Category: Corporate Wellness

law firms combat mental health issues
A study from the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that lawyers are much more likely to have problems with substance abuse and experience symptoms of depressions than the rest of the population. Specifically, 21% of the lawyers surveyed were heavy drinkers and 28% experienced symptoms of depression (compared to 8% or less of the general population). Researchers also found that “lawyers are less likely to seek help than others, out of confidentiality concerns and a fear of telling others they have a problem.”

It’s a double whammy for these individuals; their occupation exposes them to stressors from client demands and long hours. Meanwhile, many feel like they cannot get help. This seed of stigma is planted early in their career. As an article in the Wall Street Journal stated, “many state licensing boards ask detailed questions about an applicant’s history of mental illness and treatment, though without disclosing how the information will be use.” Law students, fearful for their employment potentials, avoid seeing a doctor or getting diagnosed with mental health diseases.

How are law firms reacting to this knowledge? The old mentality was to sweep it under the rug. Because of the cut-throat environment, showing any signs of weakness was not an option (or so they thought). However, as the effects of mental health issues grow along with staff productivity, law firms are forced to re-think their strategy to remain competitive. To stay on top of their game, they need employees to be healthy – physically and mentally. This is why many law firms are starting to invest in mental health support resources.

Hogan Lovells, an international law firm, offers on-site psychologist services for their London, New York, and D.C. offices, and has been seeing “rousing success.” Norton Rose Fulbright also works hard to eliminate the stigma around mental health issues by training 20 U.S. employees to be “mental-health first-aid responders.” The goal of these employees is to “spot warning signs of addiction or mental-health concerns and offer assistance.”

While it is encouraging to hear two large law firms addressing this issue, many others are still too concerned that their competitors will say that they have “crazy lawyers.” Known for their smarts and reasoning ability, law firms need to open their eyes to see the destruction depression brings to their people and their practice. For an industry that has the 11th highest suicide rate in the U.S., there is no time to waste.

Category: Engagement

On the Wellable blog, we write a lot about increasing employee retention and reducing turnover, knowing the astronomical costs associated with replacing employees. But what if we tell you that the best leaders, instead of hoarding talent for themselves, embrace letting their superstar employees go?talent management

Talent Flow vs. Talent Pool
This was the topic of a Wall Street Journal article called “Why the Best Leaders Want Their Superstar Employees to Leave.” The author spent years studying “the world’s greatest bosses across 18 industries, luminaries such as Ralph Lauren in fashion, Julian Robertson in hedge funds, Normal Brinker in casual restaurant, [etc.]” He found that “extraordinary leaders achieved outstanding results in large part because they abandoned conventional thinking about keeping the best employees.”

Great leaders understand that truly exceptional people have ambitious career trajectories and that trying to tie them down with one organization for years on end is not nearly as effective as harnessing their productivity when they still want to contribute and then letting them go when the time is right.

Another benefit to managing a continuous flow of talent, rather than the traditional ‘talent pool’ approach, is the natural assembly of an alumni network that has nothing but good things to say about the company. These ex-employees tend to be grateful for the valuable experience they’ve gotten and the support they received when it was time to leave. Specifically, many of these greatest bosses would go out of their way to either help employees start their own companies or provide splendid recommendations to assist in the next stage of their careers. Leaving with no hard feelings, these ex-employees become a source of future talent referrals and business opportunities that the company otherwise would have missed.

Sounds like a great strategy, right? What are the downsides to this approach?

The Downsides Of Talent Flow
The talent flow approach comes from the playbook of top corporate leaders, but not every company operates like a big corporation nor every employer has the endless resource of talent going in and out of their businesses. Especially if you are just starting out or if you’re still small, each employee has to wear multiple hats and fill multiple roles, which means replacing these employees translate to much higher training costs. Also, constantly having people come and go means more disruption to your company’s workflow. This is problematic, given the fast pace you need to remain competitive in this crowded market.

