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Workplace stress endangers employee health, but your seasoned staff may be the answer

Posted By Editor, Laurie, Friday, September 1, 2017
Updated: Friday, September 1, 2017

By Gloria Dunn-Violin

Workplace stress causes untold physical and psychological harm to employees of all ages. And, the cost of this debilitating health issue is staggering.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines job stress as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.

The American Psychological Association estimates that more than $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy and 550 million workdays are lost each year because of workplace stress.

>> Continue reading on the blog

Tags:  employee retention  employee wellness  workplace stress  workplace wellness 

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All the Way to Wellness: Filling in the Gaps

Posted By Editor, Laurie, Thursday, January 26, 2017
Updated: Thursday, January 26, 2017
Contributed by Janice Litvinaward-winning keynote and motivational speaker, fitness expert, wellness speaker and workshop leader and writer.  
 All the Way to Wellness: Filling in the Gaps


March, 6  2017 10:45a.m.


As the corporate wellness industry comes of age several innovations are taking place.

Workplace wellness no longer simply means offering generic fitness challenges and nutrition classes, with some mindful meditation mixed in.

These programs are garnering an engagement rate of about 40%.

Workplace wellness has morphed into its own niche called Well-Being, with the notion that each and every
who works for a company has a variety of wellness needs, not simply nutrition and fitness:

  1. Maybe they are stressed about finances.
  2. Maybe they are having trouble with a co-worker or boss.
  3. Maybe they've lost their passion for the job they've been doing for five years. 
  4. Maybe they have a new manger who isn't really savvy about handling difficult situations. 
  5. Maybe they are overweight and are pre-diabetic, causing them to miss work.

Whatever the case may be, in order for a person to be productive, they have to be healthy and happy. And in order for them to be healthy and happy, they have to be "well."

And in order to get them well, they have to be engaged in wellness. Their boss has to be engaged in wellness, and upper management has to be engaged in wellness too.

So wellness has taken on a whole new meaning, a whole new shape and a whole new purpose: the whole person.  Hence, the cultural shift from wellness to well-being.

Step 1.  Create a culture of wellness.  Creating a culture of wellness takes patience, planning and support from the top. 

Note: The C-suite must also be on board for this culture shift to happen!

Step 2.  Customize the offering. It is not enough to offer generic nutrition education with a one-size-fits-all weight loss program. 
When people are trying to make major life changes, like the way they eat, they need support, especially at the beginning. 
Furthermore, the programs have to be innovative and fun.

Step 3. The inspiration for change does not come about from a simple rewards program! That is not to say that rewards programs don't have a place in the puzzle.
Rewards programs do work, but these programs simply get people in the door. Motivation has to become intrinsic for the changes to stick. 

I will be discussing the latest wellness trends at HR West 17, March 6th - 8th at the Oakland Convention Center!
Learn how to get buy-in from the top and then how to strategize an engaging well-being program on Monday, March 6th at 10:45 am at my breakout entitled, "All the Way to Wellness: Filling in the Gaps." 

Tags:  employee health and wellness  Employee retention  employee wellness  healthcare expenditures  HR West 2017  Janice Litvin  workplace wellness 

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The Future of Workplace Wellness Programs

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, June 30, 2016

Contributed by Dr. James Korkos

In California, nearly 25 percent of adults are obese, 12 percent smoke cigarettes, and 22 percent are not getting enough physical activity, according to the United Health Foundation’s  America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report. These negative health markers may have serious consequences and may increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Fortunately, many diseases can be avoided by adopting healthy behaviors.

That’s why an estimated 70 percent of employers already offer wellness programs, and 8 percent more plan to do so during the next year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. 


Employers are investing in wellness programs because these initiatives can support their employees’ desire to improve their health and create a happier, healthier workforce while reducing costs for employees and the company.

Some of these wellness programs give employees wearable devices at no additional charge, helping provide a more accurate and comprehensive summary of the user’s daily activity, sleep patterns and other health markers. Fitness trackers – usually small devices worn around the wrist or clipped onto clothing – give users a snapshot of actual physical activity.

