Category: Mobile Wellness

wellable news fitbit alta hr
Fitbit recently released Alta HR, their newest activity tracker.  The device is an upgrade from their popular predecessor, the Alta tracker, the main difference between the two being the heart rate tracking functionality.  Thanks to PurePulse, Alta HR can now measure continuous heart rate data and improved sleep data.  Below is a quick look into the new features of the watch and how it can play into the success of an employee wellness program.

PurePulse Heart Rate Tracker
Given the popularity of the heart rate tracking feature, it is a no-brainer that Fitbit adds this functionality to one of its most popular devices.  PurePulse uses photoplethysmography, a technology that shines green LED light through the wrist skin to detect blood flow.  The standard and clinical way to measure heart rate is by using ECG, which reads electrical activities.

There is still a debate over the accuracy of photoplethysmography.  In fact, Fitbit got into a messy lawsuit last summer after the release of a validation study, which claimed that Fitbit heart rate measurements are incorrect and inconsistent.  The company rejected the claims, saying that it was “baseless and biased.”  They also provided a Consumer Reports test, which concluded that the technology used on two tested watches was “very accurate.”

Regardless, one should take both claims with a grain of salt.  Consumer Reports conducted the test with a sample size of two, and the validation study had only 43 participants.  Both are limited in scientific rigor and clinical research methodologies.

The verdict: Consumer heart-rate monitoring technologies are still young and underdeveloped.  Users should treat the result from these devices as a point of reference, not a clinical or medical data.  For that reason, heart rate calculated by these devices should not be used as a scale of measurement in wellness programs.

Sleep Tracker
Fitbit sleep stages mobile appSleep-tracking seems to be increasingly important to users when choosing wearables.  In this arsenal, Fitbit devices beat Apple Watches, mainly because of their longer battery life.  Apple Watches have significantly less battery life and need to be charged nightly, making them a less attractive option for people who want to track sleep.

Older Fitbit wearables, like other wearable devices, use the accelerometer to track the movement of users when they sleep.  However, this information is only helpful to track sleep duration (even this is debatable).  Sleep quality is not only about how long you sleep but also about the duration of each sleep stage.  Accelerometers are not useful when it comes to this measurement.

With the addition of the heart rate monitor, Alta HR has a new sleep-phase tracking feature. Fitbit claims that they can now accurately measure which sleep stage user is in.  However, since the device and technology are so new, there is limited evidence on whether this data is accurate.  To date, the most accurate way to measure sleep quality is to measure brain waves and eye movements, which can only be done in clinical sleep labs.  Further unbiased testing is needed before we can judge the accuracy of Alta HR’s sleep phase data.

The verdict: As mentioned before, consumer sleep tracking technology is still unreliable. Managers should not rely this data when making decisions on employee health and other wellness initiatives.  You can, however, start other initiatives in the office to improve employee’s shuteye time.

Call, Text, And Calendar
While Alta HR is not comparable to other smart watches like the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear (nor does it cost nearly as much), it still allows users to check their calls, texts, and calendars from the small screen.

Some people may be hesitant when it comes to sending phone notification to watches, as they can be real productivity killers.  There is nothing more aggravating than trying to focus when your watch is constantly buzzing with people spamming in a group chat!  However, a quick Google search on the topic provides lots of articles on how wearable can improve productivity.  Most of them have to do with the use of big data and the positive impact on physical health.

The verdict: “Know thyself” when it comes to the use of wearable devices.  Managers should know both the disruptive potentials of buzzing watches and the ability to upgrade office productivity using big data.  Make decisions based on what works best for employees and company culture.

Final Words
Alta HR is a good addition to the Fitbit family; it is aesthetically designed and functional.  However, users and managers should only consider health data collected by a device as a fun way to become more conscious of their everyday activity and not a medical-grade data used in decision making.  The wearable device market has come a long way since the original Fitbit Zip and still has a long way to go.  In the future, heart rate, sleep, and other data tracked from wearable devices will have a place in employee wellness programs, but as good stewards of organizational health, companies should wait until the technology matures prior to incorporating them into their program.


