5 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution (and Wellness Program) on Track

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5 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution (and Wellness Program) on Track

One week into a new year and you are probably already sick and tired of hearing about the latest diet trend or exercise regimen that is “guaranteed” to make your New Year’s resolution to “get healthy” stick this time around.

Most medical professionals will tell you that (unfortunately) there is no silver bullet to a “healthier you”, and as it turns out, a good old fashioned healthy diet and consistent exercise routine tends to be just what the doctor ordered.

So what does all this talk about New Year’s resolutions have to do with HR and building great workplaces here in Northeast Ohio?

Well according to ERC’s 2015 Wellness Practices Survey, at three-quarters of local organizations, the connection is their formal wellness program. Take the analogy one step further, and you’ll quickly discover that wellness programs often suffer from the same plight as New Year’s resolutions—the best of intentions, but lacking in follow-through when it comes time for implementation. Despite becoming an almost standard benefit at many employers over the last several years, some wellness programs and individual wellness focused activities are now suffering from a lack of participation and interest on the part of the employees.

In fact participants in both the 2013 and 2015 ERC Wellness Surveys cited “effectively educating and incentivizing employees to participate in wellness programs” as the most common barrier to creating a successful wellness program at their organization.

To help both employers and employees make the most of what can be and should be an important piece of overall employee wellbeing, participating organizations in ERC’s Wellness Surveys offered the following advice on creating (or reinvigorating) a successful wellness program.

1. Offer wellness activities/programs that employees find useful.

This particular struggle is most easily addressed if met head-on at the program’s inception and can be as simple as a survey of employee’s interests in a list of potential activities under consideration. Understanding the basic demographics of your workforce can also help inform what types of programs make the cut. Gender, age, shift work (who will actually be around if you are offering programs on-site during the day), etc. are all useful statistics to consider, but don’t get too overzealous and start trying to dig into specific health related needs—HIPPA can get messy quickly.

By starting out with wellness activities that employees want to take part in, you are already ahead of the curve.

But don’t worry if you already have a program in place, it’s not too late to start taking your employee’s interests into account. In fact, a quick survey of your employees every couple of years to make sure the programming is still relevant isn’t a bad idea either.

2. Make the programming accessible—both geographically and intellectually.

If your organization is on the larger side or draws employees from a diverse geographic footprint, make sure the activities are easily accessible to as many individual employees as possible. Your employees are probably juggling a family life, the stress of work, and any number of other time intensive activities.

In short, their time is valuable, so partnering with a gym with only one location far on one side of town may not see the best results. Instead, consider offering reimbursement for a gym of the employee’s choosing or make the investment in an on-site gym or fitness classes.

Online programming can be an easy option, but make sure it is providing useful information that isn’t too overwhelming or too basic. One the one hand if the online articles, tracking mechanism, or lectures are overly technical and scientific employees might be turned off, but by the same token presenting overly simplistic information won’t do your employees any good either.

3. Use the resources you already have.

Many health insurance packages include an array of free resources that you the employer can pass along to your employees. All you have to do as the employer is promote them. But that is sometimes easier said than done—now someone has to be tasked with sending out the email reminders or monthly newsletters to help get employees on board. If financial resources are not available to create a new position (e.g. Wellness Coordinator) delegation or committee work can be helpful in prevent overloading a single individual with wellness related administrative tasks. Of course if all else fails, and you are determined to create a robust, successful wellness program, just ask for help. You may find that you have a multi-talented staff that is more than willing to share their kick-boxing expertise or vegan baking skills with their co-workers.

4. Get full buy-in on all levels.

As with most new initiatives, it is critical to get the full support of the top management team. Buy-in from the top can definitely be helpful when budget season rolls around, but when it comes to wellness programs, a more visible buy-in can be hugely helpful as well. Having the CEO out there trying to get to his or her 10,000 steps during lunch can be a great motivator and even a fun way for employees to interact casually with other employees that they may not typically encounter on a day-to-day basis. And of course keep in mind that the importance of buy-in goes beyond these specific activities to the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve with your wellness program. If your end goal is to fully indoctrinate your organization with a culture of wellness, engaging employees at all levels is particularly important.

5. Incentivize, when you can.

Even with all the struggles and barriers to participation discussed above, many organizations are running very successful wellness programs. If better health isn’t enough of a motivator, money is bound to do the trick. Keep in mind that there are specific limitations as to how much and how the monies are distributed for each individual and for different types of activities. Cost can also be a strong disincentive against certain behaviors, most notably tobacco usage. The Affordable Care Act provides a detailed breakdown of allowable incentives and disincentives should you choose to go down the path of incentivizing your wellness program. If you aren’t quite ready for the monetary commitment, remember that food or other small non-monetary incentives can help improve the effectiveness of your programming by bolstering attendance at lectures or participation in fitness challenges.

Much like the New Year’s resolution you made a week ago, setting your organization’s wellness program up for success can seem overwhelming. But with the help of the advice above and a little extra hard work and perseverance in 2016, you too can get to the gym 4 days a week and get your employees to show up for the nutritionist you’ve booked for that lunch-n-learn next month.

