Category: Corporate Wellness

busy-workerEmployers often focus on improving employee productivity by providing office resources that help employees do their jobs more efficiently.  Employees receive new smartphones and other technology tools to help improve the speed of their work.  Free lunches are brought into the office and onsite childcare facilities are offered to keep employees in the office and less distracted.  Like workplace efficiency tools and office benefits, employee wellness programs should also be viewed as a crucial productivity improvement tool.

A recent study highlights how exercise may have an impact on an employee’s productivity.  Robert Pozen, a Harvard Business School lecturer and fellow at the Brookings Institution, explains how regular exercise can help keep you mentally sharper and more productive in the workplace:

As you age, your body generates fewer and fewer brain cells (a process called neurogenesis). However, early research in mice suggests that exercise can help prevent this slowdown. In other words, by the time they reach their 50s, 60s, and 70s, people who exercise might have more brain cells than their more sedentary peers — giving them a major advantage in the workplace.

The impact of exercise on productivity is also evident in a study conducted by Researchers at Stockholm University and Karolinska Institute that found that those who exercised reported “improvements in self-assessed productivity — they perceived that they got more done at work, had a greater work capacity, and were sick less often.”

Company leaders should view wellness as an employee productivity tool and champion healthy lifestyles. Managers concerned with optimizing employee productivity need to find ways to make employee wellness a focus of their team’s culture.  Supporting employee wellness may mean allotting time during the office hours to exercise, letting employees leave early for a yoga class, encouraging use of an employee wellness program, or bringing healthy snacks into the office.

Not supporting health and wellness can have serious risks for a company.  A recent study found that employees who did not participate in company wellness programs had a 12% loss in productivity or 27 days per year due to poor health.  The task of championing a wellness program often solely resides within the human resources team – this needs to change.  With the potential for a 12% productivity loss, managers should view promoting health and wellness as mission critical even if it’s not in their job description.


Category: Corporate Wellness

There are two types of employee wellness data: verified and manual entry.  Verified data is the output that results from using a wellness technology product like a smartphone app or wearable device.  Verified data seamlessly flows from the app or wearable device directly to the wellness platform, and the tracker confirms that an activity has taken place.

Manual entry is activity data that the employee must log manually.  Manual entry wellness programs vary but usually involve employees manually entering their daily steps, fitness activity, gym attendance, etc.   Sometimes manual entry programs offer a wearable pedometer device; however, the device doesn’t seamlessly connect and transfer data to a wellness platform and therefore requires manual intervention to communicate activity to the wellness program administrator.  A significant challenge of manual entry activity is that an employer cannot confirm that an activity was actually completed.  Users can “game” the system.

If I told you one employee completed 3 duathlons, 3 marathons, 2 half marathons, 1 Olympic lifting competition, and 4 triathlons, you would think this employee is really healthy, right?

This activity is actually a real manual entry that got a Kansas City water department employee caught for cheating his insurance company’s wellness program.  As a result of his fake strenuous athletic activity, this employee received 79 gift cards in total worth around 13k as rewards for his “wellness engagement.”  This wellness activity fraud could have been prevented and highly discouraged with a wellness program that leverages technology to allow for verified data.

Verified data limits the potential for cheating in a wellness program, making it much more difficult for employees to game the system.  Verified data is also more accurate and easier for the employee to log and employer to administer.  Rather than relying on an employee’s memory of activities and self-tracking methods, verified data is the output of a computer algorithm.  Verified data is easier for an employer to administer because the data is produced automatically.  There is no need to collect data from employees or remind employees to log entries – verified data is the result of a seamless wellness program that manages data aggregation for the employer.cheating-65660250380_xlarge

Verified data also provides the employer with more detailed analytics and better insight into how employees are engaging in health and wellness activities.  A manual entry may only include the date, time, and type of activity.  Verified activities produced by using a smartphone app like RunKeeper can have hundreds of data points including time, distance, calories burned, and detailed running route information.   With more detailed data insight, employers can more clearly see the benefits or failures of a wellness program, make better decisions about optimizing future programs, and more easily identify where additional employee wellness intervention is needed.

Additionally, the data can be used to personalize the wellness experience for a user.  Based on user activity, custom content and reminders can “nudge” employees through valuable and timely information. For example, runners can receive content about an upcoming Saturday 5k or great ways to keep warm while running during the winter.