Category: Wellness

blog header, national nutrition month, health culture, nutrition

March is the National Nutrition Month, which means we get to spend a whole month talking about food.  Count us in!

Created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), this year’s theme is to “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” a clever way to remind everyone that each bite counts and that small changes in what individuals eat can make all the difference.

While all workplace wellness programs should touch upon nutrition year-round, it is not a bad idea to dedicate a whole month to educating employees on the topic.  The AND created lots of good content that is free on their main website. Employers might find it helpful to use these resources to guide their wellness initiative efforts.

Should you need more ideas, below is a list of curated resources on the topic.

#1 Event Ideas
Events are a great way to bring people together and provide a sense of camaraderie among colleagues working towards a common goal.

  • Employee Lunch Potluck – This idea comes from the AND toolkit.  Everyone brings their favorite healthy dish to share with their co-workers.  Even better, ask employees to submit recipes to compete in the “Best Recipe Competition.”  You can give a healthy cookbook out as the prize.
  • Nutrition Lunch and Learn – Invite a dietitian/nutritionist/health coach to come and give a presentation on healthy eating.  Provide a “takeaway station” for resources that employees can collect and bring back.
  • The F&V Challenge – Fruits and vegetables are essential, but if you’ve never given it much thought, where do you start?  Kick-off employees’ healthy eating habit by running a F&V Challenge.  For two weeks, encourage participants to add vegetables and fruit to all their meals.  Organizers can start a Pinterest board where people upload pictures as “proof.”  They should also share the recipes with their submissions, which can also be put together to create a healthy cookbook!
  • Breakfast/Lunch Bar – If budget permits it, offer employees a breakfast or lunch buffet with healthy options.  It can be as simple as yogurt with fruits and granola or an omelet station.  Your employees will appreciate the free meal and taste first-hand how delicious nutritious foods can be!

#2 Posters To Put Up Around The Office

Posters help create a lively atmosphere in the office.  They turn dull, white walls into a montage of information that employees can stop by and take a quick look.

Quick tip: Bathroom doors are the prime estate for posters!

You want your posters to be eye-catching, avoid ones filled with big blocks of words.  They’re less likely to make an impact because they tend to scare people away. It’s better to put up many simple ones that will deliver bite-size information.

Check out the Wellable Pinterest Board with informational posters to use around the office. Also, check out our eBook for free flyers to post!

#3 Nutrition Book Club
Though the internet has a lot of short articles on nutrition, books are still superior in quality.  A good book is one written by an author who’s an expert in the field and who has done years of research.

By encouraging employees to exchange books and discuss in groups, you are fostering conversations and engagement in the company.  There are many options out there to choose from, but if you want a list of books to kick things off, here are some suggestions.

*This is not a comprehensive list and inclusion does not represent endorsement by Wellable

  • How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger, M.D.  He breaks down the book into the top 15 causes of death and how food can be used to prevent and even treat them.  Dr. Greger is also the founder of NutritionFacts.org, a website filled with evidence-based information on healthy eating.
  • Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. with Howard Jacobson, Ph.D.  This book is T. Colin Campbell’s follow-up on his bestseller The China Study (another must-read!).  Campbell is a proponent of whole foods over nutritionally isolated counterparts, such as pills, supplements, and fortified foods.
  • Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole, M.D., R.D. and Elyse Resch, MS, R.D., F.A.D.A.  This book is technically not about nutrition; it’s about building better eating habits.  Given Americans’ love for super-sized meals, the authors’ intuitive approach has earned a place in many health-oriented book clubs.
  • 10% Human: How Your Body’s Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness by Alanna Collen.  This is another unconventional suggestion, as it does not discuss solely nutrition.  The main subject is microbiota, the trillions of microorganisms living within us and how they can affect wellbeing, both physically and mentally.  Collen shows the importance of living a harmonious life with these organisms, including eating the right diet.  The book is firmly based on peer-reviewed research, an impressive feat given that the research field itself is still in its infancy.

