Simple, realistic goals help employees shape up

People often say it’s the little things that count, that difficult and challenging tasks aren’t insurmountable when tackled in small bites. And time after time, we see how simple steps — tempered by consistency, enthusiasm, effort and support — can form a potent mix when it comes to changing behaviors and instituting positive habits.

Such is the case at The Health Consultants Group, a privately held employee benefits brokerage with 25 employees in Plainville and a small satellite office in Massachusetts. Committed to employee health and wellness — for their clients and their employees — the company asked its staff at a team lunch held prior to the summer what they might want to do together that would be fun, involve physical activity, require goal setting and promote friendly competition. The results, said Susan Mateyov, wellness coordinator, was a seasonal wellness program called Summer ShapeUP.

ShapeUP, she explained, was an eight-week voluntary program which encouraged participants to track a variety of healthy practices that involved tasks easily achieved and items readily available. These activities, she added, were based on research she did into what other companies were doing on the health and wellness front, as well as information she gathered from The Wellness Council of America (WELCOA).

The company had already tried a walking program and wanted something more interactive. A weekly point system was developed for tracking a variety of healthy choices. Points were assigned and awarded for a minimum of 30 minutes of activity daily; for water, fruit and vegetable intake; for days without tobacco products; and for a variety of “bonus” items such as visiting a local farmers’ market, grilling instead of frying foods, bringing a healthy lunch to work, and getting eight or more hours of sleep at night.

“We knew that to be successful, these had to be simple, achievable tasks like eliminating sugary drinks, packing a nutritious lunch, and just taking a quick walk before or after work,” Mateyov said. “We weren’t looking to do anything invasive like drawing blood, or more aggressive tactics like measuring and recording weight. People told us to keep it simple, that their challenge often was just getting started and needing support from colleagues and friends. So we kept it easy, made it fun, and introduced financial incentives to stoke the competitive fires!”

Those incentives, she added, were gift card drawings for everyone who earned a certain amount of points each week, drawings for all participants simply for trying, and additional weekly gift card drawings for participants who exceeded the weekly point threshold. The program wrapped up at the end of June with the majority of participants consistently exceeding the minimum weekly incentive level. Employee evaluations, Mateyov said, indicated that staff enjoyed the program and that they now drank more water and had an enhanced awareness of what they were eating and general nutrition. Additionally, four employees participated in a charity 5K fitness walk in July.

The company’s senior management team, she stressed, was very supportive. The program was promoted through a kick-off meeting, regular emails, and flyers posted around the office. Flush from this success, the next wellness program on their agenda is to have employees complete workshops found at the CBIA Healthy Connections website. Each employee who finishes at least three online workshops will receive a Starbucks gift card.

“I realize how simplified this sounds, but it’s just about raising awareness, increasing focus and setting realistic goals that anyone can achieve,” Mateyov concluded. “We’re trying to introduce similar health and wellness thinking with our client companies, but it’s the same formula: Ensure support from management, keep it fun, introduce low-cost incentives and be willing to run the program even if only a few people participate initially. The word will get out, and more employees will join in each time!”

# # #

If you’re not enjoying 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!

Catering to employee appetites for good nutritional health

It’s July already — how’s that diet going? If you’re like most Americans, you may be a few pounds heavier than you’d like, or have a specific goal in mind. That could be sliding effortlessly into a favorite dress or suit, comfortably wearing your bathing suit or bikini in public, or reconnecting with the jeans that used to fit you like a glove!

Many of us could stand to lose a few pounds. Nobody knows better than we do how we feel — and look — at optimum weight. Maybe the stairs or trails are getting tougher to climb, or that brisk walk across the shop floor or mall parking lot leaves us huffing a bit. Or, of greater consequence, our blood sugar, cholesterol counts or blood pressure is higher than recommended by our physicians.

If we are managing a business, we’re trying to keep ourselves, our workers and our bottom line healthy. But it isn’t easy. Every day we hear staggering statistics about the toll heart disease, diabetes, cancer, failing joints and respiratory illnesses take on Americans. Anybody afflicted with these chronic diseases or conditions knows how it affects their quality of life — and their pocketbooks. But it’s also costing employers billions of dollars annually in lost productivity, sick time, worker’s compensation, disability, safety and quality.

More times than not, the culprit — directly or indirectly — is obesity or a combination of poor diet, bad eating habits and lack of exercise. It’s aggravated, of course, by genetics, stress, age, poverty and access to good healthcare and nutritional information.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults are obese (at least 20 percent above their ideal weight), and current estimates of the medical cost of adult obesity range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion annually — more than alcohol — and smoking-related costs combined.

Medical expenses for obese employees are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for those with a healthy weight, says the CDC. Costs related to medical expenses, however, don’t necessarily account for the lion’s share of the financial burden on employers.

