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I think it’s a really important next step for us as a society to try to make it possible so that the system isn’t overwhelmed with annual visits that may not be necessary in person and allow the in person visits to be for the more serious things where you need a doctor to get involved.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and Powered by Purple Ink, and with me is my dear friend and co-host Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice.
Our topic today is on corporate wellness programs. In an article in Corporate Wellness Magazine – like, who knew there was a Corporate Wellness Magazine?
[Laughs] But… and the article was by Pete Desai. He notes that over half of our US working employees are covered by an employer sponsored health insurance plan. These plans, of course, are a significant expense and investment in the health, wellness, and productivity of their employees. So it’s no surprise that many employers also offer health screening programs designed to uncover current or potential medical conditions and empower their employees to seek treatment and healthier lifestyle choices before conditions become more critical and more costly to manage.
Wellness programs are something many leaders know they should offer and most of them feel the programs are helpful, but they can’t or maybe they don’t really take the time to measure how effective those programs are. That is, they recognize that the ROI is sometimes difficult to determine. If you’re considering or already do offer health screenings as part of a comprehensive corporate wellness program, we need to consider three things.
The first one is to create an overall sustainable culture of health. A company can’t just sponsor a one-time event and expect a change in their employees’ health. For example – and I’ve been there before, I’ve done this, where we had an annual health fair, but yet we brought in doughnuts a couple times a week. [Laughs]
And we had junk food in the break rooms all the time. Right? So what kind of message is that sending to your people? And, you know, we can also empower staff with information and convenient low- or no-cost resources like giving them information of community services that might help diagnose, treat, or support their health, or thinking about the YMCA or the YWCA who might offer water aerobics, or even just information on area clinics, or… or classes on diabetes or weight management programs.
Number two, we need to make engagement really easy. An effective wellness program should make it as easy as possible to get people informed, enthused, signed up, and screened. Whether it’s the registration process or the locations of the screenings, we need to think convenience. You know, we know that so many of our employees, they live their whole lives on their mobile device, so we have to make sure they can register on their mobile device and that the reminders, maybe, we text out to them. And then where are you going to have it? Do people need to get in their car and go to a different campus to get the wellness screening done, or is it something that they’re going to have to pass the site – the wellness site – going in in the morning or coming out at night? What can we do to make it as easy as possible?
Right. Number three is to track and measure success. Now, for some of you listening who might be employees, that might make you a little nervous. But health screening should all be confidential information on an individual basis. But employers can still look at things like how many people did sign up, how many completed the process, what groups of people maybe participated, you know, if they have some data on age groups or departments or location, and then looking at the trends to ensure their employees are on a path to better health. The benefits of a health screening initiative, of course, is to drive a comprehensive, this overall culture of wellness and in that, you can include things like mental health, physical health, social health, even financial health can be a part of that as well. And all of those can lead to cost savings in the long term. So even thinking about if you have high absenteeism rate or lots of turnover, some of the success might come just in terms of higher morale or greater employee engagement, and thinking about it as an investment in your people.
We invited Travis Rush from Reperio to help us further explore other options for wellness programs. Travis Rush is the CEO and cofounder of Reperio, a Portland, Oregon based tech company that manufactures an app connected at home wellness assessment kit for employers and individuals. So, Travis, we know that many people put off their regular checkups because of the pandemic. What do you think the consequences are or have been for people who delayed their health screens?
Well, you know, as we know, it wasn’t just that we were all stuck at home, we were also unable to go to gyms and to take care of ourselves like we had been. So a lot more sitting around, a lot of, I think, bored eating, I think a lot of those things happened. So, you know, I think we’re going to find the results of that are going to last for a while, where we see that people’s health has declined and they aren’t even aware, because they haven’t been going to the doctor either during all of this. So I think it’s going to be really important for everybody to take some… some proactive health measures to see where they’re at now and find a new benchmark, set some new goals and try to get themselves back to a place where they were pre-pandemic.
Yeah. You know, for me, at the beginning of the pandemic, I felt like I had so much extra time on my hands, I was actually working out more. But that only lasted for about a month. [Laughs]
Then I got into the, you know, eating and sitting and not doing anything. So.