Nutrition is an important topic that needs special attention.  Regardless of how you want to celebrate National Nutrition Month, aim to help your employees Put Their Best Fork Forward by living a healthy and flavorful life.  This can be done using the campaign’s five key messages:

  • Create an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.
  • Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.
  • How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Eat and drink the right amount for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do.
  • Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.
  • Manage your weight or lower your health risks by consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.
CTA 10 free wellness flyers wellable


Category: Facts and Research

blog header, employee retention, millennials, millennial employees, wellable

In this world of low loyalty, it feels like employees are always having one foot out the door. Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, are the least loyal of all. In fact, two-thirds of millennials surveyed said that they see themselves switching jobs in the next four years.

Employers are not facing the struggle alone. Brands spend millions of dollars courting millennials, using bulk advertising to make up for the low retention rate. Just like how you try to learn more about your partner on the first date, companies use market research to discover millennials’ likes and dislikes, aspirations, and beliefs.

At first, it seems like a consumer brand and a hiring organization are on the opposite ends of the cash flow; one takes money out of millennial pockets while the other one supplies it. However, both need millennials to like and trust them before they can do any business. Yet, managers often forget that they, just like consumer brands, need to make their millennial employees happy to retain talent.

Intuitively, company managers can learn from tactics brands are using to inspire millennials to work better and more effectively as well as to align their benefits with that of the organization. Learn to speak “millennials’ language” to reduce turnover rate and increase employee engagement and loyalty with these four strategies that brands are using right now to attract customers.

#1 Focus On Health
Millennials are more likely to care about personal health relative to other generations. It impacts the way they conduct themselves professionally; millennials appreciate people who take care of them, whether it is hotels, restaurants, or employers.

But where do you start? Health and wellness encompasses many different components, such as physical, mental, and financial. If you need to pick a starter, learn from brands that are focusing on millennials’ preference for fitness and nutrition.

Fitness
Hotels are rolling out yoga mats to entice fitness fanatics and the health-conscious alike. Nearly half of millennials said that a premium fitness center with options for on- or off-site exercise classes was influential when they decide on where to stay. In fact, 49% of millennials said they viewed an on-site gym as one of the most important features of a hotel. Hotels managers are anticipating the demand with 85% of hotels having fitness facilities last year compared to 63% in 2004.

Takeaway lesson: Create an active culture in your company by offering on-site classes, gym reimbursements, or holding a sports day.

Nutrition
While previous generations look at healthy options as ones with low calories, no fat, or minimal sugar, millennials are gravitating towards consuming whole foods. To them, healthy foods mean fresh products that are less processed and contain fewer artificial ingredients.

what healthy food at a restaurant means

Takeaway lesson: If you provide food in the company kitchen, avoid the packaged snacks. Stock up on natural and healthy items such as fresh fruits, nuts, and other unprocessed options.

healthy workplace kitchen ebook, wellable, healthy kitchen, employee wellness
#2 Customer Service Is King
Because of the economic downturn, high student debt, and lower pay than the previous generations, U.S. millennials are much more likely to shop around for the cheapest options. Brand loyalty is a hard asset to earn these days. What are brands doing to counteract this?

They provide superior customer service.

How does Trader Joe’s compete with big grocery stores? Why do customers go to Zappos instead of more aesthetically pleasing sites? Why is “going to the Apple Store” an amazing experience but “going to a Samsung store” is not a thing? The biggest differentiator for these brands is their ability to go above and beyond for their customers. The customer is king, and brands put customers’ needs above all else.

Takeaway lesson: A strong relationship with a manager is just as satisfying as getting quality customer service. Managers need to invest in employees and their success. This means frequent communications, being accommodating to their needs, and creating opportunities for them to advance in their career.