A 2010 study by Duke University researchers found that obesity among full-time employees costs U.S. employers more than $73 billion per year. The investigation considered three factors in determining costs: Employee medical expenditures; lost productivity on the job due to health problems (presenteeism); and absence from work (absenteeism). Presenteeism was found to account for most of the total cost — as much as 56 percent in the case of female employees and 68 percent in the case of male workers.

When workers aren’t feeling well, they don’t perform well…or at all. Quality, productivity and safety decline, and other workers and customers feel the pain, as well.

So, what to do? You can’t follow your employees around watching what and when they eat or exercise. You also can’t discriminate against them for being heavy, or offer incentives or competitions that punish those who can’t lose weight successfully. What you can do is provide access to informational tools on nutrition and healthy eating. You can invite specialists to come counsel your workforce. You can sponsor healthcare screenings where employees’ Body Mass Index (BMI) is determined and discussed, and where medical professionals can screen for cholesterol, sugar, high blood pressure and other issues.

Educating employees plays a beneficial role in promoting healthy weight consciousness. This is especially important when you consider that individuals’ beliefs about the causes of obesity affect weight-loss success or failure.

Researchers found that whether a person believes obesity is caused by overeating or a lack of exercise can predict whether he or she will gain or lose weight. People who believe obesity is caused by diet will focus on consuming less food, while those who believe the cause is lack of exercise will work out more. The problem is that people tend to overestimate the number of calories burned during exercise and underestimate the number of calories in the food they eat.

Employers can help themselves and their employees by encouraging a culture of wellness from the top of the shop down.  The most effective solution is to provide economic and other incentives to those employees who show clear signs of improving their health via weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, or participating in exercise programs.

Interactive options can take many forms, from healthy snacks, recipe swaps and lunches to time during the day for exercise, educational sessions and peer support. Letting employees lead the effort can pay back in creative ideas, buy-in and improved results, boosting morale and team work at the same time.

Although it may seem that only large organizations can implement obesity prevention and control programs, organizations of all sizes have done so successfully. One useful website that provides a variety of tools, ideas and resources can be found at

Whatever you do, communicate your intentions candidly and consistently, encourage feedback, and seek guidance from experts in your community. Engage employees and their families as much as possible, and the results could help lift some, uh, weight off your shoulders!

# # #

If you’re not enjoying 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!

Putting national observances to work for your company

Summer’s rapidly approaching, which means the year is half gone. Or, on a more positive note, you still have six months in 2015 to plan some fun, competitive and interesting health and wellness activities for your workforce!

One CBIA Health Connections employer created a health and wellness committee to brainstorm and plan activities. They linked several of their activities to national health- and wellness-related observances. Another tied their activities to local events, charities, and parks. Many employers bring in guest presenters and instructors, or sponsor classes, health screenings, nutritional education, and internal competitions. It’s all good fun, can be used to support charitable programs, and helps build stronger workplace teams.

Every month in the United States, there are a dozen or more “formal” awareness commemorations. These provide great topics around which you, your wellness champion, management team, or staff employees can develop an action plan for one or more activities.

There’s something for everyone, ranging from high-profile cancer awareness months for ovarian, prostrate, breast, lung and skin cancers, to fruit and vegetables “matter” month, obesity, eye and hearing care, diabetes, yoga, UV protection, blood pressure, workplace and helmet safety, immunizations, and much more. You can find the list and related information here.

This month is National Great Outdoors Month – there are a variety of activities planned at Connecticut State parks, perfect locations for picnics and outings. And even though it’s not even summer yet, it’s never too early to begin planning for the autumn and winter – by building a schedule well in advance, you can encourage more employee involvement in planning and implementing activities that ultimately improve teamwork, enhance morale and productivity and support health and wellness.

Healthier employees are happier employees. They get sick less often, suffer from fewer incidences of chronic diseases, and have reduced absenteeism and sick days.

Sounds like a win for everyone. By delegating – and using the many health and wellness tools available online – you can play a major role in promoting, supporting and funding health and wellness activities that feature a huge return on your investment!

# # #

If you’re not enjoying 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!

Spring’s a great time for company activities

Spring heralds charitable walks, runs, bicycling and all manner of fundraisers that offer great team-building options and promote healthy activities. Softball, volleyball, tennis, basketball and many other team-related recreational opportunities are starting as well. If you haven’t already, now might be a good opportunity to see what events and activities appeal to your workforce, and support or sponsor one or more team endeavors.

Employers also can encourage individual recreational pursuits — for example, offering support to employees who are interested in community gardening, and for planting flower boxes around their communities. Other outdoor activities can include hiking, bird-watching, nature walks, park and river clean-up days, rock climbing and much more. People can do things on their own, as groups, and even find opportunities through organizations like the Audubon and Sierra Clubs, local YMCA or YWCA facilities, Boys and Girls Clubs, and private gyms.

