn’t the only area where costs will rise. Research shows that poor health and well-being costs companies more than just healthcare spend; it impacts presenteeism and productivity, and may be robbing Brazilian businesses of vital performance even now.

The Brazilians are smart, strategic, and business savvy people and I expect they’ll take aggressive action when the time comes. I would encourage them not to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. and wait until they have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel before acting.

So if there is a key takeaway from my trip it’s that Brazil has the opportunity to do what the U.S. failed to do 25 years ago, that is, act before the problem becomes so large it is hard to tackle. As I made my rounds to various organizations in Brazil, I repeatedly heard the sentiment that they were ready for the challenge, but it will take will, fortitude, and resolve. Fortunately, they don’t have to find their path blindly. Since the U.S. has gone before Brazil, we can offer encouragement, insights and wisdom.

In October, I am going back to Brazil to speak at the Encontros en Suade Corporativa, a series of conferences that address various areas of well-being. The significant number of conferences in Brazil indicate a hunger for learning more about well-being, applying it in business settings, and reaping the benefits of healthier people, lower costs, and better business performance. This gives me hope that Brazilian companies will come in ahead of the curve and might get a handle on this much earlier in the game than we did in the U.S.

I wish the Brazilians much success, and hope to be part of their mission and achievement. I think their opportunity is there for the taking.

Topics: Well-Being John Harris Workplace Well-Being Health Prevention Wellness Brazil Healthways