Have fun and relax, whether you want to or not

When you take time off for vacation, do you take your laptop or tablet? Do you check your emails and voicemail messages from your smart phone, read long-unopened mail, draft proposals or performance reviews, conduct research or write memos?  If you say “yes” to any of these, you’re in good company…but it’s also likely you’re not good company, and you aren’t getting the real “down time” you need to relax, reduce stress, and replenish yourself.

Behavioral health also is a key component of your overall wellness. Taking time off, learning to relax, reducing stress and effectively dealing with situations that cause panic, anxiety, or other emotional pressure are just as important as eating right and exercising regularly.            

As an employer it’s critical that you encourage your staff to find their own paths to relaxation and better health. That includes uninterrupted vacation time, sick days when they’re needed, “mental health breaks,” and generous wellness programs. The rewards for modeling and facilitating these behaviors include increased productivity, better service, enhanced teamwork, reduced errors and accidents, lower absenteeism, and long-term loyalty.

According to Elizabeth Scott, MS, writing in About.Com on the importance of vacations, many people don’t take vacations often enough, and almost half the readers polled at the About.Com site admitted they never take vacations. When we take our work on vacation with us, she says, we don’t allow ourselves to escape the work mindset vacations are intended to break. The values of vacations, she says, are numerous, including:

  • Stave off burnout, making workers more productive and creative
  • Keep us healthy by reducing stress over short- and longer-term periods
  • Promote overall wellbeing, including improved sleep, mood and a reduction in physical complaints
  • Strengthen bonds with partners and family members, which also reduces overall stress
  • Increased quality of work related to increased quality of life.

May is National Employee Health and Fitness Month, and it’s also National Mental Health Month. Now is a good time to create an environment that supports employee “downtime.” That might include break rooms and clearly respected lunch or dinner periods, picnic tables outdoors, or enough time for employees to walk or grab a quick workout. More proactive options can include friendly competitions and worker recognition for achieving wellness milestones, incentive programs, healthy food in vending machines or your lunchroom, and support for wellness-related classes. Concern for your employees’ wellness will pay you back in spades with a happier staff and more satisfied customers.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

How are you measuring your wellness program’s ROI?

Regardless of the services or products you offer, healthcare costs take a big bite out of your revenue stream, and you need a cost-containment solution to mitigate or control those costs. Since 1999, increases in employer-sponsored healthcare costs have far exceeded the rate of overall inflation; up to as much as four times in some years. In response, many U.S. employers have instituted worksite wellness programs designed to encourage employees to live healthier. The end result is reduced health risk factors for employees and a reduction in year-over-year healthcare spending trends for both employees and their employers.

In a health management study conducted in 2009 with managers of small- to medium-sized businesses across the country,* the majority of respondents stated their worksite wellness programs had been in place for more than two years, long enough to see return on investment (ROI). However, while the survey found that most respondents understand that the impact of a wellness program should be measured, many key metrics to achieving a good assessment remain unmeasured.

To calculate the ROI of employer wellness efforts, you have to understand the relationship between health risk factors and healthcare costs. Risk factors increase the unnecessary and avoidable utilization of medical services that will drive up cost. When organizations understand the correlation between health risk and cost, they can begin to understand how to measure the cost savings from reducing those risks.

Defining Return on Investment

There are two ways to define ROI; reduce the rate of increase in health plan costs and reduce costs in absolute terms. You can measure monetary savings of medical costs in absolute terms (for instance, a savings of $100 per participant from 2010 to 2011). Companies can calculate ROI if it offsets the rate of increase in health plan costs. If the trend was 10 percent per year for four years and becomes 7 percent per year after the implementation of a wellness program, you know it’s working.

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents state their organizations analyze the cost effectiveness, cost savings, and return on investment of their wellness programs. Employee participation is the most tracked metric, with 89 percent stating it is a very important measure. Respondents also list behavioral changes (84 percent) and employee satisfaction (74 percent) as important measures. Of related interest, although 87 percent of respondents state their program tracks participation, only 63 percent say their organization regularly monitors employee satisfaction; 61 percent say organizations assess changes in biometric measures; and 55 percent say their organization assesses and monitors the health status of at-risk employees.

