Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Lori Cates Hand

Recent Posts by Lori Cates Hand:

Is Employee Wellness an All-or-Nothing Strategy?

If you follow employee wellness, you may have heard recently that wellness programs at worst are largely ineffective and tend not to be worth the investment, and at best take years to produce results. That commentary found in a Wall Street Journal Health Blog was the assessment on a report produced by the National Institute for Health Care Reform (NIHCR), which was based on research conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

The basic premise was this: If you can’t do wellness right, you should probably stay out of the game. It’s expensive, it’s confusing, and ROI is questionable. It’s true that the best and most robust programs cost money and require a well-developed strategy along with clear and vocal leadership support. These things are not easily gained. It’s also true that ROI is extremely hard to capture in wellness programs. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not to be trusted.

Zero TrendsThere is, however, another way to look at employee health and wellness: Something really is better than nothing. In his book Zero Trends: Health as a Serious Economic Strategy, Dr. Dee Edington outlines the “Five Pillars of Health Management Strategy,” which are consistent with the NIHCR report. But he also points clearly and repeatedly to the value of stopping the current unhealthy trends—of not letting things get any worse.

Under the “don’t get any worse” banner, consider the potential value of a simple regular blood-pressure screening at the worksite. If one employee is flagged for high blood pressure during that screening, and he follows up accordingly with his doctor, your organization will bear some of the medical expense associated with his ongoing treatment of high blood pressure. You may have also just saved your organization a lot of money in catastrophic health care costs associated with chronically unmanaged high blood pressure. You’ve also created awareness for that employee that may lead to self-management efforts to improve his health.

Small businesses can enter the employee wellness program arena, and they don’t have to do it with the all the bells and whistles that the big businesses bring in, as evidenced by this Business News Daily report.

Where will you begin with employee wellness?

Topics: corporate wellness healthy workforce corporate fitness control healthcare costs

There's More to Worksite Wellness Than Just ROI

It’s rare for me to have a conversation with a prospective NIFS client these days without being asked something related to the return on investment (ROI) for worksite wellness. I can’t blame them; these folks are typically tasked with decreasing an organization’s healthcare costs. An organization can take one of several approaches to decreasing healthcare costs, such as decreasing the size of the workforce. But cutting staff offers diminishing returns. Wellness, as general as that term is, can be the solution.

Here’s the thing: ROI for wellness programs can be extremely tricky to capture. Not only do you need to build your program with the right pillars in place, but the evaluation can be hard to wade through and costly to calculate. Read what Dr. Ron Goetzel, an industry pioneer in measuring wellness ROI, has to say about this in his WELCOA interview.

What’s a company to do? Wellness is complicated and requires persistence over time to see the results you’re looking for. If you can’t get everything in your wellness program “just right” and you don’t have the means for full-blown evaluation, should you give up and not offer a wellness program for your workforce at all?

It’s at this crossroads that you’ll need to consider the true motives behind the wellness initiative. I suspect your goals have to do with more than just direct healthcare costs. I’d be willing to bet two things:

  • The organization is interested in doing right by its employees.
  • You recognize a responsibility to contribute positively to your employees' overall wellbeing and that happier employees are more loyal and productive employees.

The first part—doing right by your employees—is actually even harder to measure than health outcomes and changes in corporate healthcare costs. But if you watch your employees' faces and listen to the water-cooler conversations, the anecdotal evidence you capture will say it all: Treat your employees right—with programs and services that make the healthy choice the easy choice—and they’ll work harder for you.

Topics: corporate wellness control healthcare costs

Manage Health Expenses Defensively by Supporting Walking Breaks

EmployWalkA recent Gallup survey reported that over one quarter of all medical costs are directly related to defensive medicine. That's a lot of unnecessary medical care by doctors just to protect themselves against potential malpractice lawsuits.

Practice Defensive Medicine with Your Employees by Encouraging Walking

What if we poured 25 percent of our energy into practicing our own defensive medicine--aka disease prevention or health promotion? What if your employees spent 25 percent of their one-hour lunch break getting some exercise at work?

Of course, not everyone is willing to do that. But what if employers supported 15-minute walk breaks for their employees so that they could get that walk in on the clock?

The Physical Benefits of Getting Employees Walking

Think about it: Fifteen minutes of walking the parking lot or the campus halls (which burns 50 calories per 15 minutes for a 150-pound person) could do a lot of people--and businesses--a lot of good.

The Financial Benefits for Getting Employees Walking

Wise employers know that getting away from the desk and being active can help employees be more productive. And the health benefits from this exercise can help a company control healthcare costs and practice their own defensive medicine.

Tell us how your company is supporting physical activity in your workplace.

Topics: exercise at work control healthcare costs

Taking the Stairs: A Small Step Toward Workplace Health

StairWalkDoes your organization's disaster recovery plan account for the almost-certain riot that could ensue if your elevators break down? While I may have a flair for the dramatic, check out the crowd reaction to the escalators freezing at Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle stop recently. Your employees might look strikingly similar to these dumbstruck passengers if they were forced to scale the stairs each day.

Look at Stairs as a New Way For Employees to Get Physical Activity at Work

I think people take elevators and escalators almost mindlessly (kind of like how we eat most of the time). It doesn't really enter most individual's consciousness to view stairs as a small but beneficial chance at some extra activity each day.

Climbing stairs burns roughly seven calories per minute for a 150-pound individual. Taking the elevator burns just one calorie per minute for the same person. Over the course of one month, if you choose the stairs for five minutes per day, five days per week, you will burn an extra 750 calories. Over the course of a year, that's more than 9,000 calories burned, which is equal to roughly 2.5 pounds.

Although that isn't staggering weight loss for the year, it does provide you with some buffer for maintaining your weight year to year (assuming your calorie intake is unchanged). Furthermore, for overweight employees who are trying to lose weight, taking the stairs can support that ongoing effort.

Encourage Employees to Forego the Elevator With These Tips

This guide from the California Department of Health Services has extensive tips on encouraging employees to take the stairs at work or comment below to tell us about your healthy stairwell campaign.

Topics: exercise at work employee health overweight employees

One Creative Way to Create a Health Culture: Gardening at Work

EmployeeGardening2"Build a health culture at work and your wellness programs will succeed," worksite health promotion professionals have said a thousand times. Seriously though, what does that mean? What does a health culture at work look like? How do you know when you’ve arrived?

Employees Gain Physical Health Benefits While Gardening

Maybe we reach our destination when we learn to infuse a little healthy fun and flexibility into the workday. Consider this: A team of employees at the McPherson CertainTeed Molded Products plant in Kansas created and implemented their own employee health initiative. Working with McPherson County agents, the employees found a piece of land on which to plant a vegetable garden. They tilled the soil and planted the seeds. Today, the garden is maintained by an enthusiastic crew of employees. Those who work the garden also reap additional health benefits from the physical activity required to plant and maintain the garden.

Employees Gain Additional Health Benefits While Gardening

Employees also reap the benefits of healthy, pesticide-free veggies for daytime snacks and at-home cooking. 

Exercising, eating right, having fun, reducing stress…sounds like a health culture to me!

How Can You Build A Health Culture at Work?

Share what your company is doing to build a healthier culture by commenting below. Even better, let others know how are you empowering your associates to take the lead in constructing a shared and mutually beneficial healthy workplace culture.

Topics: corporate wellness employee health health culture