Trends for 2018 Employee Wellness

2017 to 2018 rolloverEvery year brings about improvements and trends within the employee wellness space. Companies are looking for ways to increase engagement within their wellness programs and this year it seems it is turning personal. With the access to digital platforms it is easier than ever to get the employee engaged and keep them engaged with push notifications, text messages, and online challenges with social components.  The trend of mobile devices within this space is increasing too. Go365, a wellness vendor owned by Humana, states that 65% of their 9.8 million hits as of July 2017 were from a mobile app and they predict by the end of 2017 it will increase to 75%.* This gives the flexibility to the employee to utilize the programs at their pace and customize to their needs while allowing the employer to step back from the day to day dealings of the program.

One of the fastest growing wellness trends will be stand up desks and work stations.** The average office worker sits 5 hours and 40 minutes each day. Studies have shown this could be as hazardous to their health as smoking. Currently only 23% of employees are using a stand up desk and a GPN poll shows that 53% of employees are wanting them. If it is not feasible to put an adjustable desk at each work station, consider designating an area in your office that is big enough for a few stand up workstations and let the employees sign up for 30 minute time slots.

Stress can be caused by several different factors and it will eventually affect the employees’ productivity, morale, and absenteeism. Companies are starting to take notice and in 2018 it is predicted that they will be making more investments and spending more time promoting mindfulness, meditation, offering mental health days, and covering therapy costs.  Whether it is mindfulness classes, yoga classes, quiet rooms, or offering access to therapy or counseling services; employers want to help employees manage their stress levels.  Lack of sleep is another factor that can raise stress levels and some companies are opting for flexible hours to help employees deal with this issue. Spending less time in traffic allows them time to rest at home.***

The overall theme is personalization. All employees are different and they will be more apt to engage in wellness initiatives if it is something that will affect them personally. When strategizing your plans for this year, keep these trends in mind for your workplace for a successful new year. Feel free to contact me with any questions at tblocker@w3ins.com.

On behalf of W3 Insurance, we wish you and your employees a Happy and Healthy New Year!

*Go365 webinar 10/17
**http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/11/20/5-workplace-well-being-trends-to-watch-in-2018
***https://www.forbes.com/sites/alankohll/2017/12/13/8-trends-that-will-impact-worksite-wellness-in-2018/#5da8a758227a

Have a Healthy, Stress-free Holiday Season

The holiday season can be very stressful for your employees. Everyone has extra demands put on them during this season; whether it is going to the Holiday Play at their child’s school, attending the many parties with friends or co-workers, the holiday shopping, decorating their house, and meeting the end-of-year deadlines at work. Add these responsibilities together and it is a recipe for stress.

There are several ideas or programs that you can institute in your workplace to let your employees know that you understand and you want to help.

  1. Promote and encourage the company sponsored Employee Assistance Program. The trained counselors can assist your employees with many facets such as stress management, depression, and anxiety.
  2. Offer on-site meditation classes or prepare a “quiet room” where employees can escape to for 10-15 minutes of relaxing music surrounded by a calming decoration of plants and aromatic scents. Have yoga mats available for stretching or meditation.
  3. Encourage daily walking breaks to battle the stress. Employees can meet at a designated location and walk together. For remote employees, they can join in virtually and still feel connected to the group.
  4. Have a Licensed Massage Therapist offer chair massages at your worksite.
  5. Allow casual attire at the office during the holidays so employees are more comfortable and spend less time picking up dry cleaning or ironing their business clothes.
  6. Host office holiday parties during business hours to allow the employees to be home with their families after work.
  7. In lieu of the traditional office Christmas party, plan a “Give Back to the Community” day and teams of employees can volunteer. Have healthy snacks for their breaks and celebrate their accomplishments. There are website that will help you locate corporate volunteer opportunities: Points of Light or Habitat for Humanity.
  8. Keep healthy snacks in the break rooms so your employees don’t binge on the holiday treats and candy.

These options will help make wellness part of the culture twelve months a year.  On behalf of W3, we hope you and your employees have a safe and happy holiday season. If you need assistance with ideas for a healthy holiday planning, please feel free to contact me at tblocker@w3ins.com.