Also of great significance, few respondents are tracking productivity metrics; only 29 percent monitor the impact on absenteeism, and a mere 18 percent monitor the impact on employee turnover, morale or productivity. And barely half of the employers surveyed said they or their current wellness provider have the capability to analyze medical and pharmaceutical claims data, critical components for effective cost analysis.

Behind the Financials

On-the-job performance often takes a back seat when it comes to measuring the ROI of health management, since healthcare cost reduction is the driving force for most wellness programs. While absenteeism is relatively easy to track, many employers do not measure it because it is difficult to determine the cause and reason. Employee morale, productivity and presenteeism are more challenging to measure. Presenteeism reflects an employee’s productivity when well, compared to when they are in pain, sick or stressed.

Participation tracking is very important, as is talking with your employees about their personal goals, their efforts to achieve those goals, and the support they get or feel they’re getting from their workplaces. Companies that are able to demonstrate ROI for wellness initiatives typically share five common elements:

  • A comprehensive program
  • Effective incentives
  • Biometrics
  • Multiple program modalities; and
  • Communication programs.

Initiating best practices

The following are best practices to strengthen wellness program performance and ultimately strengthen ROI:

  1. Design a comprehensive program to apply to all employees. Include both healthy and at-risk employees for program initiatives, as well as health assessments and screenings.
  2. Integrate incentives into plan design. The best programs have engaged and supportive managers who tailor incentives to their unique employee population. Successful wellness efforts include initiatives like premium discounts, cash, prizes, and/or paid time off.
  3. Validate efforts with biometric screenings. Health risk assessments are only one part of the process for tracking employee health. A biometric screening includes three components: blood work, blood pressure and body mass index.
  4. Offer multiple program modalities. Some wellness programs are completely self-directed. The best programs offer several options since one method will not work for the employee population. If employees do not like the offered programs, they will stop participating.
  5.  Engage employees with effective health-awareness programs. The best wellness communication strategy is engaging but not threatening. Efforts should be ongoing throughout the year and customized to your company and its activities. The most successful worksite wellness programs are fun and interesting, and keep employees involved for the long term, while lowering health risks.

The Centers for Disease Control has determined that approximately 75 percent of healthcare costs and productivity losses are related to lifestyle choices. Changing behavior is critical to reducing health care costs, so the more employers support and participate in their employee wellness efforts, the greater the ROI. And remember: When it comes to measurement, take criticism seriously, but not personally. People love to complain. If a company listens carefully, employees will give feedback on program design successes and failures. 

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

*The survey, “Trends in Measuring the ROI of Corporate Wellness,” was conducted in 2009 and sent via email to nearly 21,000 professionals. Nearly one-third of respondents (32 percent) were senior management, C-level, vice president, or director. Another 40 percent were manager level. Most represented small to medium-size businesses, and all worked for companies with a current wellness program in place.

Give Your Employees the Gifts of Health and Wellness

When you operate a small business, every employee makes a significant contribution to service and results. If even one employee experiences frequent sick days, low productivity or an extended absence, it can lead to significant challenges and potential lost revenue or unhappy customers. It also damages morale internally when other employees are forced to pick up the slack.

Small businesses have jumped on the wellness bandwagon, once the purview of large employers only. Employers realize that employee wellness programs can reduce healthcare costs, lessen worker’s compensation claims, decrease absenteeism and employee turnover. Health and wellness initiatives supported in the workplace also increase productivity, reduce stress, and improve workers’ attitudes.

Investments in an employee wellness program can be well worth an employer’s initial cost outlay. Large companies have seen amazing returns on their investments as a result of their corporate wellness programs. According to a case study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a company-wide employee wellness program can save $2.43 for every $1 spent. And according to a report from U.S. Corporate Wellness, a commitment to an employee wellness program can result in a 20 percent to 55 percent reduction in healthcare costs.

As the end of 2011 rapidly approaches, this is a good time for employers on the wellness fence to consider learning more about implementing wellness initiatives that are readily available, simple to execute and can return significant results in stress reduction, customer service, productivity, employee morale and revenue.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Continuing to Beat the Wellness Drum – Why It Matters

As a small business leader, you constantly analyze and evaluate your benefits programs, taking into account growing healthcare expenditures and the personal health and wellness of your employees.