Employers nationwide are expected to incorporate more than 13 million fitness tracking devices into their wellness programs by 2018, according to technology consultancy Endeavors Partners. That’s important, considering a study published in Science & Medicine showed people tend to overestimate how much exercise they get each week by more than 50 minutes, and they underestimate sedentary time by more than two hours. People who use wearable devices are better able to monitor and hold themselves accountable for their physical activity.  

Here are five tips for employers to help improve and enhance wellness programs:

  1. Offer Incentives:  More employees may participate in wellness programs when companies offer incentives, which can include gift cards, lower health insurance premiums, cash bonuses, and discounts on various health products and services. Some programs featuring wearable devices enable employees to earn up to $1,500 per year in incentives by meeting specific daily walking goals, while employers can achieve premium savings based on participants’ combined results.  

  2. Gather Biometric Data:  Biometric screenings may give employees a better snapshot of their current health, including weight, body mass index and blood glucose, so offering them onsite at the workplace and at health fairs may encourage more employees to participate. More advanced programs can include connected devices, such as a Bluetooth-enabled wireless scale, blood pressure monitor or thermometer, which can transmit the participant’s vital signs to a case management nurse or wellness coach.

  3. Keep Data Secure: Companies that want to incorporate fitness trackers and other connected devices should first ensure the health plan will keep private data secure. This includes using the latest encryption technology, including medical-grade connectivity for seamless and secure data transmission. Management should never have access to individual employee data; instead, the health plan should report aggregate data to help the company assess the value of its wellness program.

  4. Generate Support: Set up a wellness committee with “wellness champions,” selecting leaders within the organization who are respected by their peers and can motivate others. Use email, promotional flyers and in-person meetings to communicate the goals of the program. Messages from executives will demonstrate leadership support and may improve participation.

  5. Track Results: Evaluate the success of the wellness program each year, taking note of employee engagement and medical costs. While engagement can vary, some companies have achieved participation rates of more than 85 percent.   

Following these tips, including the adoption of new technologies such as fitness trackers, may help employers and employees maximize the benefit they get out of employer-sponsored wellness programs – and improve the health of the company and its workforce.

About the Author

James Korkos, M.D., is market medical director for UnitedHealthcare of California.

Tags:  corporate fitness  employee wellness  HR management  workplace wellness 

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16 Employee Perks Your Team Wants More Than a Pay Raise [Infographic]

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, June 1, 2016

If you’re thinking about retaining your employees, the first thing that might come to mind is offering them a raise. As it turns out, however, the old saying “money doesn’t buy happiness” might just be right. There are many other effective ways to keep talent happy and engaged without offering higher salaries. With nearly 3 in 5 (57%) people reporting benefits and perks being one of their top consideration before accepting a job, many employers are raising the bar higher when it comes to providing more to attract and retain talent. Using data from a recent Glassdoor survey, we’ve compiled the sixteen best employee perks and benefits that offer the biggest bang for your buck into the infographic below.

From our friends at SnackNation.



Tags:  employee benefits  employee engagement  employee health and wellness  HR  HR management  snacknation  workplace wellness 

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Workplace Wellness... the indisputable, the debatable, & where we go from here

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, September 9, 2015



By Laura Putnam and Mari Ryan  


Every HR professional has a full plate of responsibilities – and workplace wellness has become a standard item on the menu. Especially in light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act, it is likely that workplace wellness is here to stay. Meanwhile, workplace wellness is a field that has more questions than answers, and HR professionals are often left trying to sort out the pieces.

What seems like a rather straightforward proposition – a company investing in the health and well-being of its employees – has become a source of conflict. On one end of the spectrum, critics are lambasting workplace wellness, calling it an invasion of individual privacy and a waste of valuable resources. On the other end of the spectrum, proponents tout its many benefits – from savings on health care costs to enhanced employee engagement to improved retention – arguing that workplace wellness is indeed money well spent.

Why is there is so much disagreement on the topic – and how do we move forward from here?

The Indisputable
We’re spending a lot on health care.The United States leads the world in health care expenditures, which is 20% higher than any other country– and more than double the average. We are on a path to fiscal insolvency if we don’t find out a way to reduce this spending.