Yeah, no, totally. And I… you know, for those that had the ability to do that, you know, I think that was definitely the case, cause a lot of people were like, oh, what’s the point? [Laughs] I’m just gonna be stuck at home anyways.
But yeah, you know, I think the gyms being closed for so long was really, really hard on a lot of people, at least a lot of people I know, as well.
I was so desperate that I pulled out our old Wii, you know, the W-I-I set.
And I was dancing and doing all the things to Wii, and I really had to uncover the dust. I was thrilled that it still worked.
Yeah, but like JoDee, a few months into it, I’m like, ah, enough of that. Let’s get… let’s get to eating. Yeah.
Well, I think there were some positives around it. I think a lot of people went outdoors more, a lot more walking outside because they didn’t have any other options.
No, you’re right. Well, Travis, I am so excited that your company offers at home wellness assessments, because I think that the whole world of work has sort of moved home. What do you see coming in the future of healthcare and employers thinking about health care at home in the next few years?
From my point of view and what we’ve witnessed being in kind of a telehealth type industry, you know, over the past decade or so, there’s been a lot of amazing technology that has allowed people to be a little more proactive. But I think leading into that, a lot of the regulators around the healthcare industry have really kind of slowed the progress of that. And I think the pandemic, you know, actually forced them to get out of the way and let some of this amazing technology come to the surface. So I think in the long run, I think this is actually going to, you know… if there were a silver lining in the chaos we went through, I think that would be part of it, is that people will now have more access to an at home solution of some kind, depending on, you know, what chronic management they might need for an existing condition or services like what we’re offering where you can do some preventative care, preventive, you know, checkups on yourself, rather than waiting for your next doctor’s appointment, which a lot of people procrastinate, as we know.
Yes, we do.
[Laughs] So I think in the end, I think there’s going to be some amazing things that… that come out of this that we’re going to see over the next few years around people being able to take better care of themselves.
Yeah, I hope so. Why do you think employees even need preventive screening?
Well, you know, the health care industry, as we all know, in the US, is very reactive. You know, we don’t… the health care system doesn’t step in until we break. And they don’t put a lot of effort into taking care of us ahead of time to make sure that we don’t get sick, and they don’t incentivize us to do that. And I think employers are in a unique position to be the ones that help people take better care of themselves, you know, by requiring employees… or at least if not requiring, at least making it incredibly simple and easy for them to do at minimum an annual preventive checkup on themselves so that they can get ahead of things, they can keep themselves from ending up being part of that reactive part of our healthcare system. So I think… I think that it’s really important that employers take the position that they’re in of being able to provide some early stage analysis of what’s going on in people’s bodies and… and make that available to their teams.
I like it.
How do at home preventative screenings and the results you get from that really coordinate with maybe your annual physician’s appointment, an in person wellness visit?
You know, things like what we’re doing, where we’re shipping people an at home screening kit, we’re not trying to replace doctors. You know, that’s not the goal. The goal is to make it so that people can do a bare minimum wellness screening, and our wellness screening is designed around the American Heart Association’s annual checkup recommendations. So if you were to go to the American Heart Association, they have an area on their site where they talk about Life’s Simple Seven, and it’s these seven parameters that they think that every person should be doing on an annual basis to prevent cardiovascular disease, which we know is the leading cause of death in the US. And the point of doing that is not, again, to replace the doctor. It’s to give you some insights so that you can then call your doctor and say, hey, I’m seeing some strange things in my annual checkup that I’m doing at home, I’d like to talk to you about them and dig a little deeper and see what’s going on. So I think they go hand in hand at offering convenience to people at the same time as providing doctors with some initial insight that they can then work from to dig deeper. You know, we… if it’s one thing we learned from this whole pandemic is the health care system can’t handle all of us. That we learned really fast. And so I think by offering at home solutions like this, coinciding with a in person visit, I think it’s a really important next step for us as a society to try to make it possible so that the system isn’t overwhelmed with annual visits that may not be necessary in person, and allow the in person visits to be for the more serious things where you need a doctor to get involved.