Ambition Or Trouble Fitting In?
While some superstar employees leave because of their career trajectories, many others simply want to find a more suitable workplace environment. In these cases, letting them go might not be the answer; focusing on creating a culture that is more talent-friendly would be the right thing to do.

importance of company culture and employee engagement
If your organization is big enough to manage talent flow efficiently, embracing this tactic will pay off in the long run. However, if you are not yet on this scale, developing a workplace culture that encourages people to stay for as long as they can is critical.  Even large employers need to focus on culture and employee experience in order to ensure talent flow is a product of career trajectory rather than dissatisfaction.

Related articles:
Courting Millennials: Lessons From Market Research
Office Perks And Company Culture Are Not The Same Thing
Stress Is Ruining Employee Experience
Report: Why Your Employees Are Leaving (And How to Retain Talent)
Workplace Unfairness Driving Employee Turnover in Tech Sector


Category: Wellness

wellable meditation boosts employee wellness

mindfulness (n): the awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, sensations, actions, and surroundings in the present moment (International Journal of Workplace Health Management)

Mindfulness is no longer exclusive to productivity hackers in Silicon Valley – many companies are embracing the practice, hoping to train a mentally fit workforce.

However, there was little imperial evidence on whether mindfulness actually improves mental well-being, limiting its reach and usage in the corporate setting. Fortunately, a new study from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management set out to validate the efficacy of mindfulness in boosting employee wellness.

According to the eight-week study, the group that received mindfulness training “significantly increased their mindfulness skills including observing and acting with awareness [compared to the control group]. Scores on well-being, i.e. satisfaction with life, hope and anxiety also improved and were generally maintained at follow-up.” This improvement translates to better performance on the job, including “improved concentration at work and better interpersonal relationships.”

This is good news for mindfulness enthusiasts, since it validates a long-held belief: meditation and mindfulness training help employees become mentally fit. However, there is a limitation to this study. With a sample size of 23, these results are not generalizable. That being said, it does set the foundation for larger-scale research projects.  Future studies can help improve understanding of how frequent sessions should be delivered or the impact the delivery medium (i.e., group, virtual, or remote training with audio guide) has on efficacy.

As mindfulness becomes more popular, employers can easily fall into the rut of allowing individuals to seek out their own mindfulness resources (similar to the way yoga joined the mainstream).  Although this may seem like a prudent decision from a cost perspective, investing in employee health by providing efficacious solutions is never a bad idea. In addition to improving the ability of employees to be effective at work, companies that show a genuine interest in helping employees become better versions of themselves will stand out and win on the retention battleground.

Are you embracing mindfulness practices to improve employee well-being?

Category: Corporate Wellness

stress, wellable stress, stress is ruining your employee experience
More than half of U.S. workers reported an increase in stress levels in the last five years.  According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, “36% of employees suffer from work-related stress, which costs U.S. businesses $30 billion a year in lost workdays.” Furthermore, 56% of employees said stress and anxiety most often impact their workplace performance. You get the idea: the stakes are high, and employers cannot afford to ignore workplace stress for much longer.

Not only is stress a well-known productivity killer, it also cages up employees’ creativity and makes them more risk-averse. Stress prevents employees from bringing their best and most creative selves to work.

Unfortunately, many employers are not fully admitting their roles in creating stressful environments for their workers. The typical response is to put the responsibility on employees: it’s their lives, they have to take care of themselves, etc. However, as Marjorie Paloma puts it beautifully in a Harvard Gazette’s article: “It’s up to all of us to make healthy choices, but the choices we make are really as good as the choices we have.” For employees to make better choices, employers need to first provide them with better options.

Not owning up to the mistakes is the quickest way to lose talent. An option that makes much more business sense is to look at where the problems are and treat the root causes. Data has shown that the main culprits of work-related stress are:
– Deadlines
– Interpersonal relationships
– Staff management
– Dealing with issues/problems that arise

It is worth noting here that even though we love yoga and meditation as much as the next guy, simply throwing yoga classes in the mix only serves as the bandage – it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. The real culprit to employee stress is the company’s negative workplace culture: how employees (and their managers) deal with deadlines, interact with coworkers, are managed as well as how the company as a whole deals with problems that arise in everyday operations.

