This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.
Welcome to JoyPowered Workspace Podcast, where we talk about putting the humanity back into HR. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of JoyPowered, a workspace game changing new book. I’m here with Susan White a, national HR consultant and collaborator with Purple Ink. Today’s topic is wellness and the workspace. Susan, what are your just first initial thoughts about wellness in the workspace?
Well, you know, JoDee, you hear about wellness in the workplace almost everywhere. A recent report out of the 2016 Hello Heart says that half of all US employers have some type of a wellness program. The most recent statistic on that is that workplace wellness is a $6 billion dollar industry in the US.
Wow. Interesting. I think it’s interesting to say to just that half of them have it, but I bet that a very wide range of what they have… everything from we have pedometers to we have full scale blood tests, physician checkups, you know, wide range of things in between.
No doubt. You know, they say wellness programs can focus really like one or two areas or I guess they can really be a combination, but usually they’re focused on lifestyle management, or on chronic disease management, or some combination of both. So, you know, let’s talk about it for a minute. I think that because it’s popular doesn’t mean that every company out there needs to go grab one, and then others who were listening today might think, “you know what, I wanted to do something you know, how do I get started?” So I think this is a great topic for us to kick around.
Right. I like it from the employee standpoint, too, of thinking, is it important for them to work in an environment that values wellness and supports wellness initiatives? Or do they see that as a little too personal, and maybe they don’t want to talk about wellness in the workplace in their own personal wellness.
You know, and I’ve heard from people who, really, with a kind of a cynical point of view that says, “okay, great, if the company is going to play for pay for me to wear a Fitbit, what is it? What’s the gain for them? You know, why is it that they’re so anxious for me to worry about my blood pressure about how many steps I’m doing today, so on and so forth?” So I think that, you know, you really, as an employer, need to stop and think, “how do I, you know, affect this kind of change management?” I want a well, workforce because, JoDee, you know, I bet you could cite two or three reasons why you care about, as an employer from a business perspective, you want your employees to be well, what are some?
Well, number one, it can reduce absenteeism or sick time for people if you have a healthier workforce, everything from maybe preventing minor colds to preventing heart attacks down the line. If you have healthier heart. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about wellness programs too, though, is just engagement. It seems to be a good simple way, not 100% because we’ve mentioned that some people maybe aren’t interested in connecting the wellness and work. But I think it can offer some opportunities for some minor competitions or to get groups together to work out. I personally have always been one who needs a buddy system in my workout routine. And so when I’ve worked at places that had it, and I’m around other people who desire those same healthy habits, it’s been a positive influence on me.
Wow, you know, I could see how it would be good for the business to see that kind of teamwork and collaboration. And people you know, getting well it’s going to help, I think our, you know, insurance premiums, probably in our experience ratio. But you know, I keep thinking about that employee that is already feeling a little self conscious, maybe, about their weight or about their health. And they come into work, they try to check all that emotional baggage at the door, they get in the door, and all of a sudden there’s posters up about walking and about what you’re eating. And all they really want is their donut and coffee to get everybody started, you know. So we know that that can sometimes you know, be anti engagement.
That’s exactly right. And I think I’m a little naive about that. I know I’ve, in previous companies that I’ve worked with, and we’ve spent a lot of money on trying to get people engaged in wellness, and it’s always amazed me the number of people who aren’t interested in it. And I’ve tried to respect that also, right? But it’s difficult for me because it is of interest to me, but some people want to keep that separate or maybe just some people are doing their own thing. It doesn’t mean they’re not interested in wellness but they…
They don’t like group wellness, they, want their own.
Right. They’re seeing their own doctor, going to their own trainer, getting their own blood work, or doing their own Fitbit challenge, and they don’t want that as a part of their workspace.
Sure. No, that makes sense. Well, I you know what I think it’s probably smart that we talked to an expert, maybe somebody who has put up wellness programs because I would love to hear from someone like where do you start? If you believed in it, you believe your employees wanted it? What would you do first?
Yeah, so today we brought in Laura. Laura, maybe you can just introduce yourself to our audience and tell them about your experiences and wellness programs.
Sure. Thanks, Susan and JoDee. Well, I’ve had a little bit of experience in a couple different organizations in healthcare world and consulting, and I’ve been lucky enough to kind of be able to step back and kind of realize that wellness programs are most effective when they are clearly tailored to the goals and needs of a specific population. And they’re able to provide sufficient opportunities for employee engagement and JoDee already connected on the engagement piece. I’ve never been someplace where everyone is on the same page in their wellness journey. So, as Susan pointed out, you know, somebody, you know, may never even thought and now they really don’t want to think about it when their employers telling them to eat healthy or come to a lunch and learn where they might just want to donut. But there are people that have started a wellness journey, and then there’s some people that are mastering it. So kind of taking some of those people all across the board and talking to them and finding out what might engage them at various levels, because it’s not going to be the same for everyone.
