The Well-Being Journal

Don’t Stress – Employee Well-Being Is Simple

Jennifer Rudloff

Whether it stems from work, family or finances, stress is a part of life that’s tough to fully escape. While external pressures will always come and go, there are steps that we can take to help to manage and eliminate stress in our daily lives, and they don’t have to be costly solutions.

There are many ways that employers can help reduce the stress of their employees, we’ve outlined a few stress-reducing ideas that could be executed in almost any workplace. On an organizational level, these activities are very inexpensive, or in many cases, free.

  • Walking during lunch: Even if it’s just for 15 minutes each day, taking a brisk walk around your office can allow employees to clear their heads and return to work feeling refreshed and with more focus. Depending on the climate, organizations might consider creating indoor walking paths around the office or outdoor walking maps of the surrounding areas. To take it one step further, think about organizing walking moais for your colleagues, or consider providing pedometers to make walking a little more fun (they could even download an app like monumental to their phones.) Fun fact: pedometer users walked at least 2,000 more steps each day than nonusers, increasing their physical activity levels by 27%. Regardless of how they choose to move, there are many benefits to moving more at work.
  • Office pot lucks: Whether it’s company wide or with individual teams, organizing office pot luck lunches once a month will allow your employees to connect with each other over a nice meal. These could be themed for each month – but the company should always encourage healthy choices. Having regular “non-work” events like this breaks up the workday and provides an incentive that employees can look forward to, rather than stressing about current tasks at hand. It will also help to build a collaborative environment and provide a sense of belonging, which can help drive engagement.
  • Group athletic activities: Company stress-busting initiatives don’t have to require major financial investments. You can build a culture that supports fitness activities and add a little fun to the workday. It can be as simple as allowing employees flex time so that they can go visit a local yoga studio. Or it could mean encouraging employees to bring in their favorite fitness DVD’s (or providing them a library of choices) and allowing a space to gather together and sweat.
  • Organizing clubs: Clubs are a great way for employees to connect on a social level inside and outside the office. Organizations should communicate to their employees that clubs are welcome, and that these clubs can use the company setting (such as conference rooms) for gatherings or discussions if needed. Whether the group focuses on food, books, tea, or other interests, communicating the acceptance of non-work-related clubs to employees indicates that your organization supports the lifestyles of employees outside of the office. If possible, the company could also donate a few healthy snacks for club meetings.
  • Lunch breaks: This sounds like a no-brainer for stress reduction, but in a time when many companies are doing more with less, many employees have taken to eating lunches at their desks on a regular basis. In fact, some 70% of Americans report to eating at their desks several times a week. Encouraging your employees to take lunch breaks, even short ones, allows them to take the time to actually focus on enjoying their lunches (which can help to prevent mindless overeating), and connect with colleagues. Furthermore, desks dirty – in fact, on average; desks are 400 times dirtier than your toilet.

While some worry about the “loss” of productivity that comes with giving employees time for their own mental and physical health, improving the well-being of employees has actually been proven to increase workplace productivity. Think about it: taking an hour –or even half an hour – each day to clear your head allows you to return to work with a clean mental slate. When we feel fit and focused, we’re better workers.

If you’re looking for a point person to help set some of the above ideas in motion, try your company’s human resources director or manager. We bet they’ll be happy to work with you on investigating ways to improve the well-being of the people at your company, particularly those that can be done with minimal investment. For more ideas on decreasing stress while simultaneously increasing productivity, contact us about our solutions.

How does your company help decrease the stress of its employees?

Topics: Healthy Living Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Stress Social Well-Being Stress Management

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

7 Time Management Tips for the Holidays and Every Day

Jennifer Rudloff

Like it or not, each December things get a little more hectic for many of us, and that’s when it becomes especially important to practice strong time management skills. We culled through some of the best advice from experts on the subject—resources like MindTools, Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur.com, and Lifehacker—and pulled together a list of seven tips to improve time management, just in time for the holidays. Some apply to work, others are ideal for personal life, and all are applicable to that busy window between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It’s not so much about saving a few minutes here and there, but rather getting the most productivity and enjoyment out of the time we do have.

1. Ditch multitasking: Writing for the Harvard Business Review blog, Peter Bregman reports that multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be. It turns out that jumping from task to task can actually waste time, and multitaskers could be lowering their productivity by as much as 40%. Too much multitasking can even ding your IQ and harm your future ability to focus on those big, important tasks. So, for the best approach to managing time, resist the allure to jump around and stick to one thing at a time.

2. Take a single view and prioritize: Whenever possible, look at all standing commitments together with all the new requests on your time. If there’s obviously more than any human being can accomplish in a day, a weekend, a vacation, or the entire holiday season, then something’s got to give. Instead of pondering how to get more items on to the calendar, a better way to manage time may be to start cutting from the bottom and taking things off. We want to do it all, but there are only 24 hours in the day, so if those things lagging at the bottom of the list won’t hurt to miss, it may be time to let them go.

3. Carve out ‘me time’: Whether it’s a well-deserved break from it all, or time on the clock you plan to spend laser-focused on a key project, everybody needs some time to do exactly what they want to. Take it from Entrepreneur.com—once in a while it’s OK to put up the busy sign, re-write an away-message, or put on some headphones to spread the word that now is not the time you want to be disturbed. Temporarily unplugging from social media, IM, phone, and Web may also help get the most out of your time.

4. Prepare for delays and downtime: This is different from multitasking. Who hasn’t been stuck forever in the doctor’s reception area, had a computer freeze up, or been left waiting for the answer to an important question? There will always be times like this, so why not take advantage by preparing ahead of time? Having your to-do list with you all the time is a good start. And consider adding those small, mundane chores to the list for occasions like this. Even using that time for a five minute break is worthwhile, because taking time out to rest helps us re-focus and get more out of our remaining hours.

5. Schedule and use a to-do list: It’s important to be flexible both at work and at play, but if there’s no plan in place in the beginning, then there’s nothing to be flexible with. There’s a difference between moving things around to make some reasonable schedule changes and just shooting from the hip. MindTools.com advises writing down the things you have to do, and for each one taking a moment to consider what type of task it is, describing the steps involved, deciding the optimal time to complete it, and determining its importance relative to the other items on the docket. Putting things in their proper place helps ensure that precious time will be well-spent.

6. Leave extra time: Speaking of scheduling … Lifehacker suggests that sometimes adding a little padding to the calendar is necessary, especially during the holidays. Whether it’s getting through the airport, waiting for the mall Santa, or baking all eight dozen cookies you agreed to, some things just take longer than we would like, and there’s no way around it. So instead of robbing time from something else later, why not plan ahead for a few extra minutes to get through the family portrait or address all those holiday card envelopes? Or, there’s always the alternative, which brings us to the last item on the list …

7. Practice saying no, in a nice way: Etiquette expert Emily Post advises that honesty really is the best policy, so if things are too busy to accept an invitation or request, explain that you’d like to say yes but can’t right now. And instead of a hard ‘no,’ offer to reschedule at a mutually-convenient time in the future. This will show that you are considerate and want to spend time with the other person.

A lot of the ideas here are big-picture ones, not tactical items like simply buying a planner or downloading a shiny new app. But that doesn’t mean the steps are large and impossible. Focusing on a single idea at a time and repeating each new habit will go a long way toward improving the way me choose to manage our time.

Topics: Workplace Well-Being Productivity Prioritize Time Management