Employers – and employees – are feeling the pain of these increases. Employers are continuing to spend more on health care costs, and meanwhile, an increasing percentage of these costs are being transferred to employees. According to Aon Hewitt’s analysis, the employee’s share of spending on health care costs has escalated by almost 150% over a ten-year period (between 2004 and 2014).

All of this spending isn’t getting us any healthier.Despite all this money going toward health care, we’re not any healthier – by a long shot. Already, over a third of Americans are obese and another third are overweight. If trends continue, a recent study indicates that almost half of us will be obese by 2030. Meanwhile, heart disease continues to be the number one killer and it’s projected that one third of us will be diabetic by 2050.

The vast majority of these “lifestyle” diseases and conditions are avoidable
Frustratingly, the vast majority of these diseases and conditions are preventable – and in some cases even reversible. Turning around our current trajectory of poor health requires that we drastically change our lifestyle, which requires making changes in our behaviors – and this is where we get stuck.

Behavior change is hard. By and large, all of us already know what to do to improve our health: Eat better, move more, avoid smoking.However, collectively, we just can’t seem to “get” ourselves to put this knowledge into practice. Workplace wellness boils down to changing behaviors from unhealthy to healthy ones – and this seemingly simple proposition is actually very difficult to carry out.

The Debatable
Return On Investment (ROI) is a worthwhile pursuit and is achievableor is it? Most organizations in the US are counting on workplace wellness to help curb the onslaught of health care costs. The question is – is it realistic to think that wellness programs truly can render a savings on medical expenses?

Some argue yes. A heavily cited 2010 review showed that companies can save $3.27 in medical costs and another $2.73 in absenteeism costs for every dollar spent on wellness.

Others argue no. Meanwhile, the largest study to date on the impact of worksite wellness conducted by the RAND Corporation, found that while workplace wellness programs can positively impact some health outcomes, they do not appear to lead toward meaningful savings in health care costs.

Incentives work – or do they? Perhaps, the most contentious point of debate is the use of incentives and penalties, aka, “carrots and sticks.” Both are used to motivate employees to participate in programs, and increasingly, they are used to activate specific health outcomes. Employers have doubled their spending on incentives over the past four years to the tune of almost $600 per employee on incentives alone, according to recent surveys conducted by the NBGH and Fidelity Investments. The Affordable Care Act includes provisions to increase allowable incentives from 20 percent of total cost of overall health care coverage to 30 percent, and in the case of tobacco-related programming, up to 50 percent.

While considered a “best practice” by many, a growing body of experts and practitioners caution against the use of incentives. Researchers like Alfie Kohn, author of Punished By Rewards, argue that incentives and penalties can diminish intrinsic motivation and do nothing more than drive short-term compliance.

Penn State’s controversial wellness initiative exemplifies the risks of taking a heavy-handed approach. In July of 2013, the university introduced a wellness program that applied stiff penalties to drive participation rates.Any faculty or staff member who opted out of the required health assessment and screening would be penalized $100 a month! Instead of encouraging employees to join in, the overly coercive tactic generated an outcry and the faculty rebelled. The news went viral, and ultimately, the university withdrew the program.

Workplace wellness is money well spent.Some critics question whether worksite wellness industry is worthwhile at all, citing the fact that it is now estimated to be a $6 billion industry. Let’s put some perspective to this figure. Consider, for example, that the equally difficult-to-measure field of learning and development is a $164 billion industry, with an average per employee expenditure of $1,200 per year.

Overall, workplace wellness is working – or is it? What we know is that simply having a wellness program is not enough; it needs to be a program that is worth taking part in. While companies like Johnson & Johnson and Dow Chemical are successfully engaging over 80% of their employees, the research shows that in most cases, 80 percent of eligible employees are choosing not to participate in their company’s wellness programming. So, while there are certainly bright spots of workplace wellness, we can fairly say that overall, workplace wellness is in dire need of a tune up.

