What Workplace Wellness Data Doesn’t Tell You

What Workplace Wellness Data Doesn’t Tell You

Many of us in employee benefits have, at some point, found ourselves tasked with developing a workplace wellness program. Unlike a health or dental plan, workplace wellness can be a frustrating and costly program to provide to employees. We start out with an employee population that we think we know.  Actually, we do know a lot about them.

We know how many children they cover on our plans, the length of their daily commute, when they last saw a doctor and if they are struggling with a chronic disease or infertility. With all of this information, it should be easy to construct a wellness program that can yield some positive return on health. Yet we find that on average, only 35% of our employees participate and 50% generally don’t even know the program exists. How can that be possible given that we purchase options that are “tailored” to what we know about our employees and create mounds (yes! mounds!) of communication to announce its availability?

In my 20+ years of designing health and wellness programs, I’ve found that there are generally 2 cultures in an organization. The one that the employer knows about and the one that actually exists. This is why we find that some of the most successful programs employ a grassroots approach to wellness which taps into the culture that actually exists. These wellness programs provide access to what employees truly want and need and speak to them in a way that they can engage and remember. A Harvard Business survey of companies that offer a health, wellness, and fitness program, found that 75% of participants agreed that wellness programs need to incorporate a personalized and customized approach. 

Grassroots programs, in addition to activities that people actually care about, incorporate partnership and shared accountability which ultimately lead to engagement.

Engagement leads to the ultimate goal of healthy workforces that, in addition to lower healthcare costs, have been found to outperform their competition given their ability to be more focused at work, think quicker, have better ideas and pivot in industries where change comes quickly and often.

Sound easy? Admittedly, aligning a program to be completely in line with the employee culture is difficult. Even when we know what people would like, there can be conflicts with organizational business goals, legal requirements, money and time, all of which can derail our best intentions. However, building that one bridge within your wellness program that engages with the core culture of your employees can yield exciting and positive results. Although this may be a small piece of your larger program, the excitement around the program can in itself, grow the type of results that add value to the employees, their families and the organization.

So, do you believe a healthy workforce can impact your company’s bottom line? If so, I share with you one suggestion, Set aside a small amount from your wellness budget, Organize a few employees who really care about their health and others, and Support them in building something phenomenal.

Spring Refresher

Spring Refresher

I was in the 20th year of my career.  My current job required a 2 hour commute each day. I left my home at 6 a.m. and didn’t return until at least 6 p.m. that evening.  That left me only 12 hours each day to have dinner, attend to my family, exercise and sleep.  I was absolutely exhausted at the end of my work day, my eating choices became poor, exercise rarely happened, relaxation was non-existent, and issues with my 50 year old body made sleep almost impossible.  I pushed on.

Maybe I should eat better and exercise during my work day?  So now my lunch hour which previously included working and eating lunch at my desk became running to the gym, rushing through a workout, then eating the same boring salad every day.  I ridiculously was trying to cram 30 hours into a 24 hour day.  Sound familiar?

Well one day my body just said “NO!”  It told me I needed to seriously pay attention to my lifestyle and the unrealistic demands I was requiring of myself. .  Our bodies say “NO!” in a variety of ways including:

  • Illness,
  • Injury
  • Pure Exhaustion

Related to Poor Meal Choices, Too Much Stress, and The Wrong Exercise. When it happened to me, I IMMEDIATELY FELT DEFEATED, OLD, OUT OF SHAPE, and FAT. Yes, many of us take ourselves through this process on a regular basis, but here’s a solution.  I’m sharing some simple anchors for longer term change.

1- Make Coffee a PART of Breakfast, NOT all of Your Breakfast

Shannon’s story:  Having coffee by itself, first thing in the morning contributed to my hormones being out of whack. Incorporating a healthy breakfast, along with my coffee, increased my energy. Focusing on eating first thing in the morning made me care more about what I ate for the rest of the day.

2- Do Absolutely Nothing for 15 Minutes Each Day

Baxter’s story:  I told my family that when I get home, they need to give me time to just relax.  And they actually did it! I wouldn’t plan, I wouldn’t read, no email…I just sat and looked out the window and took a breath. It became my 15 minute vacation.  I felt relaxed and I’m sure I was more fun to be around. Amazing!

3- Only Do Exercise That Makes You Feel Good

April’s story:  I hated going to the gym so I found a dance class.  I now go to my dance class 5 days a week – no matter what. No more hardcore workouts.  I walk.  I enjoy it and my body feels wonderful. The last Saturday of each month, me and a friend check out a workout we never did before.  Last month was anti-gravity yoga.  This month it’s hula hooping.

I invite you to choose an anchor or create one of your own that makes your body feel GREAT!

Is Juicing for Breakfast Another Diet Scam

Is Juicing for Breakfast Another Diet Scam

Several weeks ago I had a stomach bug that latest for two weeks.  During that time, the only “food” I could handle was liquid food.  I had juice, coconut water, tea, water, and often mixed it with my organic green powder which is full of veggies, flax seed, and protein.  When I finally got over my nasty stomach bug, I had a new appreciation for juice, particularly in the morning.  Since then I start my day with a juice that I’ve  made using organic fruits and vegetables and always include my green powder for some extra veggies and protein.

What I’ve found, is that I truly appreciate the energy and lightness that I get from a morning juice.  But it won’t be worth it if we overlook a few critical steps.  If you’re juicing, or thinking about it, here are some healthy steps.

Use organic fruit and vegetables – The quickest way to get something into our body and organs is to make it a liquid.  If we use NON-organic fruits and vegetables, then we absorb all of those pesticides and GMOs into our system, quickly.  I don’t think that’s what  we have in mind.  Buy organic when you’re juicing.  It’s critical!

Pay Attention to the Sugar – Too many fruits, vegetables, or using fruit juice as a base are all ways to blow our daily sugar and calorie limit.  I limit my juice to 1 to 1-1/2 pieces of fruit and a handful of veggies.  Using a base that is low in calories such as water, coconut water, green tea, or unsweetened almond milk gives me lower calories while providing some variety to my routine.  

Add Some Protein – I always recommend you balance your carbohydrate with a fat or protein.  Adding a protein to my morning juice helps balance blood sugar while leaving us filling fuller until it’s time for lunch.  Remember to choose a powder that is organic and low in calories.  

Have fun –  Be creative.  Use fruits, vegetables and spices like ginger, cinnamon and tumeric.

I would really like to hear about about your recipes!  Please be sure to share recipes and pictures in the comments area below.

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