Laura, what do you mean when you said it’s best to be designed for a specific population?
Just that one program I don’t feel will fit your entire population. So kind of drill down into, you know, your company, even various departments. Being in health care, you know, we were part of a surgery center. So that staff, they were very competitive if you can think about that type of work environment, and they love the competition piece where we could put in some programs, we talked about Fitbit or step challenges or even Biggest Loser programs. They loved that, because that was kind of their mentality. They were in early, they got there, you know, maybe they even worked out before together. But like I said, there’s other pieces, even within an organization that maybe it’s just getting people to, you know, start walking, you know, maybe they’re not ready for some of the other competitions. And Susan mentioned earlier about, you know, the lifestyle management piece versus chronic disease management, and I was going to elaborate on that a little bit more. But if you think about lifestyle management, you’re thinking more about, you know, what’s in your break room, you know, what are your pantries stacked with at work? Are there healthy options? You know, maybe you reimburse for gym memberships, or you support a team if they’re going to walk in a race for a fundraiser. Those are, you know, lifestyle enhancements that you can have, you know,
I have to tell you, I just went to a meeting with JoDee’s firm the shield’s purple link, and she brought fruit and then she put it into the pantry. So anybody else could help themselves throughout the day. So I think that’s great. A great example, right?
The chronic disease management piece is more if you’ve heard of organizations doing a health risk assessment where you fill out kind of a survey of where you are, are you getting your annual exams that kind of want to know some history. nd then also doing a quick biometric screening just in you know, maybe a finger prick and they can tell you your results right away. Those are more and a target employees that might have a health risk and help them identify that maybe identify a blood pressure concern and be able to treat that instead of letting that get to a heart disease. But again, I’ve been in an organization that have done those and you can start there and maybe you get everybody to show up because you give them a little incentive for everybody that shows up, they get, you know, a small reward that might get them there. But again, the ongoing maintenance, maybe a variety of things that maybe some of these programs we’ve talked about, it may be some telephonic coaching, you have an organization that you work with that one on one, they work with employees on, you know, managing that blood pressure or talking with them about being pre diabetic, and what that means, again, not everybody’s going to be on the same page and their wellness journey and you kind of have to find what works for employees, because it’s not going to be a one size fits all.
Laura, I’ve had two personal experiences with success in the biometric screening in one year. I think it might have even been the first year or are definitely just the second year we implemented by biometric screening at a previous company, we discovered one of our employees discovered that they had a thyroid issue, a very serious thyroid issue, that he knew that he was struggling with his health. And honestly, he had been a long time superstar employee. That was his performance had really bottomed out and we were having conversations about whether he was a good fit for the organization. At the same time, coincidentally, that we implemented the biometric screening found out he had a thyroid problem, got on medication and immediately felt the health benefits of that, as well as his performance skyrocketed again, and I’ve always felt like the success of that one employee paid for cost of our wellness program for a long time.
So I’ve had the experience where somebody went through one of those testings, we brought nurses in to this company, and they did all the tests. And people have come back and said it changed their lives, it saved their lives, because maybe it was a, you know, heart issue they had not detected that others were who they didn’t really think they were overweight and they got their BMI back and it just it caused them to really wake up and really change their life and hopefully give them extra years.
And I think that like I said is a great starting place and identify those things and then it is finding ways to engage them with several different opportunities. Recently, I’ve been at a smaller organization where we just did a point challenge, a simple point challenge, but we actually talked about fruits and vegetables, about curbing our late night eating, walking, exercising, you know, drinking water and we kind of tally those points up and and we also, one of the biggest pieces that everyone mostly enjoyed was actually being in constant contact with the team, like people held each other accountable, they checked in with each other. And so that was one of the biggest feedbacks and it was, you know, an easy kind of check your points off, you know, calculated at the end of the week and see who’s winning. The funny thing is that even in that just a small program like that, we did find issues at the end, we found that maybe people didn’t want to track their points, or it got a little cumbersome, or the program we did over eight weeks, and there’s lots of studies that say you should probably do it more like a four week program, people want to change it up a little bit. So I think also leveraging technology as well. I mean, everybody has their smartphone now are there ways that you can simply have them you know, check in, do a step program, do something that they’re already going to be using, you know, a device for and kind of leverage that with a program you’re doing. I think you’ll get a big bang kind of for your buck there.
Laura, I love the idea, and just to make sure on the checking in with other employees, so you they actually earned points for doing that, right, as part of it? So that goes back to my comment earlier about engagement again, which I think can be a double whammy there not just on wellness but engaging people and when people feel good, where they feel better when they’re engaged in their work and so I think there’s there’s extra benefits on that. So I like that you incorporated in that.