Holiday Wellness 101

Holidays are approaching and that means your employees will have less time for exercise, have increase stress levels, and will be attending lots of holiday parties.  According to the US New and World Reports, Americans will have an average weight gain of 1-5 pounds during the holiday season. If you multiply that by the number of employees in your organization the number can be staggering.

One fun and engaging way to combat holiday weight gain is to promote a “Maintain Don’t Gain” competition in your organization.  A Maintain Don’t Gain competition is simply a friendly competition that can incite a fresh new perspective on healthy holiday behaviors and get employees more motivated to help each other.

The Florida Department of Health is offering a Maintain Don’t Gain competition through an alliance with North Carolina State University. It is a FREE seven-week challenge that provides participants with support, education, recipes, and weekly emails throughout the holiday season. This is a free community resource available to your employees. For more information visit the website below:

http://www.healthiestweightflorida.com/activities/holiday.html

There are other options for employees wellness that you can promote during the holidays, such as lunch and learns, host a healthy “cook-off”, “holiday chair massages” , or offer healthy snacks in the break room.  Even simple programs to target holiday stress and weight management could make it a healthier, happier holiday season for your workplace. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or would like assistance with a holiday, tblocker@w3ins.com.

National Dental Hygiene Month

Want to prevent heart disease in your workplace? It starts with a healthy smile. Studies have shown that gum disease can lead to increased risk of heart disease.* Dental hygiene, which includes flossing, brushing, and rinsing on a daily basis are essential. Semi-annual cleanings at your dentist’s office are also vitally important in the prevention of gum disease to reduce plaque that can build up on the gums and get into the blood stream. Once in the bloodstream the germs can travel to the heart and increase the risk of heart disease.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month. This is a great time to promote your dental benefits that are available to your workforce. Preventive cleanings are usually covered at 100% for most carriers and your employees should be using this benefit.

Promoting dental hygiene to your employees is important. There is a great free poster available for downloading from the American Dental Hygienists Association. You can access this at the link below:

http://www.adha.org/resources-docs/2017_daily4_poster.pdf

If you have any questions or would like assistance in promoting the importance of dental hygiene, please feel free to contact me, tblocker@w3ins.com.

*American Academy of Periodontology. Gum Disease and Heart Disease.

Flu Season

September starts the season of flu vaccines. In preparation to prevent this year’s flu epidemic from affecting your workplace, now is the time to start promoting the flu vaccine. Whether your company decides to host an on-site flu clinic or to educate employees on where they can find participating retail pharmacies to get their vaccines, now is the time to start planning.

Many insurance carriers will authorize on-site clinics with a few regulations. You use their participating on-site provider and you must meet specific minimum participation requirements for the event. For workplaces that have multiple locations or remote employees, it may be difficult to plan an on-site clinic but you can still be instrumental in promoting the importance of prevention. Other simple strategies should be communicated to your employees to help them stay healthy and minimize the risk of spreading the flu.

Please feel free to contact me for assistance during this flu season (Trish Blocker, 727-522-7777 ext. 173 tblocker@w3ins.com). Together we can fight the flu one shot at a time.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

mental-1831391_960_720Mental health issues are often overlooked by coworkers or swept under the rug by employers. That means many workers are battling these issues alone. One of the most memorable stories I heard during my years in worksite wellness starts with a training class. The instructor was training their employees on a new computer system for a week. She noticed one employee kept to herself, seemed withdrawn and would always be late coming back from lunches and breaks. Normally your first reaction would be to reprimand the employee, but this instructor went above and beyond. She found the employee in the restroom crying and when she approached her and offered to help, the employee said she was fine. After spending a little time with her it was revealed that she was having some family trouble. The stress of the crisis affected her and her work. They found a counselor for her through their EAP and this helped her work through this stress before it became a bigger issue.

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Strategically Planning for Millennials in your Wellness Program

Planning for Millennials in your Wellness ProgramMillennials are those born in the early 1980s up to the early 2000s. According to the US Census Bureau Population Estimate in April 2016, millennials are fast becoming the biggest percentage of the workforce and a leading influence on the employers’ health plans and employee wellness programs.  Nine out of ten millennials have health insurance and 85% of them are employed. *

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Is Your Workplace Wellness Program Compliant in 2017?