#3 More Than Just The Bottom Line
Here are some stats to consider:

  • In 2014, 51% of millennials reported checking the product packaging for sustainability claims before making a purchase
  • Nearly 3 out of 4 consumers ages 34 and under are willing to pay more for brands that are committed to making positive social and environmental impact
  • 92% of millennials are more likely to purchase goods and services from ethical companies and 82% of this group said that they are likely to seek jobs from companies that have been publicly recognized for ethics

Millennials want to make positive impacts, and they are much more likely to do business with organizations that reflect their beliefs. This attitude shows in both their day-to-day shopping and the search for suitable employers.

Takeaway lesson: If you want to engage and retain your millennial employees, show them what you stand for! Of course, that requires an organization to have core values to begin with. If you don’t have one (yet), now is the time to start considering formally declaring company values. Both your millennial consumers and employees demand it.

#4 Transparency
Millennials grew up in the age of transparency, and they expect nothing less from the brands around them. Blame it on social media; it is so easy for people to learn about the values and drivers of a brand. In fact, 73% of consumers from a study said they’d be willing to pay more for a product that promises total transparency while 39% will switch to a different brand for the same reason.

It is not hard to understand this phenomenon. From a human-to-human perspective, individuals are much more likely to trust a person if they are being open and honest. Companies are just a collective of people and are subjected to the same law.

Takeaway lesson: The simplest way you can improve transparency in the office is by improving communication. Have frequent conversations on developments at the company. Don’t keep employees in the dark and be transparent with agendas. Though it might be hard to open up at first, employers will slowly realize that organizational transparency is possible.

Learn from the success of these five widely-known transparent companies!

 


Category: Corporate Wellness

employee sleep, sleep and productivity, wellable, blog header

It is widely known that proper sleep is important for individual health.  It also shouldn’t be a surprise that employees need sleep too!  In fact, employee sleep quality directly impacts a company’s bottom line.  According to “Why sleep matters” by RAND Europe, lack of sleep costs the U.S economy about $411 billion in lost productivity.  That’s a high price to pay just to stare at the ceiling.

It is important for employers to realize that work might be keeping employees up at night.  A study revealed that high work demands and physical effort at work are two of the main risk indicators for poor sleep.  The inability to stop thinking about work during free time creates mental stress that prevents employees from fully relaxing and unwinding.

Despite its importance and advancements in technology, measuring and determining sleep quality is not easy.  There’s a debate about whether consumer sleep tracking technology is accurate enough to be effective since most are based on data from accelerometers.  To get a clear and clinically accurate picture of sleep, employees would need to make a trip to a sleep clinic overnight.  This is not very practical to incorporate into an employer wellness program.  Because sleep is not easily quantified, sleep duration is usually not a part of most wellness challenges.  However, just because an employer cannot make a competition out of it or track it easily, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to help employees in other ways.  Below are four science-based methods employers can do at work to boost employee sleep quality.

#1 Encourage Physical Activity
If there’s anything more satisfying than the post-workout endorphin rush, it’s the good night sleep that follows.  In fact, one study calls exercising “an evidence-based intervention to improve perceived and objective metrics of sleep in healthy individuals.”  There are various pathways through which a good workout can positively influence shut-eye time.  For instance, rigorous physical activities reduce stress and tire you out, making falling asleep faster and easier.  Afternoon workouts also raise body temperatures then allow it to cool slightly, which triggers sleepiness.  This cooling down effect is also the reason why taking a warm bath or drinking decaffeinated hot tea puts you to sleep like a baby.

There are many ways you can encourage physical activity at work.  For instance, 30-minute onsite classes in the afternoon help employee shake things off and unwind.  Even just short bursts of group movements such as stair-climbing and jumping jacks at the desk can work wonderfully.  Need ideas for a quick office workout? Check out our board!