If your wellness program doesn’t allow for verified data and personalized wellness, it’s time to think about finding one that does.


Category: Corporate Wellness

black-fridayMobile health is here to stay. The mobile health market has and continues to see tremendous growth.  If you didn’t receive a Fitbit or Jawbone this holiday season, chances are you know someone who did.  Do you have RunKeeper on your phone?  How about MyFitnessPal?

In the event you haven’t hopped on the mobile health express, here are a few data points that will catch your attention:

 

  • The mobile healthcare services market will reach $26 billion worldwide by 2017
  • There are now about 97,000 health and wellness related smartphone apps
  • Fitbit wearable devices are now stocked in 30,000 stores around the world and this holiday season there were 3.1 times as many Fitbits shipped then the prior year
  • CES 2014 saw a 40% year over year increase in the digital health footprint at their January event in Las Vegas
  • And if you still aren’t convinced, there is significant consumer demand for mobile wellness, look no further than celebrity gossip blog Perez Hilton, for a picture of Ryan Reynolds wearing a Fitbit

As more people become mobile health consumers, what does this mean for employer wellness?

Employers go to exhaustive and often expensive lengths to promote employee health and wellness.  Employers develop internal programing and bring in external wellness providers, all with the goal of creating effective wellness programs.  Driving wellness participation, or engagement, is a main focus of any wellness program.  It doesn’t matter how great the wellness program is; if the program suffers from low engagement, it will have minimal positive impact on the employee population.

So what exactly is the key to developing a high-engagement wellness program that employees want to participate in?

There is no single answer to this question but part of the solution lies within the growing consumer mobile health market.  As the market data shows, consumers are gravitating to particular wellness trends – mobile wellness apps and wearable tracking devices – and doing so in very large numbers.  Employers need to find ways to embrace this consumer trend, not fight it.

Embracing the consumer trend means finding ways to align consumer demand with an employee wellness program.  Rather than offering a wellness program that forces employees to adopt a wellness portal or some other technology or service that they have shown no interest in, employers should find a way to allow employees to use the wellness apps and devices they are familiar with and, in many cases, already using on their own.  This form of wellness democracy will get employees excited about a wellness program and increase engagement.

Fighting the consumer mobile wellness trend seems similar to forcing employees to use a BlackBerry when they have demonstrated their demand for an iPhone – it’s a losing proposition in the long run.

The consumers have spoken… all employers need to do is listen.

P.S. Employers also benefit from this trend with better data from verified activities – more on this in another post.


Category: Corporate Wellness

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Fitbit, Wellable’s device partner, remains the leader in wellness wearable devices with strong 2013 sales and market share numbers.  According to a recently released report, “Fitbit shipped 67 percent of all activity tracking devices in 2013.”

fitbit forceThis is impressive given the increase in the number of wearable devices options available in the market this past year.  Fitbit also claimed the top spot as the number one free app in the iTunes Health & Fitness category during the 2013 holiday season.

Fitbit_Zip_04_610x436We expect to see increased interest from our employer clients looking to include Fitbit devices as a feature in their Wellable programs in 2014.  Fitbit remains a great choice for employers because of the ease of use, functionality, and range of device options offered, including a low cost option, the Fitbit Zip, which costs just under $60.

We look forward to the exciting things to come from the Fitbit team in 2014!

For more on Fitbit’s market share: http://mobihealthnews.com/28566/fitbit-shipped-the-most-activity-trackers-in-2013/


Category: Corporate Wellness

In her Washington Post column, Vicky Hallett makes the pitch for allowing employees to wear workout clothes once a week, aptly named: Workout Wear Friday.  She argues, “People in fitness gear are more likely to exercise — or at least to think about it.”

yoga-clothes-200x300Workout Wear Friday can be part of company’s wellness program and help promote a corporate culture of health and wellness.  Unlike many other wellness resources and events, Workout Wear Friday is a zero cost employee benefit.

Does wearing workout clothes actually have an influence on health and wellness behavior?

A 2004 University of Wisconsin study found that on average, employees wearing casual clothes walked an additional 491 steps each day.  Wearing fitness clothes likely involves wearing more comfortable shoes, and comfortable shoes encourages more walking and movement around the office.

For many companies, allowing employees to wear yoga clothes to work may seem like a stretch, but not too long ago Casual Friday was just as foreign.