So what we’re talking about… and I’m sure many of our listeners have on site wellness clinics, they have wellness fairs and things. So this information, really, it’s the same as if they got it at home through your company, that’s just a great partner to your doctor. You’re going to be able to hopefully be more collaborative and share with your physician that, you know, here’s some numbers that I’m seeing or here’s some, you know, early signals that I’d love to talk through that maybe we can get proactive together. Right? I love it.
And I think that, you know, this becomes an option also, but it’s not the only way, you know, you can still, for those employers who still have on site… you know, manufacturing facilities, construction sites, places where people have to physically come in, doing on site screening is absolutely still a possibility. But for a lot of the companies that have switched to an at home workforce, you know, by being able to offer as another tool, to say, hey, you can go to a Quest Diagnostics or a CVS and go do your screening there, or we can ship this thing to your house and you can do it yourself, I think it’s a really great next step.
So certainly with so many people working remotely these days, or they might even be three states away from the employer – right? – having this option can be a great incentive and great idea to implement. But what about in terms of productivity and costs and follow through? How are those benefits in an at home screening as well?
Yeah, you know, I worked for a company at one point that requested that we do on site screenings. And, you know, one of the things that you notice in those environments is number one, it’s not super productive, because you’ve got this person, an on site service, now taking over one of your conference rooms, and you’re cycling the employees through that room. It can take a couple of weeks to get through 50 people, and it’s not super comfortable for all the employees. You know, they’re going into this room amongst their peers. Granted, they’re not watching, but they’re there when they walk out of the room. They’ve got numbers and data that people are wanting to ask, how did you do? What was this? What was your score? And… and that’s a lot of pressure and anxiety for a lot of people. And I think beyond the fact that there are productivity losses by having people go to an off site location even to do that, where they’re leaving work, all of those barriers and all of those anxiety moments can create lack of follow through, because people just… either they don’t want to make the time to do it…. Think about an hourly employee taking time off of work to go to do one of these screenings at a location off site that’s only open from, you know, eight to five. They’re losing money by doing this. And so I think giving people the option to do this at home solves multiple problems. One, that productivity issue, loss of income for some people, and that anxiety concern where… people doing it in their own home alone without that outside pressure of their coworkers. You know, all of those things thrown together, I think, result in more follow through, which results in better information and a better view and a more encompassing view for… for the employer about the health of their workforce, so that they know what kinds of additional services, whether it be a wellness program, a coaching service of some kind, what other benefits they might need to be offering to help improve that health of their… of their company.
So as you know, Travis, we’re called The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, and so we love to ask our guests, what advice can you give our listeners on creating more joy at work?
You know, especially these days, I think that the culture of companies is really driven by the employees and listening to them, reacting to the things they’re asking for, and making sure that… that you’re being supportive of… of all of their needs. And I think that whether it’s programs like things that we’re doing with at home services, or different kinds of benefits programs, I think doing regular reviews and surveys – anonymous – with your workforce can really go a long ways to helping them feel like they’re being listened to and that the company actually cares about them and cares about their well being.
And Travis, how can our listeners reach out to you directly if they’re interested in learning more?
We have a website, of course, and they can reach out to us there. It’s reperiohealth.com. And that’s spelled R-E-P-E-R-I-O health dot com. And they can reach out and we can talk about anything they’d like to know about what we’re doing. Appreciate you guys doing this. And yeah, this is… this is awesome stuff that’s going on in the world and I think we’re in a great spot to make some really, really cool changes that help everybody involved.
I think so too. Thank you for joining us. I think this is a great topic and a great idea. You know, I’m all about convenience now, so anything we can do from home or on our own time, I think is wonderful. So.
Yes, I agree. Thank you guys.
Thank you, Travis.
JoDee, I thought that was very interesting. I love when companies do put on wellness events, and they have wellness resources, but I had not ever met anyone who or any organization that was offering at home wellness assessments, so I love knowing the progress being made there.