To make it worse, employees who are already stressed feel even more stuck because of the stigma surrounding mental health. “Only 40% of employees whose stress interferes with work have talked to their employer about it.” This means that the other 60% are suffering silently. To them, disclosing this information might lead to others perceiving them as weak (31%), laugh at them or not take them seriously (20%), or that their boss would interpret it as lack of interest or unwillingness to do the activity (34%).  In short, unresolved stress creates even more pressure, which comes back and haunts both workers and employers in the long run.

One more alarming fact: stress happens to the most ambitious and energetic of us. For instance, younger workers are more prone to feeling stressed at work than their older counterparts. These employees are the ones full of energy, ready to make a difference, and have so much to give to “rise the ranks,” which inadvertently makes them more prone to overworking and stress. Specifically, there are a variety of things that can contribute to this group’s deteriorating mental health, including their “perceived need to prove more about their worth to their employers”, “how life experiences to this point have not readied them for the rigors and harsh realities of employment”, and “an unfulfilled desire to achieve healthy work-life balance”. When idolizing a workaholic like Elon Musk who repeatedly talked about how people pulling through 100 hour work weeks can achieve much more than others, putting in unreasonable long work hours suddenly feels like a prerequisite to getting a good life.

Luckily, you don’t have to succumb to the cultural norms; improving your team members’ experience is possible, it just takes time and effort. Achieving a complete “cultural overhaul” requires an all-hands-on-deck approach and buy-in from the top. You can’t start today and expect to see a difference tomorrow, but you do need to start somewhere. Here are some few ideas you can begin implementing to improve your employee experience.

#1 Move Away From An “Always On” Culture
The expectation that employees should turn off their computers to go home, only to check their work emails and continue to work is a problematic one. Yes, having dedicated workers on the team is good, but no, creating a culture expecting employees to work 10 hours a day, five or six days a week is not a good habit to have. Communicating expectations clearly that employees should rest and relax after their long day of work allows them to relax, knowing that they are not being evaluated based on the amount of work done outside of the office.

#2 Nurture Psychological Safety
Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School gave a TEDx talk on this subject, which made it to Google’s list of 5 traits that most successful teams share. Fundamentally, psychological safety allows team members to open up and share their opinions, which also means admitting the shortcomings and asking for help when they need it. You can create a better working experience for your employees by letting them know that it is safe to express and contribute their opinions to peers and managers, and that you will listen when they come for help.

If you can foster a sense of psychological safety while still holding your employees accountable to produce high-quality results, your workplace environment would be qualified as a “high-performing zone” per Professor Edmondson’s standards.

#3 Be Flexible
Whenever you can accommodate it, give employees the option to control what, where, and when they can work without fear of penalties. For example, forcing night owls and early risers to work on the same schedule might not be optimal; nor should parents feel like they have to go to the office when they can easily finish their task remotely from home to take care of a sick child.

#4 Educate Employees On The Topic Of Stress, Remove The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
By starting that dialogue, you can show that management cares and that stress is nothing to be ashamed of. This way, not only will employees become more open to sharing their stress with supervisors but they will also be more willing to share with their colleagues, creating a peer-to-peer support structure. Note that interpersonal relationships are a significant source of stress, building this bridge might be a good first step to improving co-workers’ relationships down the line.

More articles on employee experience that you might be interested in…
Employee experience delivers ROI
Study Quantified Value of Employee Health Engagement
Courting Millennials: Lessons From Market Research
Office Perks And Company Culture Are Not The Same Thing

Category: Wellable News

Between March and April of this year, Wellable hosted the Step Into Spring Ortho Challenge.  The four-week step challenge had 14 large orthopedic groups across the United States compete for ultimate bragging rights, cool t-shirts, and gift cards.  At the end of the challenge, which consisted of 1,161 participants, Wellable issued a user survey.  The results were interesting and impressive so we thought we would share some of the findings with you.

Question #1
what is your experience with consumer health and wellness technologies prior to and during the wellness challenge? This question provides context on the number of individuals that started tracking their activity with technology as a result of the program, and as we know from research, activity trackers can improve health when people actually use them.  An often misconception about wellness challenges is that participants are limited to individuals who already track their health.  In this challenge, more than 50% of respondents never used or were not actively using consumer wellness technologies to track their activity prior to the challenge.  This is a significant number of individuals who gained awareness and started using these solutions in their daily lives.