View ERC's Wellness Practices Survey Results

This report summarizes the results of ERC’s survey of organizations in Northeast Ohio, conducted in September of 2015, on practices related to health care and wellness.

View the Results

What Are Employers Doing to Manage Health Care Costs?

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What Are Employers Doing to Manage Health Care Costs managing healthcare costs health care cost management

According to the 2015 ERC Wellness Practices Survey both the average percent premium increase and the average annual spend on health insurance premiums have declined since the 2013 survey.

This slight downward trend is certainly not the case at every organization and did not occur without significant cost management efforts on the part of both employer and employees. Of course there are variables that no one can control, i.e. unexpected serious illness, aging employee population, etc., but this year’s survey results help illuminate which tactics employers are using (or not using) most effectively to help push the variables that are in their control in the right direction.
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6 Trends in Corporate Wellness and Executive Health

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Trends in Corporate Wellness and Executive Health

Workplace wellness programs continue to gain traction across the country as the benefits of these programs on employee health, wellness and productivity become more apparent. Evidence-based studies have demonstrated both physical and financial advantages to the employees and to their employers as wellness initiatives are introduced by corporations.

Creating a culture of health and fitness provides a competitive advantage when hiring new recruits and retaining current employees. Many prospective employees absolutely will consider the health and wellness programs offered by a corporation when considering a prospective employer.

We spoke with Dr. Buchinsky, MD and Dr. Adan, MD, from University Hospitals, about the trends in corporate wellness and executive health going on in today’s workplaces.
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Wellness Programs: Where We've Been and Where We are Heading

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Wellness Programs: Where We've Been and Where We are Heading

Over the past several years having some form of wellness program for your employees has gone from a cutting edge forward thinking trend, to a mainstream part of many employer’s benefit plans. While the catalysts for this immense growth in the wellness movement are varied depending on the stakeholders involved, most of the changes in strategy, whether being implemented by healthcare providers, the health insurance industry, or even the federal government, are focused on preventative healthcare.

What follows is a brief overview of where wellness programs stand today as well as what these quickly evolving programs and laws could mean for employers and employees alike in the near future.
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The Ultimate Guide to Training in 2015

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hr training topics The Ultimate Guide to Training in 2015

If your organization is like most, a guiding question for your 2015 planning will likely be some version of this question: “What kinds of training & development programs should we choose that will help ensure we are able to attract and retain talented employees, as well as prevent regrettable attrition, within our organization in 2015 and beyond?” What follows is a snapshot of some of the most popular training topics for 2014 and into 2015, along with a brief explanation of how they can each be leveraged to the benefit of the organization.

Up & Coming

Leadership Development

Pointing to the need to refocus attention on the longevity of an organization and the generational shift towards Millenials that is occurring in the overall workforce, leadership development is definitely on the list of hot training topics on the rise.
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Integrative Approaches to Women’s Health

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Integrative Approaches to Women’s Health

Many women’s health issues including PMS, menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome and osteoporosis may be approached in an integrative fashion by adding non-traditional approaches to conventional treatment plans.

Often, this integrative approach results in a better outcome at a lower overall cost.

Below are evidence-based integrative approaches to common women’s health concerns:
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Workplace Wellness: Tobacco Cessation and the CVS Caremark Tobacco Sales Ban

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Workplace Wellness: Tobacco Cessation and the CVS Caremark Tobacco Sales Ban

CVS Caremark’s recent announcement that they will eliminating all tobacco products from their retail stores as of October 2014 has prompted much discussion in the news over the roles that a growing pool of employers are playing as they systematically leverage their place in the business world to eliminate tobacco from their organizations.

From bans on hiring to financial penalties on health insurance rates to offering tobacco cessation programs to controversies over e-cigarettes, employers are playing an increasingly prevalent role in regulating tobacco use both inside and outside of the workplace.

State Law

From bans on hiring to financial penalties on health insurance rates to offering tobacco cessation programs to controversies over e-cigarettes, employers are playing an increasingly prevalent role in regulating tobacco use both inside and outside of the workplace. Here in Ohio, state law dictates tobacco prohibits smoking in all public places and places of work, with some specific exceptions.

The American Lung Association gives this Ohio statute an “A” grade for encouraging “smoke free air,” but in terms of the other measures graded, i.e. “Tobacco Prevention,” “Cigarette Tax,” and “Cessation Coverage,” Ohio doesn’t fare so well in the rankings. This leaves tobacco use prevention efforts largely in the hands of private employers.
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Evaluating Workplace Wellness Programs for the Future

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Evaluating Workplace Wellness Programs for the Future

With Northeast Ohio well-known nationally as a hub for the healthcare industry, it comes as no surprise that local employers are largely keeping up with or exceeding many of the national trends involving workplace wellness programs.

Using a recently released study published by RAND Health and ERC’s own Wellness Practices Survey, we explore the current state of workplace wellness programs in order to gain a better understanding of what this research has identified as the likely next steps to move these programs forward into the future across the country or right in our own backyard.
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