Tag Archives: Corporate Wellness

Kiss My Kettlebells: Examining Corporate (And Our Own) Wellness, Part Two

6 Nov

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the great pleasure of facilitating a discussion at the second annual HR Reinvention Experiment. My talk was entitled “Kiss My Kettlebells: Examining Corporate Wellness”.

As I mentioned in my first post about the workshop, we spent time talking about our own journey in wellness. I am convinced we can more effectively assist others in their wellness journey if we are actively involved in our own.

In the second part of the workshop, we looked at the elements that make up successful wellness programs. For this section I cited information I heard earlier in their from Dr. William Baun, who heads the wellness effort at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the first annual Well Being Conference held in my hometown of Omaha. Bill and his colleagues authored a terrific article in the Harvard Business Review (this link will show you the first page or so of the article, but you will need a subscription to read the entire article, which I strongly encourage) that identified six elements that are common to some of the best corporate wellness programs in the country. They are:

  1. Multilevel Leadership, passionate leaders at all levels,
  2. Alignment, where wellness is a natural extension of the firm’s identify and aspirations,
  3. Scope, Relevance and Quality, where wellness meets the unique needs of various employees,
  4. Accessibility, so there is convenience to wellness resources,
  5. Partnerships, that are both internal and external to the organization, and
  6. Communications, that helps overcome apathy and can address sensitivities people may have about their wellness journey.
We had a terrific discussion about these elements, something I strongly encourage you to do where you work. Get a conversation going with key stakeholders to determine where you believe you have strength in these six elements, and where you may also have some gaps. Doing so will help you know where you’re at and what steps need to be taken to move your wellness effort forward.
One of our participants talked about how reviewing these elements helped her rethink her approach to wellness. “We’ve been doing some things here and there, but we don’t have a plan and a design of how this is going to help our company be a better place to work. It’s time to get that discussion going.” That kind of honesty and spirit will make a difference!

Kiss My Kettlebells: Examining Corporate (And Our Own) Wellness, Part One

1 Nov

I had the great pleasure of presenting “Kiss My Kettlebells: Examining Corporate Wellness” at the second annual HR Reinvention Experiment, held last week at the Hot Shops Art Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

What a great discussion!

To give you a sense of our conversation, I first asked participants to explore their own wellness journey, a conversation that isn’t always made and frequently no easy. But I would contend that we will only be able to influence others in wellness if they believe we are active wellness participants– we simply need to be on that journey. If not, we risk looking like hypocrites.

For this exercise I asked them to think about where they were in seven key wellness categories. These seven categories were identified by Dr. Jerry Wagner, who was kind enough to offer them as a resource. You can find out more about them at his web site called Employee Wellness Collaborative.

I appreciated the honesty of the participants regarding where they were on the journey. One person talked about how they were working to improve their financial wellness, an often overlooked but increasingly important wellness category. Our more challenging economic times have certainly put more stress on employees regarding their financial wellness. It was encouraging to hear one participant talk about the financial education programs they have offered their employees, and how that has improved morale and productivity. It’s clear providing resources in areas such as financial wellness will be more important for more employers.

Another participant talked about her challenges regarding career wellness. She has recently completed additional higher education, and is hoping to grow in her current employer. As she was sharing tears welled in her eyes as she discussed her goals and dreams. We have people working with us right now who are also feeling strong emotions about where they are on their wellness journey, and we will gain more productive, committed employees if we can help them achieve their wellness goals.

And what about yours truly? Several months ago I was given some sobering information about those annoying scores like cholesterol and blood pressure. They shook me up a bit, and by good fortune I was given the opportunity to participate in a corporate wellness program that featured these lovely little devices called kettlebells. Several months later I’m in far better shape, and am healthier than I’ve been in years. I told my wife she’s just going to have to figure out another way to get rid of me! In truth, I feel much better, and am glad I’ve gotten a little further along the wellness path.

How about you?

Wellness and Employee Engagement, Again

26 Oct


A good post in the Montreal Gazette profiles two employers that have done an outstanding job creating a highly engaged place to work. Part of their strategy is helping employers through wellness. Here’s how one of the companies sees wellness and engagement:

Pfizer recently received the highest possible accreditation by Quebec’s Bureau de Normalization as a “healthy enterprise” for its Viva program.

Viva, says St-Pierre, is an employee wellness program based on prevention, awareness and employee support.

“It promotes healthy lifestyle habits through a three-pronged approach: physical activity, nutrition and work-life balance. Employees have access to coaching by health-care professionals, such as a kinesiologist or a dietitian and we have health fairs and workshops.”

In addition, there is an on-site gym, flexible work arrangements that feature Friday afternoons off and the Viva internal website that offers wellness information.

Congratulations to yet another employer who sees the value of wellness in helping employees achieve a healthier lifestyle and, in doing so, create a more productive, engaging place to work.

Why Isn’t Corporate Wellness Part Of The Health Care Reform Debate? Why? Why? Why?

25 Aug


I’m please my hometown newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, has offered an outstanding report that asks this very question. You can read the entire article here. Some of the highlights that caught my attention:

But even without new appropriations (there was some discussion about offering a tax credit to employers for supporting wellness initiatives which, sadly, have not been forwarded of late), employers say wellness programs — also known as health promotion programs — can keep workers healthy and reduce insurance claims, absenteeism and disability costs.

How much savings?