The benefits of progressive, proactive wellness programs are well established. To reduce costs, employees need to become engaged in both their healthcare spending and in reducing their health risks.

Achieving balance through wellness, education, and support

Many organizations are raising employee awareness of health costs and the importance of living healthy lifestyles, while continuing to offer quality healthcare coverage at affordable prices. A standard approach is to focus on wellness, education, and consumer support by weaving wellness into the fabric of your company’s culture.

While one obvious goal of any wellness program is to reduce costs, it is not the primary message. Wellness is about people and improving their quality of life. Successful programs place heavy emphasis on personal outcomes. Employees benefit from access to healthcare education and information on topics ranging from stress management and exercise to healthy cooking. They also benefit from smoking cessation courses and materials, and through an understanding of their own personal responsibility in ensuring their health and wellness.

Making connections between costs and choices

When you integrate wellness and intervention programs, you have the opportunity to educate employees about how the connections between their healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices relate to their premiums and other healthcare costs.

The impact of health data and supportive outreach to drive changes is working for employers across the country. There are a variety of interactive, online health and wellness programs that can help employers enhance the health and productivity of their employees and support a more complete system of care.

The first step, of course, is encouraging your team to complete an in-depth health assessment. This assessment yields revealing, yet actionable information for the individual, and can be used to help guide the employee to programs and actions that will address his or her health needs.

Quality educational courses and materials, sensible fitness activities, and effective communication are all core components of a successful wellness program. Employers must make the connections between medical costs, health risks, and personal responsibility. The more we understand that health risks, many of which are modifiable, drive health utilization and cost, the more effective we can be in helping our employees adjust their behaviors and attitudes toward wellness.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Workplace Obesity Prevention Programs Work

In a comprehensive study conducted just three years ago, the annual healthcare cost of obesity in the United States was estimated to be as high as 147 billion dollars a year. The annual medical burden of obesity had increased to 9.1 percent compared to 6.5 percent when measured in 1998. In fact, medical expenses for obese employees are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for a person with a healthy weight. So, even though an employee’s weight can be a sensitive topic, workplace obesity-prevention programs are effective ways for employers to reduce obesity and lower their healthcare costs, lower absenteeism, and increase employee productivity.

What is the cost of obesity to your organization?

Obesity and the health conditions associated with it, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, and certain types of cancer are responsible for much of the increase in healthcare spending by employers. Obese persons spend 77 percent more money for necessary medications than non-obese persons.

It is estimated that employers spend $13 billion annually on the total cost of obesity. But obesity affects more than healthcare costs — it also has a significant impact on worker productivity because the more chronic medical conditions an employee has, the higher the probability of absenteeism or increased presenteeism (when an employee is physically present but ill or not at the top of “their game.”)

Organizations can benefit directly by improving employee health through wellness programs that include an obesity-prevention component. A survey of CEOs found that “healthier employees” is the number-one reason why companies choose to implement health promotion programs. Additionally, well-designed programs have the potential to extend beyond the worksite and positively influence dependents (spouses and children), and thereby reduce an organization’s overall healthcare costs.

Although it may seem that only large organizations can implement obesity-prevention and control programs, organizations of all sizes have done so successfully. Many types of organizations, including those with few employees and resources, are implementing successful obesity prevention programs.

Why should employers get involved?

Potential benefits to employers for initiating obesity-education efforts include:

  • Reduced cost for chronic diseases
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Improved recruiting efforts
  • Increased worker satisfaction
  • Demonstrated concern for your employees
  • Improved morale

Potential benefits to your employees include:

  • Greater productivity
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Improved fitness and health
  • Additional social opportunities and source of support within the workplace

“CDC’s LEAN Works! Leading Employees to Activity and Nutrition” is a free web-based resource that offers interactive tools and evidence-based resources to design effective worksite obesity-prevention and control programs. It includes an Obesity Cost Calculator  that lets you calculate your company’s ROI. The tool allows employers to create scenarios to estimate the financial impact of specific obesity interventions, including the costs, benefits, and time required to break even.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Maximizing Return On Investment (ROI) for Worksite Wellness Programs

The work site is the ideal place for health and wellness programs. Employees spend more than half of their waking hours at work. According to the Wellness Councils of America, the amount of ROI that can be expected from a wellness program depends on the type of program being implemented. They refer to three different types of programs: (1) Quality of Work Life (QWL) Wellness or “Wellness for Fun and Pleasure;” (2) Traditional or Conventional (ToC) Wellness or “the Safe Approach;” and (3) Health and Productivity Management (HPM) Style Wellness, or “Serious Wellness.”