Yes, me too, and I wanted to share a quick story with you and our listeners. I remember… this has been probably 15 years ago when I was an internal HR director and I really pushed our organization to offer wellness screenings. Course, at that time they were all in the office and… and live. But the closer it got – so they… they bought off on doing them, but the closer we got to having them, I was thinking, like, how am I gonna prove the ROI on this? You know, how will I show that this was a good investment? And it was good news and bad news. The good news was I was very easily able to show the return on investment at the wellness screenings. Unfortunately, to the bad news, that one of our employees who had long been with the organization and was a very high performer discovered in his wellness screening that his thyroid was significantly off. I forget if it was too high or too low, but it was in immediate need for him to follow up on that, and he got on some medication. And just in about the three weeks prior to this wellness screening, he was not doing well at work, after all these years of being a high performer, and then he was getting angry at people, he was not being very productive, he wasn’t wrapping up projects on a timely basis, and there was a lot of concern about… What is going on with him? And of course, it was confidential information, but he came back to me almost, like, within a few days, that he had followed up with his doctor who had gotten him on medication, and how now he realized how he had been struggling in the prior month. And I thought, and I told our leadership team, you know, if we just found one person a year that we could help overcome something like that and be a star performer for us, it was an easy return on investment.
I love that story. Yes.
So I encourage, no matter how you do it, to think about having wellness screenings of some kind in your organizations.
JoDee, our listener question today is a follow up question to the podcast we’ve done already in 2022 regarding HR trends. “If we empathize and create individual accommodations for employees – for example, letting some folks go part-time in certain situations – how do we not run into discrimination issues? For example, if we start treating people differently from each other based on their individual needs and let them… some people work part time from home and others not, don’t we run some legal risk?
You know, it is… I think it’s long been a question – right? – at work about who gets what and who gets to go to conferences and who doesn’t. But I do think this has been a bigger issue than ever recently with some organizations having people who are required to come to the office every day and then some people can work from home and some people can work hybrid. And there’s lots of thoughts about that, right? Why don’t I get to x? Whatever that x is. By the way, sometimes “Why don’t I get to…” can be “…to go to the office.” You know? [Laughs]
[Laughs] That’s right.
Some people have said, like, I want to go to the office and my employer won’t let me, or we gave up our space, or whatever, too. So I don’t have a perfect answer on this. But I do think you have to be careful about the laws, but you also have got to take care of high performers or people that you don’t want to lose. And sometimes for one person, that might be having a flex schedule where they work different hours throughout the day. And for someone else, it’s a hybrid work environment. And for someone else, it’s, you know, going to a conference. And we… of course, we don’t always have to announce all of those things to the rest of the group. But people talk, too, right? They’re… they’re going to talk to each other. So I think, you know, we ask the people to make a business case for what it is they’re looking at, and some of those will have to answer on an individual basis of does that business case make sense for the company and the individual and the long term success of both? So.
I think that’s a great, great response.
Yeah. It’s not… not a solid answer, but it’s things we just have to work through.
In our in the news section today, we’re talking about rest and getting enough sleep. Rest can do wonders for our creativity and problem solving, and neglecting time off work can have an impact on work productivity. In fact, in a February 2022 survey by Preply, they found 70% of workers agree that they feel fatigued if they go too long without a break. No surprise there. Right?
And that 56% of workers also feel stressed if they don’t take annual leave regularly. No surprise there either. However, I thought it was fascinating to look at the leave time for employees in different countries. And I think most of us have heard for many years that the United States is not at the top of the food chain on…[laughs]
…giving leave or PTO or vacation or whatever we might call that. And many times that depends on the length of service that you’ve been in a particular role. But the two countries tied with the highest amount of paid annual leave are Brazil and Spain, and they each boast a total of 30 days, which are followed by the United Kingdom with 28 days. In contrast, the United States is a country that legally offers the least amount of paid annual leave. You know what that is, Susan?
Big fat zero.
Yeah. And that’s because, you know, I feel like most employers we work with do offer time off, but they’re not legally required to do so, and these other numbers are legal requirements for them. On the other low end, so the United States is the lowest, but the next step up is China and the Philippines, who only require five days a year off. So I hope each of our listeners works for an organization that offers more than these minimums.
Not only require time off, but pay them for that time off.
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