Proponents say a well-run, longtime program can cut costs by 25 percent, returning more than $5 for each $1 spent.

Sounds like a nice ROI– here are a couple of employers who are enjoying this return:

Union Pacific, one of four original Wellness Council members, estimated in 2000 that its program cut its health care costs by $40 million a year, more than making up for its $2.3 million annual budget.

Since then, the program has expanded and is so integrated into the company’s operations that it’s difficult to isolate the financial impact, said Jackie Austad, general director of health promotions.

The railroad company provides fitness centers or pays fees for employees at more than 600 facilities nationally. More than three dozen nurses at work sites oversee wellness activities, among other duties.

Its headquarters cafeteria posts nutrition and smoking cessation information. Other health-related activities, such as newsletters with such tidbits as how to make healthy fast-food choices, are under way regularly.

“It just becomes part of the culture, a way of thinking, a way of behaving,” Austad said. “That whole attitude becomes second nature to everybody. There are huge benefits to individual employees for improving their health, but we are a business and there is a business benefit, too.”

Bruce Lauritzen, chairman and CEO of First National Nebraska, said the banking company’s wellness program is effective.

“We’re definitely seeing some improvement,” he said.

Smaller companies can save money, too, although it’s difficult to calculate because one employee’s serious illness can overwhelm other employees’ lower costs.

Greater Omaha Packing Co.’s wellness program cuts its insurance premiums by an estimated $4,500 for each of its 825 employees, said Vice President Kathleen Krantz, and improves its absenteeism and retention.

But the objectives of the meat packer’s wellness program, which has “platinum” status under Wellness Council guidelines, go beyond money, she said.

“The most important thing is our employees’ health,” Krantz said. “When people are engaged in taking care of themselves, you really end up with healthy, productive employees.”


Why more employers aren’t investing in programs like this is beyond me. I’m also stunned that Congress isn’t even considering providing incentives to support corporate wellness, given the clear advantages.

The research in our upcoming book supports the value of this investment on the part of an employer– taking care of employees leads to higher levels of employee engagement.

Regardless of what Congress does, each employer has an opportunity, right now, to invest in the health and wellness of their associates, an investment that many employers see as great value.

Winning At Wellness

11 Mar


The online Insurance Journal showcases a company, Texas Mutual, that was one of ten companies recently recognized for their wellness programs.

Our research continues to show concern on the part of an employer for the well being of employees to be a significant driver of overall employee enagagement. Developing and implementing a wellness program is only one way an employer might show care and concern for this engagement driver, but we think it’s an important effort in this category.

I’m pleased that my new employer, the Silverstone Group, actively promotes wellness in the workplace. I’ve already seen the benefits of their efforts up front and personal. I encouage all employers to seriously consider wellness as a key component of their overall engagement strategy. Besides, the cost-benefit to an employer, regardless of impact on employee engagement, is more than worth the effort.

(Graphic courtesy of www.lumaxart.com)

Employee Engagement And Well Being– Two Sides Of The Same Coin

26 Feb

Consultant News has published a research study by Hewitt that shows yet additional evidence that well being and employee engagment may be two sides of the same coin– very much linked together:

“Research carried out in conjunction with the 2009 Best Employers in Canada study has established that highly engaged employees experience better health and overall well-being. This finding reinforces the benefits for both employers and employees of increasing employee engagement, according to Hewitt Associates, the global human resources consulting and outsourcing company that conducts the annual study.

“The 115,000 employees surveyed as part of the 2009 study clearly revealed that high engagement goes hand-in-hand with better health and well-being,” said Neil Crawford, leader of Hewitt’s Best Employers in Canada study. “Employees at organizations with high engagement reported better physical health, lower job stress and work overload, and greater financial security. In addition, they also believe that their employer’s benefits plan contributes to their overall well-being, although there is room for improvement with respect to retirement savings programs.”

I read of the governmental plans to “reform” our health care, which is all fine and well. But perhaps the most important reform we can make would be to create better workplaces which, amongst other things, cares about the health and well being of employees. According to this study this may be, as they say, exactly what the doctor ordered.

“Health Scares Reduce Smoking but Not Waistlines, Survey Finds”

16 Feb


A study reported in the New York Times shows how our behavior is different when it comes to addressing a medical crisis and preventing another from happening:

Smokers are three times more likely to quit if they get a wake-up call in the form of a heart attack, stroke, lung disease or cancer diagnosis, a new study has found.

But obese and overweight people lose two to three pounds at most after being diagnosed with a serious illness like heart disease or diabetes, according to the same report. The study, which looked at weight loss only in people under age 75, was published on Monday in The Archives of Internal Medicine.

It’s not entirely clear why heart disease would motivate patients to quit smoking but not to slim down, but the author of the paper noted that many health plans don’t cover weight-loss programs (my emphasis), with the exception of bariatric surgery, while many businesses and local health departments offer free or low-cost smoking cessation programs.

“People really are open to changing their behaviors after a health event, and this could really be a window of opportunity,” said study author Patricia S. Keenan, assistant professor of health policy at Yale School of Medicine. “I’m not sure the health care system is capitalizing on it, in terms of giving people the support they need to make these changes as they go forward (my emphasis).”

Friends, we’ve got an opportunity here. In the course of our research we’ve identified companies that are offering extended well-care benefits, such as weight loss support, and are achieving positive results for the patients and lower health care claims— why are we all not jumping on this bandwagon?