#2 Mindfulness Meditation
Although meditation seems to be strictly mental, it affects practitioners on deep physical levels.  For instance, studies have shown that seasoned meditators have more gray matter in their brain.  In fact, after only eight weeks into the routine, one can see development in brain volume in five different regions of the brain (posterior cingulate, left hippocampus, TPJ, pons, and amygdala).  This development translates to better learning, cognition, memory, empathy, and emotional regulation, all of which are great qualities in the office.  It also reduces stress as well as allows employees to fall asleep easier and sleep deeper.  Imagine for a second, who do you prefer to work with?  The team player who is always full of energy with great capabilities to learn and retain information or a groggy, tired, grumpy, and disconnected employee?

There are many ways you can introduce meditation to your company.  If limited budget is a concern, try tapping into the free resources online for guided-meditation.  Should you want to take one step further, hiring an instructor for structured lessons can be a great way to increase employees’ interest and engagement.

Want to make a challenge out of it?  Some applications are integrated with Apple Health and Google Fit, which allow managers to keep track of participants’ “mindful minutes.”  A “Mindful March” campaign doesn’t sound half bad after all.

#3 AN.T! (Adult Nap Time)
It might sound outrageous to pay somebody to sleep, but allowing nap time at work may actually boost productivity.  This is because humans are naturally biphasic sleepers and tend to experience two dips in energy level throughout the day – one around 2 AM to 6 AM and one from 1 PM to 4 PM.  Allowing your employees to nap will give them a chance to refresh and wake up with clearer, more rested minds.  A NASA study on military astronauts and pilots showed that a short 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%!

If you are intrigued by the idea of providing a nap room for employees, you are not alone.  Companies like Zappos, Deloitte, Google, Nike, and Ben & Jerry’s recognize the importance of keeping employees awake by letting them rest when the nap monster hits.  As an alternative for tight spaces, nap pods become the haven for employees to get some shut-eye.

nap pod, employee sleep, employee productivity, sleep and productivity, wellable
Don’t have the budget for those fancy nap pods either?  Invest in a comfortable couch, a.k.a., the classic nap-inducer everybody knows and loves.  Click on this link to learn more about workplace naps.

#4 Promoting Work-life Balance
Work-life balance is not a buzz word; it is crucial to regulate employee stress and sleep quality.  Studies have shown that employers “damage their employees’ well-being and work-life balance and weaken job performance when they create expectations that work-related emails should be monitored and responded to during non-work hours.”  Of course, this is not just about having to constantly hit the refresh button.  Responding to work emails brings their minds back to the working state, reminding employees of the stress they face during the day.

This relates to the very first point: the inability to stop thinking about work keeps employees up at night.  The reverse is also true: improved work-life balance allows people to enjoy work more while they are at it.  Employees know this, and they are actively seeking out companies that know where to draw the line.  The take-home lesson?  Work ends when employees leave the office so learn to let them be.


Category: Facts and Research

Shortlister recently released their Well-being Industry Prospectus 2017, a report on employee wellness trends. They surveyed well-being subject-matter experts at the nation’s top employee benefits consultants to get their take on the state of the wellness industry.  The entire report is certainly worth downloading and reviewing in its entirety, but if you are short on time, below are some of the key highlights.

infographic employee wellness trends, shortlister, wellable

 
The biggest trend is the shift toward total well-being initiatives from the heavy focus on just physical health; mental and financial wellness are also important factors in well-being.  The survey found that financial wellness is experiencing the greatest demand relative to other wellness offerings.  This shift in focus aligns with the change in perspective that finds employers increasingly viewing employee health as critical to business success.  Companies are also moving away from antiquated carrier solutions or ones with limited mobile capabilities to feature-rich platforms with mobile apps and device integrations.

Per the survey, biometric screenings and health assessments are still two must-haves for employers despite the overwhelming research that suggests that these too should fall by the wayside.

Regardless, the report clearly shows that employee wellness is important, and it is here to stay.  The more employers take care of their staff, the more they grow the business.  Investing in employee health is no longer a “nice to have”, it is a “must have” for success.