Question #2
How likely is it that you would continue to use wellness technologies after the challenge ends?

This question is an extension of the prior survey question and is designed to measure the lasting impact of the challenge on personal activity tracking. Approximately 93% of respondents were likely or very likely to continue using consumer wellness technologies after the challenge. This dispels another common misconception that suggests challenges have a short-term impact. That being said, our experience suggests that engagement does slowly attrition off, which is why running periodic challenges can serve as a boost to keep sustainable engagement high.

Question #3
during the wellness challenges, were you motivated to increase your physical activity and live a healthier life?

This metric speaks for itself. Employees want to know that their employer cares for them. Employers should also be concerned that employees perceive them as “caring” because “caring” companies have employees that thrive. Offering programs that motivate healthier living is a great way for employers to show that they care.


“I enjoyed the challenge, it took me out of my comfort zone.”

“ […] We’ve done walking challenges in the past; however, [we] were doing it manually and it was very time-consuming for team captains to administer. I hope we participate in future challenges!”

“I loved it and I’m ready for the next challenge!”

“I was surprised about the number of people this motivated to get moving and to be more consistent. I felt the program was more successful that similar events we have tried in the past […]”

“Great concept to encourage exercise and […] allow the company to work together towards a common goal.”

“I really enjoyed the challenge. This really helped motivate me to begin my own workout routine. Thank you!”

The participants in the Step Into Spring Ortho Challenge obviously had a blast!  Are you ready to achieve the same for your organization?

Category: Engagement

Employee turnover is a sticky problem for HR managers, as replacing employees (especially good ones) can be costly. Understanding why employees stay or leave can give managers a leg up in this competitive job market where talented individuals have plenty of options to choose from. Fortunately, Work Institute recently published a report detailing reasons why employees leave their organizations. We highly recommend you to check it out; however, if you’re in a crunch for time, here are the key takeaways:

#1 Cost Of Employee Turnovercosts associated with turnover, turnover costs
Whenever an employee leaves, the business incurs both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs are put out to cover the separation, replacement, and training for new hires. Indirect costs, on the other hand, are reflected in the lost productivity. On average, Work Institute estimated that the cost of turnover is 33% of a worker’s annual salary. With a national average salary of $45,000, employers lose around $15,000 for each employee leaving. Of course, this number can be much larger in metropolitan areas where average salaries are higher.

#2 Ten Categories of Reason for Leaving, 75% Are Preventable
Work Instituted divided employees’ reasons for leaving into ten categories. They are:

  • Career Development (opportunities for growth, achievement, and security)
  • Work Environment (physical and cultural surroundings)
  • Management Behavior (positive and productive relationships)
  • Job Characteristics (ownership and enjoyment in manageable work)
  • Compensation & Benefits (total rewards promised and received)
  • Work-Life Balance (travel and scheduling preferences)
  • Well-Being (physical, emotional, and family-related issues)
  • Relocation
  • Retirement
  • Involuntary

Within these categories, there are 65 reasons why employees left their former companies. While Career Development is the biggest reason, other environmental and cultural reasons also play a major role. Note here that most of these factors are actually controllable and preventable if the company pays attention to their employees’ needs and opinions.

top reasons for employees leaving
#3 ⅓ of All Turnover Occurs Within The First Year Of Employment
This fact is extremely alarming, because generally “it takes employees up to 3 – 6 months on the job before they add enough value to offset the cost of their hiring, onboarding, and compensation and benefits.” For this reason, if employees leave within their first year of employment, companies might realize little positive return (or even none at all) on these hires.

Intriguingly, this group of leavers is more likely to cite Job Characteristics, Well-being, and Work-Life Balance as reasons to leave than their long-term counterparts:

  • Job Characteristics, as Work Institute pointed out, can be improved by “listen[ing] to workers to ensure appropriate preferences are met and expectations are set beginning with recruitment and throughout the onboarding process into the job itself.”
  • Well-being and Work-life balance, on the other hand, is a continual process that companies need to work on all the time; they are the results of your workplace culture. If you focus on taking care of your employees and their dependents, their well-being and work-life balance are likely to improve. If, however, managers and companies consider their workers as machines to be exploited, then it is not a surprise that well-qualified employees choose to devote their time and effort somewhere else.