QWL wellness programs focus primarily on improving the morale of employees. They are intended to add quality to work life and to improve camaraderie and relationships between employer and employees. This approach to worksite wellness involves entirely voluntary activities that are generally selected for the positive effect they are likely to have on employees. The ROI for this type of program is quite low with a cost/benefit ratio from zero to 1:1.5.

ToC wellness programs focus primarily on the passive offering of a more extensive set of interventions than the QWL program model. They are intended to offer a wide range of activities in a smorgasbord-style approach where about half the eligible participants will usually initiate the use of one or more program activities. The intention is to offer, on a voluntary basis, many different worksite-based wellness activities and to have something for everybody. The ROI for this type of program is moderate with a cost/benefit ratio of 1:1.5 to 1:3.5.   

HPM wellness programs focus primarily on the proactive offering of a highly structured and substantial set of interventions than either the QWL program model or the ToC program model. They are intended to provide an infrastructure of health-management activities offered to a large portion of the workforce and their spouses. The core intention of the HPM model is to offer an organized, intentional process of health improvement and health-risk reduction for all participants. The ROI for this type of program is higher than that of the other two program types with a cost/benefit ratio of 1:3.6 to 1:7.0.

Regardless of which model you choose, the ROI on worksite-related wellness activities succeeds on multiple physical, emotional and cultural levels, helps reduce health-care related costs, and increases morale and productivity.

We’ll continue to bring you wellness ROI stories each month, but also encourage you to share your stories with us. Please let us know what you’re doing, how it’s going, and if we can mention your efforts in a future issue of this newsletter. Send your note to Daryn.marchi@cbia.com.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Obesity Prevention at the Workplace

In 2008, the annual healthcare cost of obesity in the U.S. was estimated to be as high as 147 billion dollars a year. The annual medical burden of obesity increased to 9.1 percent in 2006 compared to 6.5 percent in 1998. Medical expenses for obese employees are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for a person with a healthy weight. Workplace obesity-prevention programs can be an effective way for employers to reduce obesity and lower their health care costs, reduce absenteeism and increase employee productivity.

Obesity and the health conditions associated with it; such as, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, and certain types of cancer are responsible for much of the increase in health care spending by employers. Obese persons spend 77% more than non-obese persons for necessary medications.

Obesity affects more than health care costs, it also has a significant impact on worker productivity because the more chronic medical conditions an employee has, the higher the probability of absenteeism or presenteeism.

Organizations can benefit directly by improving employee health through an obesity-prevention program. A survey of CEOs found that “healthier employees” is the number one reason why companies choose to implement health promotion programs. Additionally, well-designed programs have the potential to extend beyond the worksite and positively influence dependents (spouses and children), and thereby reduce an organization’s health care costs.

Although it may seem that only large organizations can implement obesity prevention and control programs, organizations of all sizes have done so successfully. Many types of organizations, including those with few employees and resources, are implementing successful obesity prevention programs.

Why Should Employers Get Involved

Potential benefits to employers:

  • Reduces cost for chronic diseases
  • Decreases absenteeism
  • Reduces employee turnover
  • Improves worker satisfaction
  • Demonstrates concern for your employees
  • Improves morale

Potential benefits to your employees:

  • Ensures greater productivity
  • Reduces absenteeism
  • Improves fitness and health
  • Provides social opportunity and source of support within the workplace

CDC offers free obesity-reduction resource

Leading Employees to Activity and Nutrition” (LEAN) is a free web-based resource offered by The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that offers interactive tools and evidence-based resources to design effective worksite obesity prevention and control programs. You will be able to calculate your company’s ROI using CDC’s Obesity Cost Calculator, [http://www.cdc.gov/leanworks/costcalculator/index.html] a tool designed to allow employers to create scenarios to estimate the financial impact of specific obesity interventions, including the costs, benefits, and time required to break even.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Why Establish a Workplace Health Program?