*Shortlister is a software solution that provides employers and their advisors with the information they need to make sustainable human capital vendor selections.


Category: Mobile Wellness

apple watch fitness, apple watch on wrist, corporate wellness
As mid-February approaches, the magic of New Year’s Resolutions is starting to wear off; the excitement surrounding exercising and eating healthy might start taking the backseat (yet again).  By this time, it is quite likely that only 59% of your employees are still hanging on to what they had promised just over a month ago.  If you initiated a wellness challenge in the office to celebrate “New Year, New You,” you might start losing people.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

An encouraging article from Business Insider presented preliminary data from Cardiogram, an Apple Watch heart rate monitoring app.  Of the 66,317 app users analyzed, 52% showed an increase in exercising in January, possibly due to their resolutions.  While only 68% of people will stick to their resolution more than two weeks, the percentage of Cardiogram users sticking with their workout frequency has been quite consistent.

cardiogram data, cardiogram study, new year resolution data, corporate wellness
There are many reasons why Apple Watch (and other fitness devices) users are more likely to exercise consistently.  First, devices and apps provide positive feedback on achievement and workout streaks, providing encouragement and keeping people motivated.  The other upside of sustained motivation is that the longer people stick with a behavior, the more likely it becomes a habit.

Despite the urban myth that says it only takes 21 days for a habit to stick, science shows that it actually takes two to eight months to really build sustainable behavior.  The longer people feel motivated, the closer they get to that tipping point from “just trying to incorporate it in” to “that’s just a part of my day.”

Secondly, smart devices like Apple Watch have many features that are outside the realm of wellness.  Users can check messages and emails, receive calls, and even make purchases with it.  They are constantly interacting with the device for both work and entertainment, and the feedback on health is just one welcomed bonus.  Apple Watch is not relying only on people’s fitness motivation to keep its place on users’ wrists.  This helps reduces device abandonment and allows the tracker to continue doing its job in the background.

This theme of sustainable behavior change assisted by technology is not new and has been highlighted many times on this blog.  In addition to fitness goals, people are utilizing technology to achieve their nutrition, financial, and professional goals as well.  Individuals find following through and achieving their goals becomes much easier when supported by a mobile application.

However, that is not to say that companies should force it on employees.  Allowing people to bring their own technology will eliminate the learning curve associated with adopting a new application/device, decreasing their chance of abandoning it.

tweetable, wellable, corporate wellness


Category: Rewards and Incentives

Rewarding participation is an excellent way to encourage wellness program engagement.  However, picking rewards can be a tricky ordeal.  Good rewards motivate employees to participate and continue to invest in employee health rather than sabotaging efforts (no Wendy’s gift cards please!).  Luckily, in a wellness-oriented market, there are numerous options that can complement wellness challenges, whatever the theme might be.  If you are feeling stuck, below are four tried-and-true ideas for thoughtful and practical rewards to consider.

2 Weeks Of Purple Carrot Meal Plan ($136)
A great way to reward healthy behaviors is to encourage even healthier ones!  If your company already has an activity-based challenge, then a sensible next step is to show them how to nourish their bodies for the daily effort.


Most people know they should eat more vegetables and other plant-based foods, but the prospect of learning how to cook those meals might be too daunting.  Help them kick-start the process by introducing hearty AND healthy meals.  The reward can be a meal plan from healthy meal providers, such as Purple Carrot.  The basic plan comes with three meals worth of pre-portioned ingredients a week, feeds 1-2 persons (or 3-4 at a higher rate).  Even though the subscription only lasts for two weeks, the recipient gets to experience how easy plant-based cooking can be, which may translate to a healthier diet that lasts a life time!

WellnessCodes Gift Cards (Flexible)
Amazon gift cards are common rewards, but what’s the point of hosting a wellness competition if the winner celebrates with a case of Coke or bag of KitKats?  WellnessCodes to the rescue!  WellnessCodes is hailed as the Amazon for wellness goods, as they allow companies to make sure their money awards go to health-related products.  The site has everything from fitness gear to fancy blenders (hello Vitamix!) to books and essential oils.  Employers can subsidize these purchases, allowing employees to upgrade/supplement their health regimen.