I mean, I think we’ve talked a little bit about it already. It’s it’s no mystery or hidden and you know, agenda for these larger organizations that are wanting to try to save healthcare dollars. That’s usually why you’ll you’ll hear the rumbling like we need a wellness program. We need a wellness program. Our claims were awful last year. But I think once you implement it and you find ways that it works for your organization, you get the engagement, your morale improves, you’ll find that your productivity will improve as well.
And you know, Laura, I think you’re so right. I think it’s important that companies be really transparent about it, and let them know, this wellness program, there’s a win for you and a win for us. And here’s why.
Susan, you had mentioned earlier about that 50% of employers have a wellness program. Let’s go back to that for a second. What do you Laura and Susan, what do you think it means to say you have a wellness program? Is there any real definition of what that constitutes?
I think it’s really wide open. You know what? Yeah, it could be band aids in the pantry, right? Someone’s sick, we make sure they have a band aid, all the way to a fabulous, you know, gym inside of the organization and lunch hour, lunch and learns ,and blood pressure screenings, and things like that. What do you think, Laura?
I agree, I think all across the board, people are trying to implement wellness programs and if they get, you know, anything up and running, they’re going to call that their program, which is great, it might be working, but I think they will categorize that as having a program.
Right. Right. And what both of you have mentioned: gym memberships. I have found I have struggled with that, over the years in different organizations, where companies have paid for gym memberships that no one uses. We’ve tried some different tracking systems have either of you found success with the company paying for gym memberships?
I would say that, at one time we did – we were able to go out and find gyms close to our facility that were able to give the employee a discount because they were part of our organization. So it was kind of a win, the employee still had to pay a piece of that. So that kind of kept them, you know, engage. They weren’t going to continue to pay for that monthly membership, if it was totally on our bill. So we kind of let them have a little bit of piece of that as well. But we found though, that when they started creating teams, and they would kind of go together, we found success in that. But again, we didn’t pay for the entire membership.
I like that. I like having skin in the game on the employee side.
And you know, when Laura talked about no one thing, an element of a wellness program is going to appeal to everyone. I truly do believe there’s a segment that a gym membership would really be a deciding factor as why you go with the firm. I have a son who’s a millennial, and he’s very much into CrossFit. And it was a big… he was he was changing jobs, going to an employer, one of the perks was paying for a membership at a gym was huge. I mean, it was like hands down. I’ll go there before I go anywhere else. Now that wouldn’t appeal to his mother. But to him, it was a big deal.
It’s interesting, too. I think that maybe I’d be curious if your son partially maybe from a cost perspective that someone would be paying for the cost of that, but also what message that sends to candidates or employees about how the company values wellness, and activity.
Oh, yeah, I think that’s an excellent point. So Laura, can you talk a little bit about the return on investment? I’d read that most companies that have it cannot really demonstrate a dollar figure of a return on investment. From a wellness program.
I think that’s hard, and a return on investment and trying to support a wellness program, you really have to probably focus more on the chronic management piece that we talked about. So are you able to identify risk factors in your population? And were you able to potentially prevent that heart attack or heart disease from occurring? There’s there was just a study done in 2015 about heart disease and stroke statistics that said that one in three Americans have high blood pressure pressure and are high risk of heart disease. Most Americans don’t understand their heart risk and don’t have it under control. So these are some of these where these biometric screenings would be very beneficial. But on the other hand, you know, 80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented. So in these where we identify them, you know, how can we help them prevent that and it’s going to be talking about management? Do we have a coach talk to them and try to manage it? Do we ask that they you know, bi weekly or at least monthly go to physician to get blood pressure checks? Can we help out with that cost to them and get that that done for them controlling high blood pressure is going to reduce the chance of heart attack and stroke by 75%. The study goes on to say, and taking steps to control blood pressure can save employers 44 million annually. So you know, just that big number, think about dividing that down into you know, employers. So again, looking at, you know, the chronic disease management and then what are some of those lifestyle things that you can help them make those lifestyle changes. Again, you really get to look at return on investments. When, you know, they say, you know, maybe when you have a wellness program, you’re going to save 50 cents per dollar for a healthy employee for a lifestyle management change. But you’re really going to see it says like $3.80 cents for disease management. So when you really implement that disease management pieces when you’re going to see a return on investment, and again, because, you know, the programs are, you know, maybe piecemeal or different pieces, and I’m sure that’s why it’s hard for employers to show that that return on investment.
So it sounds like maybe, although you might have a candidate, my example where we had the guy who had a thyroid issue that was found and treated. We couldn’t really measure how much his increased performance impacted our organization. But sounds like really where the key ROI comes in is what is prevented which of course, is impossible to measure to it could be that one person who might have had a heart attack, who didn’t have it, so they didn’t incur the cost because you prevented it. So there’s no way to really measure what that might have been.