Changes in the pace of work and stress levels experienced by employees, combined with the rising cost of health care and benefits, have convinced many employers that investing in employee wellness makes good business sense. This month, we take a look at wellness activities from our northern neighbor. Statistics Canada reports that an estimated $12 billion is lost to workplace absenteeism each year.  Stress, smoking, the inability to balance work and family, and feelings of loss of control over workplace schedules and environments are some of the major health issues facing today’s workforce.

Two-thirds of Canadians over age 15 are employees and, on average, they spend about 60 percent of their waking hours at work. Therefore, the social and physical workplace environment can have a significant impact on health. Research shows that most employees believe the workplace is an appropriate and effective place to promote health and well-being issues. The workplace is also an effective setting for increasing active living because of the potential policy and environmental impact, increased social support, use of mass media and the use of individually based interventions. Other assets of the workplace setting are the size and stability of the target population, the lack of time and travel barriers to participation, peer pressure and peer support, and a “captive” audience.

The workplace also has previously established channels of communication, existing support networks and opportunities to develop corporate norms of behavior.

Not only is the workplace viewed as an effective place to promote health, it is increasingly recognized that the environment at work influences health. The health of employees, in turn, influences productivity, and ultimately, an organization’s bottom line. Evidence suggests a significant return on health and wellness investment for Canadian businesses. For example:

  • In the first six months of the Metro Fit program in Toronto, active municipal employees missed 3.5 fewer days than employees not in the program;
  • BC Hydro employees enrolled in their fitness program had a turnover rate of 3.5 percent compared to a company average of 10.3 percent;
  • The Canadian Life Assurance Company found that the turnover rate for fitness program participants was 32.4 percent lower than average over seven years; and
  • A Canada Life study found a return of $1.95 to $3.75 per employee per dollar spent on corporate wellness programs.
Source:  http://www.healthyalberta.ca/Documents/guidebook-howtochoosewell.pdf

ROI Statistics

A review of 32 studies of corporate wellness programs found claims costs were reduced by 27.8%, physician visits declined by 16.5%, hospital admissions declined by 62.5%, disability costs reduced by 34.4%, incidence of injury declined by 24.8%.

A study reported average annual savings of $8.5 million during 4 years when 18,331 Johnson & Johnson employees participated in a health and wellness program at work. A separate study of the same group showed reductions in tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low dietary fiber intake and poor motor vehicle safety practices. 

Another study showed that employees who utilized an employee fitness center gained both physical and psychological benefits: improved morale (64%), job satisfaction (70%), work productivity (66%), energy level (83%), physical fitness (86%), general health (80%), work/life balance (63%), stress management (76%), stamina/endurance (84%), attentiveness at work (70%), healthy back (74%), keeping high blood pressure in check (62%), managing cholesterol levels (68%), and controlling weight (76%). 

Citibank’s health management program reported an estimated return on investment of $4.56 to $4.73 saved per $1 spent on the program (AJHP, Ozminkowski, Goetzel et al., 1999).

Over 5 years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana realized a 250% return on its corporate fitness program investment, yielding a ROI of $2.51 for every $1.00 invested (AJHP, Kenneth R. Pelletier, March/April 1991).

Aurora Healthcare, 2005, http://www.aurorahealthcare.org

How You Benefit from Worksite Wellness

Healthier behaviors translate into fewer health issues within the workforce, which in turn lowers health care costs. In fact, more than 120 research studies about worksite wellness programs show improvements in employee health coupled with high returns on investments (ROI).

Major study findings include the following statistics:

  • Savings of $3.48 in reduced health care costs per dollar invested
  • Savings of $5.82 in lower absenteeism costs per dollar invested
  • ROIs of at least $3 to $8 per dollar invested within five years of program implementation
  • Lifestyle behavior change programs — $3 to $6 ROI within 2 to 5 years
  • Self care, decision support programs — $2 to $3 ROI within 1 year
  • Disease management programs — $7 to $10 ROI within 1 year

The impact of a health improvement program also goes beyond decreased health care costs and ROI. A health improvement program can affect productivity, absenteeism, morale, recruitment success, turnover, and medical care costs.

http://www.ibx.com/worksite_wellness/