ClassPass Membership ($69/Month)
While gym memberships are declining in popularity, other services that allow flexibility are gaining traction.  To accommodate this change, employers can provide cool rewards like a ClassPass membership that offers a set number of visits to participating fitness boutiques and gyms classes.  The base plan allows for five classes as well as two gym visits per month, which can be a fun way for employees to revamp their fitness routine with new activities (Barre, Pole, SoulCycle, and more).


GlobalGiving (Flexible)
Exercising releases endorphins – a feel-good neurotransmitter, but that’s old news.  Do you know what else is scientifically proven to make people feel good?  Charitable giving!  This one is special because it is not directed to the winners themselves but still acts as a sound motivator.  Donating to employees’ favorite charities through GlobalGiving, a gift card service for charitable contributions, helps them pay it forward, empowering employees to feel good both physically and mentally.  As an alternative, the company can choose one or more charities that aligns well with its vision and donate as people win challenges. Whichever it is, tapping into people’s exterior motive is a refreshing way to reward them.


BUT…
“We have low budget and no money for rewards!” can be an obstacle for all businesses, especially ones on the smaller size.  To assist clients, we embrace smallness and learn to make the best out of what’s available.  One option companies with low budgets for health and wellness can consider is crowdsourcing the prize.  Employees can contribute a small amount of money into a “Prize Fund” at the beginning of the challenge, and the fund can be used to purchase rewards.  The idea is similar to what we discussed in “Carrot or Stick?”, which leverages on people’s risk-aversion and gives them more motivation to stick with the program.  After all, if you have something to lose, you’ll probably work harder to keep it, wouldn’t you?


Category: Engagement

Most companies may not be able to relate to compensation packages so rich that employees leave to explore other opportunities, but the case study in this blog is worth exploring nonetheless.  For compensation packages in their self-driving car unit, the search engine giant Google introduced a unique pay structure in 2010 that included bonuses and equity in the business (fairly typical) that ratchetted up very quickly after applying a multiplier (not typical, especially given the scale of the multiplier).  The goal was to tie employees’ payoffs to project performance, which makes sense on the surface.  However, the multiplier, which was based on the periodic valuations of the business unit, resulted in multi-million dollar payouts to numerous employees.  One member of the team had a multiplier of 16 applied to bonuses and equity amassed over four years.

An appropriate initial reaction would be that the hefty paydays would help Google retain their valuable talent in this division.  This was not the case.  By 2015, many of these staffers made so much money that they no longer needed a job and left Google to pursue other opportunities.  The car unit, which is now known as Waymo, subsequently replaced the previous compensation structure with a more uniform pay structure.

 
So what lessons can a typical company learn from this experience?  More than one would think.  First, millennials are not like prior generations in that non-compensation factors weigh heavy in their decisions on where to work.  Sure, compensation matters, but millennials want to work for organizations with purpose and that provide autonomy.  Also, they want to work for companies that care about their well-being, both professionally and personally.  Perhaps Google relied too heavily on financial compensation to keep their staff in this unit happy.  A report from Bloomberg suggests that some of the staffers who exited were apparently frustrated by the car unit’s pace of progress and others had doubts about unit head, John Krafcik.  As millennials amassed wealth, the allure of rich compensation was less a factor in their retention decision.  Many left for opportunities that better suited their passion or moved at a faster pace so they could make more of a difference.

The second mistake Google made was tying compensation multipliers to the valuation of a unit but paying individuals in equity of a larger company whose financials are minimally impacted by the unit.  The advertising business at Google was so successful that heavy losses at smaller units, including autonomous vehicles, barely made a dent in profits.  Combined with lofty valuations at the autonomous vehicle unit that may not have been supported, employees were getting large allotments of equity in Google, a business whose value was continuing to rise and more stable than that of the smaller unit.  Compensation practices should more appropriately align with performance.  This is why Google spun out the unit as a new company, Waymo.  This will allow them to more closely align performance with compensation.