#4 Small Investments In Retention Yields High Returns
As mentioned above, it costs an average of $15,000 each time an employee leaves their company. That means that a $100,000 investment will pay for itself if it prevents seven employees from leaving if they otherwise haven’t. Of course, this number varies by companies, because a $100,000 might sound like a small fortune for some businesses and a drop in a bucket for others. Regardless, investing in your employee experience will set your organization apart from the thousands of others who are thirsty for the same talent that you have on your team.

“Those who rate their employer as fair or poor are 9.7 times more likely to look for a job within 12 months than those who rate their employer as excellent. Those who rate their employer as good or very good are 2.8 times more likely to look for a job within 12 months than those who rate their employer as excellent.”

Fortunately, there are a lot of small things you can do to create a better employee experience and reduce turnover. We have discussed at length on this blog about the ways you can take care of your employees. Below is a list of our readers’ favorites:

Communicating Benefits To Millennials
Soft Benefits Growing In Importance

Workplace Culture:
Practical Tips To Build A Culture Of Health
Courting Millennials: Lessons From Market Research

Improving Productivity By Cultivating Good Sleep
DIY: How Do I Organize A Step Challenge?

If you found this article helpful, feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues! As always, let us know if you like our content and what you’d like to see next on our blog, we’re always here to help!

Category: Facts and Research

Technology companies are widely seen as organizations on the forefront of workplace trends.  This is largely due to rich and novel benefits (think Google, Facebook, and others) and a disproportionate number of millennials, which comprise the largest part of the global workforce, in their ranks.  These leading companies often set compensation and benefit trends and are widely seen as great places to work, but they too are struggling with employee turnover.  A new study from the Kapor Center for Social Impact identifies what causes millennials to leave “great” technology companies.

The Tech Leavers Study is a “first-of-its-kind national study examining why people voluntarily left their jobs” in the technology sector.  From a sample of more than 2,000 U.S. adults who left a job in a technology-related industry or function within the last three year, the study found that workplace culture drives turnover.  Specifically, unfairness or mistreatment is the most frequently cited reason for leaving a job in technology, which is a $16 billion problem that the industry needs to address.

As highlighted in the chart below, women of color experienced the greatest amounts of workplace unfairness.  Since the benefits of diversity have been widely shown to be positive, employers are only hurting themselves by allowing such practices to still exist.  How many talented employees has Uber lost as part of their toxic culture?

The silver lining in the study is that employees would be willing to stay if companies took steps to improve their culture (hint, hint).  In order to reduce the amount of unfairness at work, the authors recommended employers implement comprehensive strategies around diversity and inclusion, create an inclusive culture by developing a code of conduct by using employee surveys and providing transparency, and develop a concrete system for compensation practices and employee review processes.

Whether through wellness or workplace fairness, readers of this blog should now know that culture is king.  There is no amount of bean bags and free beer that will keep talented employees at a company, especially millennials.  Employers should focus on building a strong culture, which is far harder to replicate than expanding benefits.  Organizations with strong cultures have a competitive advantage that will pay dividends for years to come.

Category: Facts and Research

Al Lewis, CEO of Quizzify, recently published an article called “Ten Myths about Employee Weight Loss Programs.” We created an infographic to give you a brief overview of his article, but don’t forget to visit Al’s article to learn more.
employee weight loss program facts and fictions
It is not to say that companies should give up on helping employees control their weight; Al and Quizzify simply call for more thoughtful and well-designed programs that move away from crash dieting and unnecessary screenings. Here at Wellable, we have also discussed at lengths on topics like weight-loss challenges and the ROI/VOI of wellness programs. Below are some related articles that you might find helpful:

School District Broadens Definition Of VOI For Employee Health
Most Employers Tracked VOI Measures For Wellness Programs

CDC Study: BMI Is Incorrect Indicator For 18% Of The U.S.
Another Study Shows BMI, Biometric Screenings Lack Efficacy

Weight-loss Programs
Biggest Loser Shows Weight Loss Challenges Don’t Work
Premium Reductions Don’t Help Employee Weight Loss

If you found this infographic helpful, feel free to share it with your network! Also, let us know what you’d like to learn more about from the Wellable Blog by tweeting us @GetWellable!