Casual Friday reached mainstream acceptance largely because of a Levi’s public relations campaign.  In 1992, a Levi’s public relations team sent a brochure titled “A Guide to Casual Business Wear” to 25,000 human resources managers.  The brochure explained (and promoted) Casual Friday attire and ushered in a new and acceptable casual workplace dress code.

The trend of wearing Aloha shirts to work in Hawaii can also be traced to an effective marketing campaign.  In 1966 the Hawaiian garment industry was trying to promote sales of their clothing and introduced Aloha Friday to encourage Hawaiian business to allow employees to wear Aloha shirts to work.

Hawaiian-Shirts

Will more companies start promoting Workout Wear Friday as part of a corporate wellness program?  Will an effective retail marketing campaign be needed to make Workout Wear Friday acceptable?  Lululemon – we’re waiting on you!

For more on Workout Wear Friday: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/workout-wear-friday/2013/12/30/50ea53cc-6dc5-11e3-a523-fe73f0ff6b8d_story.html

For more on the marketing history of Levi’s and Aloha shirts: http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/workplace-culture/dress-code-history-business-casual


Category: Wellness

Happy New Year from the Wellable Team!

new-years-eve

We’ve had a great 2013 at Wellable and look forward to all the exciting things ahead in 2014.

For many Americans, January 1st presents an opportunity, the chance to improve ourselves.  It’s little surprise that some of the most common New Year’s resolutions are wellness related.  According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, three of the top ten most common 2014 New Year’s resolutions are wellness-related, with losing weight taking the number one spot.  In fact, 38% of people who make resolutions make weight-related resolutions.

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Unfortunately, only 8% of people are actually successful in achieving their New Year’s resolution.

What’s one way to help you achieve your wellness goal?  Make a resolution to form healthier habits this year. According to the study, people who explicitly make resolutions are ten times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

For more on the Journal of Clinical Psychology’s study: http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/


Category: Corporate Wellness

Compensation and benefits, employee training and development, recruitment, employee relations, wellness programing, and building culture are on a human resources team’s list of responsibilities.  At larger companies, these responsibilities are divided across a team or even teams of people.  At smaller companies, this list often sits with one person.

Finding the internal resources to support a new wellness program can be a challenge, particularly for smaller employers with a limited human resources team.

crystal lightFor smaller employers, wellness needs to be light – resource light, not content, engagement, or results light.

Wellness always needs to have internal support (senior leadership support is essential), but the actual heavy lifting of the wellness program can be managed externally and require few, if any, internal HR resources.

Some wellness technology providers offer an end-to-end solution that includes everything from program onboarding and employee communication to troubleshooting and support.  These solutions are resource light; they allow employers to provide a robust wellness program without straining HR team bandwidth.

With resource light solutions, no company is too early for employee wellness.

It’s time for all small companies to start building a culture of health and wellness!


Category: Mobile Wellness

This post first appeared in the Huffington Post

Stop for a moment and take a look at how you’re reading this article. If you’re like 56% of Americans, you’re probably reading it on your smartphone. And let’s face it—that smartphone goes with your everywhere and helps you with just about everything, from monitoring your social media feeds to planning your next vacation to splitting the check at a restaurant. In fact, on average, you probably use your smartphone at least 150 times a day!

But can your smartphone make your healthier? And, perhaps more interestingly, can your health insurer and your smartphone work together to make your healthier?

Think about the following example. You step outside for your morning run. Remembering to strap your smartphone to your arm so you can listen to some music along the way, you do a few stretches before you take off for a three-mile run around your neighborhood. Half an hour later, after working up a sweat, you head home, feeling tired but energized.

The story seems very commonplace, ordinary. And yet, it isn’t. What prompted you to go running today? Maybe it was because it’s a habit for you. Or maybe you had a weight loss goal in mind, a new year’s resolution.

But what if you aren’t a runner? What would it take for you to get started? BJ Fogg of Stanford University posits a behavioral model in which people take action when there is a coincidence of motivation (a desire to change), ability (access to tools to achieve change) and a trigger (a specific event or entity that crystallizes the decision to change.

For you, your motivation, your desire to change, is evident—you want to get started on the road to health. But what about the other two elements of the Fogg model, the other two legs of the wellness triangle that can turn that desire into real action and change?