Category: Rewards and Incentives

As the talent wars endure, companies continue to up their game as it relates to overall perks and benefits and especially as it relates to wellness related ones.  According to a Glassdoor survey, culture and values rank the highest as the workplace factors that matter most to employees.  This is why wellness benefits continue to expand; they show that employers care about the well-being of employees and value them as individuals, inside and outside of the workplace.  In the spirit of great wellness benefits, check out these amazing and real employee wellness perks at leading companies across the globe.

IKEA
Despite the amount of stress many individuals experience trying to assemble IKEA products, the Swedish furniture giant bends over backwards to relieve the pressures of raising a newborn baby.  The company offers up to four months of paid parental leave to both full-time and part-time employees who have at least one year at the company, regardless of whether they work at a retail store or the corporate headquarters.

Bain & Company
Rated as one of the Best Places to Work, Bain holds an annual three-day “World Cup” interoffice soccer tournament every year and invites employees from all of its global offices to participate.

Scripps Health
It is widely known that caregiver benefits help relieve the pressures of supporting loved ones for numerous employees.  These benefits usually apply to human loved one, but Scripps Health is taking these benefits to the next level.  The company’s interest in their employees’ well-being extends to even their pets with access to health insurance for cats and dogs.

Eventbrite
The ticket seller and concert promoter also promotes good health by offering a monthly $60 wellness stipend, which can be put toward anything from gym memberships to juice cleanses.  For those organizations that want to tie wellness stipends to attainable goals or verified usage, using a platform like Wellable is a great way to make sure gym reimbursements don’t go to waste.

Whole Foods Market
Individuals who prepare home-cooked meals tend to eat better and live healthier lives.  Whole Foods, which is known for its pricey produce, offers a 20% discount to all employees, including part timers, so they can have access to fresh fruits and vegetables for some delicious home cooking.

Amazon
Amazon offers two programs for new all parents, regardless of whether they work in the corporate office, customer service, or fulfillment center.  The first program, Leave Share, allows employees to share paid leave with their partner if the partner’s company does not offer paid leave.  The second program, Ramp Back, gives new moms more flexibility easing back into work.


Category: Corporate Wellness

In Aon’s 2016 Consumer Health Mindset Survey, 83% of consumers said they needed the most support for emotional well-being.  Of those respondents, 68% ranked managing stress as the most important way to being emotionally well.  The survey of 2,320 consumers, including employees and dependents covered by employer health plans, identifies a clear area that employers can target with employee wellness strategies.  According to Stephanie Pronk of Aon’s U.S. National Health Transformation Team, onsite services like yoga, mindfulness, meditation and resiliency training could help employees and organizations with emotional health.

 
The move to technology in wellness programs is clear.  However, mental and emotional health is largely being addressed by services for a number of reasons.  First, the technology landscape for mental health technologies is limited.  There are apps like Headspace for meditation and mindfulness training, but these technologies have fractions of the users of technologies that track physical activity and nutrition.  This is not to say that mental health applications are not destined to have the same adoption; it merely suggests that they have a long way to go.  When employers embrace the consumer market in their wellness programs, which is strongly encouraged, understanding where technologies are in the adoption curve is critical.

Second, despite mental and emotional health being a more public area of concern for millennials compared to other generations, many consumers are unfamiliar with methods to improve their well-being in this area.  Unlike being active and eating healthier, many consumers have not tried meditation or mindfulness.  As such, employers are better off exposing these well-being methods to employees with human interaction in the form of onsite classes and seminars rather than technology.  Once initially exposed to these remedies, employers can then move to more scalable technology alternatives.  Also, onsite services allow employers to start small.  Unlike technology deployments, you can offer a single class, collect feedback, and grow a program from there.