Category: Facts and Research

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs), which shift more of the upfront financial burden of healthcare expenses onto members, operate on the assumption that the financial risk associated with the plans will make members their own best care managers.  Also, these plans typically offer the greatest savings and are the lowest-cost option for employees in terms of their paycheck deduction, making them an attractive option.  As a result of this thinking, HDHPs have grown significantly over the years with 53% of employers offering them as an option (up from 39% in 2015), according to Healthcare Trends Institute’s fourth annual Benefits Benchmark Survey.

The survey also identified how employers are bracing for increasing costs and rounding out the top three were efforts to increase employee health care engagement (22%) and wellness and health management programs (18%).  In laymen terms, employers should help employees become more knowledgeable consumers of healthcare and engage in healthy behaviors to prevent costly healthcare encounters.

In regard to health literacy, employers need to provide members with the resources and tools to understand how healthcare works and how to make better purchasing decisions when it comes to consuming healthcare.  This goes beyond providing resources and materials that employees will never look at.  One option would be to offer a gamified approach to health literacy with tools like Quizzify.  Engaging employees in health literacy is different than simply offering resources, and employers need to be more proactive in addressing gaps in literacy, especially as they see their employees flock to lower-premium HDHPs.

The same can be said about wellness programs (i.e., employers need to be proactive and innovative).  Since HDHPs are often associated with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), providing wellness programs linked to contributions to HSA accounts can encourage employees to engage in healthier lifestyle while creating financial reserves that can offset their high deductibles.  Since many employers already contribute funds to HSA accounts on behalf of employees, the budgetary impact to linking these contributions to wellness engagement can be minimal.  Wellable is currently running similar programs with employers, and their employees are benefiting from these programs in multiple ways.

If the growth of HDHPs continues, employers offering innovative ways to assist employees with the transition will benefit from a happier and more financially well workforce.

Category: Facts and Research

people sitting with their devices, depression
Prolonged sitting has been called “the new smoking” because of its adverse effects on heart health. Now, being glued to the seat is also linked to mental health symptoms; researchers in Australia recently found a link between prolonged sitting, low activity levels, and depression.

The group set out to follow 8,950 women, aged 50 to 55 to study the progression of their depression symptoms in connection with their sitting habits. The subjects completed surveys in 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2010 with information about their sitting and exercising habits as well as their current health conditions. Researchers found a 47% higher risk for depressive symptoms among women who sat for more than seven hours a day compared to ones who sat for four or fewer hours. Additionally, individuals who followed physical activity guidelines (at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days) were much better off compared to their sedentary counterparts – a whopping 99% lower risk.

What about the ones who neither workout nor avoid sitting too much? Tripled risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.

This is not the first time researchers linked sitting with depression. The Telegraph wrote about a study of 25,000 people that showed “an association between sitting in front of a computer for five hours a day and experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety.” Similarly, another study in the Biofeedback Journal reported that people who slouch in their chairs experience a decrease in energy levels and increase in depressive feelings.

Of course, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation – The Huffington Post quickly pointed out that “the study only shows an association and doesn’t tease out whether depression causes one to want to sit or incline to inactivity, or if sitting for too long actually makes one depressed.”

Regardless, with the mounting evidence of how toxic excessive sitting can be to our health, employers should seriously evaluate the consequences of having employees glued to their chair all day at work. These health issues, both mentally and physically, will negatively affect engagement, morale, and ultimately productivity.

Given the fact that employees spend almost half of their waking hours at work, there are a lot of things you can do to make your office space more walking friendly. Try simple tactics such as holding walking meetings, organizing quick bursts of workouts intermittently throughout the day, and designing offices to encourage extra steps. Whichever activity you go with, remember that one-off programs are not very effective at changing the culture for the better. Focusing on developing a long-term wellness program will be much more beneficial for both employees and the bottom line.

Check out our Pinterest Board for office workout ideas!

pinterest board for office workout wellable