Where Do We Go From Here?
So, now what? Below are key elements to creating a workplace wellness program that is more likely to work:

1. Reframe how you define “success”
2. Emphasize intrinsic over extrinsic motivation
3. Move from wellness to well-being
4. Consider “going stealth”
5. Shift the focus from changing individuals to changing cultures

Reframe how you define “success.” As long as you are in the mindset of demonstrating a reduction in medical costs alone, you will always be stuck trying to demonstrate the worth of workplace wellness. It’s time to share the bigger picture with leaders – and employees, helping them to understand the value of workplace wellness – beyond cost containment. Workplace wellness done well can help to build a thriving, vibrant workplace that boosts morale, fosters employee engagement, enhances human performance, and attracts and retains top talent.

These are the opportunities for savings that lie beneath the surface. The research suggests that lost productivity associated with low levels of employee well-being add up to three times the costs associated with direct medical expenditures.

Emphasize intrinsic over extrinsic motivation. Sustainable behavior change is only possible when it is intrinsically based. This means that the best that you can do to spark long-lasting change in employees is by creating the conditions in which they are more likely to motivate themselves.

According to long-standing research in the field of social psychology, creating these conditions begins with appealing to the inherent, human need for:
1.Competency or sense of mastery;
2. Autonomy or sense of control and choice;
3. Relatedness or being socially connected with others;
4. Purpose or sense of deep meaning; and
5. Play or sense of fun and enjoyment.

These elements of intrinsic motivation should be taken into account in the design of every workplace wellness program.

Move from wellness to well-being.The primary focus of workplace wellness up to this point has centered on identifying and mitigating physical risk factors, such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. What we know now is that a broad range of ingredients, such as one’s financial state, career satisfaction, social bonds, and even zip code factor heavily into one’s health and well-being. Furthermore, there is extensive evidence that people are much more likely to be motivated by the prospect of improved quality of life as opposed to improved health (which can feel too far off in the future to be immediately relevant).

Focusing on these multiple dimensions of well-being can lead to real bottom-line results. According to a recent Healthways’ study, a well-being strategy in lieu of a wellness strategy (that focuses only on physical health), can double the savings in productivity losses. Their findings suggest that enhancing an individual’s well-being by 10 percent can lead to 5 percent reduction in absenteeism, 24 percent reduction in presenteeism, and even a 2.2 percent reduced likelihood of hospital admission.

Consider going stealth. A small study at Stanford revealed that students are more likely to make changes in their diets when motivated by reasons beyond health, such as protecting the environment or supporting human rights. Based on these results, the researchers concluded that a “stealth” strategy will likely yield greater returns on any behavior-change effort.

Applying these findings to the workplace,it is likely that you will achieve higher levels of engagement by going stealth, “sneaking” wellness into non-wellness initiatives, such as safety trainings, leadership development programs, or team engagement efforts. You can follow the lead of Schindler Elevator Corporation, a forward-thinking organization that integrates well-being into its management, safety, and even HR training programs.

Shift the focus from changing individuals to changing cultures and environments. Ultimately, all of us are creatures of culture and products of our surrounding environment. Therefore, to maximize the impact of any wellness initiative, focus your efforts on making the healthy choice the easy choice and the normal choice. This calls for a shift from focusing so much on personal responsibility and individual accountability, to finding ways to optimize the environment and change the culture to create a “new normal.” To do so, you’ll need to engage leaders at all levels and deliberately design a built environment of wellness. Your goal should be to create an organizational entity that lives and breathes well-being.B&W

About the Author(s):

Laura Putnam, is the author of Workplace Wellness That Works and founder and CEO of Motion Infusion, a well-being consulting and training firm that provides creative solutions in the areas of engagement, behavior change, human performance improvement, and building healthier, happier, and more innovative organizations. 






Mari Ryan is CEO and founder of AdvancingWellness, where she consults on worksite health promotion and well-being, and directs the delivery of worksite well-being services to clients.







This article was originally published on August 2015 Employee Benefits and Wellness -

Tags:  affordable care act  benefits  employee wellness  healthcare expenditures  hr  human resources  management  nchra  workplace wellness 

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