And I’d like to think about that person who did not have the heart attack, ended up staying with you for 10 more years and knock the ball out of the park and the sales that he did.
I mean, they say currently, you know, large corporations are spending up to 11,000 per employee per year for their health care costs. And anyone that has a chronic condition, they say you spend more than five times for that person. So if you think of that number, you know, pretty general number but you know, make maybe identifying that chronic condition or that condition before it comes truly chronic. You know, doing blood pressure checks are a lot more manageable than a bypass surgery, you know, saving one of those is really gonna help your return on investment.
So implementing some of those basic programs or basic screening protocols so some some of the wellness initiatives we talked about might actually be free. Some of the basic screenings might be a mere hundred dollars or a few hundred dollars for employees up to I’m sure 1000 could well be a savings over spending $11,000 per employee per year per year.
It seems like a pretty easy business case to approve, doesn’t it? Hey, you know, we have a listener, email desk on this topic. So if you would mind if I ask and that way, we’ve got an expert with us, JoDee, maybe Laura would want to weigh in? Yep. This came from Frank in Evansville. And what he wrote in was my organization has a wellness plan with incentives. I’d love to participate in getting those incentives, but I have a history of high blood pressure, and I don’t want my employer to know about it. How can I participate yet, ensure they don’t get my confidential results?
Yeah, that’s a great question and definitely had that concern, but your employer will would not have access to those individual specific results. What usually happens is your employer works with a vendor, the vendor would notify the employer that you took the screening, or you know, sometimes there’s an incentive that if you pass three parts of it, like your blood pressure’s within range or your sugar’s below, you know, a number, you get, you know, maybe a reduction or a benefit, reward, they, the vendor will notify your employer of that, but, you know, depending on the arrangement with the vendor, they may contact you to discuss what we talked a little bit about as some coaching or ongoing communication, but your employers not going to have the access to the detail of what those results were. So, hopefully, that kind of eases some minds out there that, you know, your employer, again, is wanting to assist you along the journey, but they’re not going to say “Susan, your blood pressure was out of whack here, you better get out and check.”
Good. So Frank, go ahead and do it. Like your life may depend on it.
I guess maybe we should clarify a little bit to say if you’re thinking of creating an in house wellness program that we would encourage you not to have access to that, certainly outside vendors that I’ve worked with in the past, I did not have that individual. But if someone’s trying to implement those things on their own, that we would encourage them never to have that data in house, that you would store or sometimes I’ve been involved with simple programs where we’ve just had self reporting, or self reporting of changes. How many points did your cholesterol go down? Or how many pounds of weight did you lose? And we ask people to share their results without sharing the actual numbers.
Gotcha. Smart. Well, Laura, this has been So fun, really appreciate you coming. I think that I’ve learned a lot today. And I hope that you’ll come back again.
Thank you for having me.
Thanks for joining us. In the news company started being able to post job openings on Facebook since the middle of February of this year. with LinkedIn being the social media leader in this arena, what do you think about Facebook expanding their brand into the employment market?
You know, I have to say, JoDee that, you know, kudos to them. They certainly have been doing lots of creative and different things. And, you know, with the, with the population of the huge amounts of people that go out to Facebook every day, how smart to integrate a job seeking system out there.
Right. And I understand it’s simple and free now to post jobs on it. So great market. I know recently I heard a speaker talk about posting jobs on Facebook. This was the just through people’s company accounts or personal accounts, not this new opportunity that Facebook has opened. But I found it interesting that they said sometimes that job seekers are not the one on Facebook, but it might be their spouse or a neighbor or their parents that seize the opportunities. In this particular example, the speaker was talking about posting truck driver positions on Facebook. And many people in the audience didn’t seem to think that was an appropriate market for truck drivers. And he said, That’s exactly right. It isn’t the truck drivers on Facebook. It’s their wives.
Oh, yeah. Or their moms. Right.
Right. Right. And they were finding huge success with posting so you never know in a roundabout way who might be seeing those posting.
I think that’s very smart. I would just have to say that everyone out there who’s thinking about using that as a means to find an employer that you want to think about what you put out on Facebook, because you know, if you’re in that arena, they’re going to be able to see what you’ve posted. You may friend them and just want to think about it because sometimes people tend to kind of go off the, off the road a bit. We want to make sure you make sure you’re always presenting yourself the way you want that future employer to you.
Right, right. So to our listeners, thank you for listening today. If you have questions and any HR topic or feedback on our podcast, please check out our JoyPowered Facebook account or twitter @JoyPowered. And tune in next month as we talk about StrengthsFinder and understanding how to do more of what you do best.
Great, thanks so much.