Workplace wellness programs are constantly evolving, not only from the planning and strategy of the programs but also from the compliance aspect. Last year was an active year in for the EEOC. They had two new regulations passed in regards to employee wellness program that refer to the guidelines from the ADA and GINA.  Both of these regulations passed last year and became effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2017.

The first rule provides guidance around the employer-sponsored wellness programs as they pertain to employees with health restrictions and disabilities (ADA) and non-employee/spouses health information (GINA).  It states that programs must be voluntary and an employer cannot deny access to the health plan if an employee refuses to participate. Reasonable accommodations must be available to employees with disabilities that are unable to participate or complete the program.

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Gaps in Care

It’s the beginning of a new year and you and your Wellness Committee have strategized your company’s health improvement plan. You are feeling confident that you will address the main health risks in your employee demographics. Of course, we know it is impossible to hit all the topics needed within a wellness program, but are you covering some topics that could be very detrimental to their health and your claims? I am referring to gaps in care for preventative, age appropriate, screenings such as mammograms, colonoscopies, PSA screenings, skin cancer screenings, dental and vision exams.

Some employers have gone above and beyond to address this situation, such as giving employees a chance to “call in well”.  This program gave the employee 4 hours PTO to use for a preventative visit (with verification required).  Another program would incentivize the employee with points or gift cards when they show proof of screenings and immunizations completed.

As the workforce is showing a significant number of older workers, are they being proactive about their health? One of the best programs that I ran across in my years in workplace wellness was at a local school system. They started a “Mention Prevention” Campaign and reminded the employees about the services available to them for free and celebrated success stories. Not only did they post the educational materials on their intranet, they send out postcards with the information. They had pictures of breast cancer survivors holding a very large number, that number represented the number of years they have been a survivor and told their story of early detection and the importance of screenings. They invested in posters and worked with their carrier to make it easy for the employees to find what screenings they should be doing and what was covered and the in-network providers.

To give another example of closing the gap on prevention, I was at a client’s biometric event. After a few years of the biometric screenings they decided, because they had an older workforce population, to offer PSA screenings and thyroid screenings to employees over 50. (This is an option with most on-site biometrics vendors.) The next year a gentleman came up to us and thanked us. He said he was 57 and never went to the doctor because he thought he was healthy. Last year at the biometrics event he took advantage of the free PSA screenings and the results showed an elevated PSA. He followed up with a doctor and was told he had early stage prostate cancer. It was caught it in time to be treatable and he was grateful to his employer for offering this service.

It is stories like these that make employee wellness such an important part of today’s workplace culture.

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New Year, New Logo

I know what you are thinking; we don’t need a new logo. Our company has had the same logo for generations and we have built a reputation around it and our customers relate to our logo. And yes you would be correct, but that is not the logo I was referring to in the title. I was referring to a branded logo for your wellness program.

Related imageImagine if you had a Wellness Logo that your employees could identify with and know that your company is committed to their health improvement. A logo that shows what you are trying to accomplish through the wellness program and to create a sustainable culture of healthy lifestyles and healthy employees. The employees will relate more to future communications branded with the logo and it will help distinguish your wellness program communications from the multiple emails and flyers they receive regarding benefit, compliance, payroll, etc.

To take it one step further, you can order branded merchandise that the employees can use on a daily basis and as an additional benefit this will add exposure to your wellness program. Examples of these branded items could be shirts, hats, water bottles, lunch bags, resistance bands, etc. You can either distribute these items to each employee, give to employees when they participate in an activity, or use as prizes for wellness champs. The more they see the wellness logo, the more they will accept the new healthy culture that you are working towards.

Your logo should represent your goals for your company and for your employee wellness program. Putting a jpeg of an apple with your company name is not an effective wellness logo but a car dealership that uses “Driving to good health” would be a good example. If you need assistance with designing or ideas, please feel free to contact me at tblocker@w3ins.com.

Happy New Year and happy new logo!