Wellness triangle

Smartphones can give you the ability to be healthy. Not only are they everywhere and used hundreds of times daily, but their advanced electronics, from powerful processors to GPS transceivers to accelerometers, can allow you to track your fitness progress. Rather than having to remember the number of miles you jogged yesterday or write it down in a book that you could lose, your phone can do all the tracking for you automatically at the touch of a button. More advanced algorithms built into today’s fitness apps can calculate your average speed, difficulty of running course and total calories burned, to give a few examples. Moreover, you’ll probably remember to carry your phone with you (if for nothing else than to ensure you have some music for the road) rather than remembering to strap on a specific fitness device that costs extra.

What about the third leg of the wellness triangle, the trigger? Interestingly, your health insurer can play that role. On October 1, the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act opened for business, and millions of Americans who previous did not have health insurance now have access to coverage. Coupled with this expansion of access were rules allowing insurers to offer incentive payments for healthy behavior that can go as high as 30% of your premium.

These incentives have encouraged health insurers to think very strongly about helping their members (read: you) improve their health. From their perspective, healthier members mean fewer trips to the emergency room, fewer hospitalizations and, in general, lower costs. So it’s in their best interests to motivate their members to stay healthy. In the past, they’ve offered one-off benefits, like free gym memberships, but they’ve found that such benefits on their own don’t lead to healthier outcomes. Now, they’re thinking about far more meaningful, tailored incentives that are actually linked to specific actions you can take.

This is where the capabilities and ubiquity of your smartphone comes into play. For example, your jogging app can record the number of miles you ran, and your insurer, based on those data, can give you per-mile premium discounts. The discounts can be adjusted based on the difficulty of your jog, how often your jog and the total number of miles you ran. For the first time, when you have the motivation to go running, you have a specific monetary trigger you can go after, an incentive that accrues for every mile you run. And, this coincidence of motivation and trigger is enabled by the ability to track your miles using your smartphone. You get a unique incentive that encourages you to get moving, and the insurer gets a healthier you. It’s a win-win.

So what do your smartphone and your health insurer have in common? By combining the tracking abilities of your smartphone with the financial incentive triggers of your insurer, both of them can encourage you to stay healthy. You, your smartphone and your insurer form a wellness triangle, a triangle focused on helping you stay on the path toward better health.


Category: Engagement

There are over 40,000 health and wellness mobile apps available.  Navigating the health and wellness app market is a daunting task for a consumer, let alone an employer looking to use mobile app technology as part of an employee wellness program.

apps-imageWellable recognizes that finding the right apps to include in an employee wellness program can be a challenge.  Wellable works with each employer to design a customized wellness program.  Part of our customization involves recommending a menu of apps that are specifically tailored to each employer’s wellness needs.

Our clients often ask us how we evaluate and recommend apps.  There are a number of inputs that go into Wellable’s app analysis and recommendation process.  One input is an app’s popularity or current consumer user base number.

Many employees we work with are already using some of our recommended apps, or at least familiar with them.  Familiarity increases the success rate of the onboarding process.  By making something new feel familiar, we find employees are more receptive to participating in a mobile wellness program and engagement numbers are higher.

Of course popularity is only one aspect of Wellable’s app analysis.  A popular app does not always equal an effective app – so be careful.

Let us know how we can help your organization navigate the health and wellness app market!


Category: Rewards and Incentives

Gift boxesThe holiday season is here and with it comes employee rewards season.  Rewarding employees with bonuses for their work performance or hosting a holiday party are fairly common rewards this time of year.  Rewarding employees for healthy behavior is also growing in popularity.

Through wellness programs, employers can provide financial and non-financial rewards to employees who engage in healthy activity.

Employee wellness is not one-size-fits-all and it’s important to remember that rewards are not one-size-fits-all either.  When tailoring a customized wellness program for employees, it is essential to find rewards that best drive engagement for the respective employee population.

Employers sometimes think that cash is the only reward that really motivates employees  — not true!  In fact, “According to a study by Site International Foundation and the Incentive Travel Council, 96% of employees say they are motivated by travel incentives.”

Does your wellness program give employees an opportunity to earn additional vacation days?  An extra vacation day could be just the type of reward your employees would appreciate this holiday season.

For more on rewarding employees with vacation days: http://www.businessinsider.com/paid-vacation-motivates-better-than-cash-2013-11