The bottom line is that whatever employers do to support employee activities can be good for morale and teamwork. And improved teamwork and attitudes boost productivity, retention and quality, reduce absenteeism and accidents, and increase voluntary participation. Not to mention the health and wellness benefits!

Of course, activities aren’t limited to the outdoors. There are bowling and indoor fitness workouts, spinning, swimming, cooking, art and pottery classes…there’s no limit if you apply your imagination. Additionally, many organizations are bringing guest presenters to the workplace to talk about stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, massage therapy and yoga. Team weight-loss efforts and competitive programs also are trending.

One great example is a program by Charkit Chemical Corporation, which sponsored an employee “Biggest Loser” program. Their effort lasted 12 weeks and included 16 employees divided into four teams. Every week each participant weighed in privately, and the team weight-loss percentage was reported. One team and one individual received top honors at the end of the program.

Teams had the opportunity to add workouts and win trivia contests for additional weight-loss value, scored every other week. The workouts needed to be a minimum of 30 minutes and had to include all team members. The trivia contests were held every other week as well, and the winning team earned a two-pound advantage. All trivia was taken from emails and health-related articles that were emailed and posted around the office. Most of the trivia focused on food and portion size information. Each week the winning team received prizes such as Amazon gift cards, funded by the company. The final winners won Visa gift cards and were announced during a special ceremony.

While their Biggest Loser contest was running, Charkit also offered a series of employee nutrition seminars held onsite by a licensed nutritionist. They held three group sessions, and offered employees one-on-one planning meetings so individuals could address personal nutrition and health issues. Topics for the group sessions included reducing sugar and fat intake, portion control, and increasing healthy eating.

According to a Charkit leader, many of the employees who participated in the seminars have applied their learning to their everyday nutritional behavior. Overall, she added, the programs got people thinking about their health in a far more comprehensive way, and resulted in many positive changes.


If you’re not enjoying 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!

Becoming mindful of the stressors around us

How many times have you sat in meetings watching people check their emails and text messages, or had everything stop for a phone call? Have you ever been at your desk, on the shop floor, at a team function or driving a vehicle while thinking about life, other work, a relationship, a sick parent, or how you’re going to get your kid to soccer practice at the end of the day? Have you ever blown past an exit on the highway, made a mistake on an assignment, gotten hurt or missed a deadline because you were distracted or not paying attention to details?

We’ve all been there. Truth is, we have a lot on our minds — and pressure to get too much done at once. In today’s world, multi-tasking is seen as an essential skill, not the liability it actually is. Oftentimes, it becomes more important to get things done than to get them done well — or we struggle finding that “well-enough” zone.

When we allow our minds to drift — when we are not present in the moment — we can’t achieve our potential. The need to remain focused is critical, but we also need tools to help us concentrate effectively, as well as to relieve stress, frustration, anger, anxiety and negativity. These side effects of our work and lives interfere with our relationships, and have an impact on teamwork, morale, productivity and our physical, mental and spiritual health.

April is Stress Reduction Awareness Month. If we clarify our thoughts, use relaxing techniques and calm our approach to life and work, it will make us more productive, happier and healthier.

The pursuit of “mindfulness” is one valuable approach to gaining control of attention span, focus and concentration. It is now gaining significant traction in large and small organizations across America, especially for its value in reducing the unhealthy results of stress.

Mindfulness essentially means moment-to-moment awareness. Although it originated in the Buddhist tradition, you don’t have to be Buddhist to practice or find value in its benefits. In fact, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is being taught in colleges, yoga studios, meditation centers and workplaces across America. The benefits can be dramatic — in addition to supporting overall health and well-being, mindfulness has been linked to improved cognitive functioning and lower stress levels. That’s even more important when we are being constantly bombarded by email, texts, Facebook, Twitter and other electronic and social media.

When we are mindful we become keenly aware of ourselves and our surroundings by simply observing these things as they are. We are aware of our own thoughts and feelings, but do not react to them in negative or distracted ways. There’s no “autopilot” when we’re focused. By not labeling or judging the events and circumstances taking place around us, we are freed from our normal tendency to react to them, and shift from a subjective to an objective mindset.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts. He established MBSR in the 1970s to help patients suffering from chronic pain. Mindfulness experts teach us to not resist our mind’s natural urge to wander, but to train it to return to the present, and to center ourselves in the moment. Mindfulness enhances emotional intelligence, notably self-awareness, and the capacity to manage distressing emotions. It also reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, improves memory and lessens depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness is being practiced at a number of large companies including Proctor & Gamble, Apple, Google, Deutsche Bank, Astra Zeneca, General Mills and Aetna. It includes a broad spectrum of informal activities, in addition to meditation, movement and structured MBSR techniques.

Here are simple tips that we can incorporate every day, even at work:

  • Spend at least three to five minutes a few times each day doing nothing but breathing and relaxing in the moment, whether at work or at home.
  • Manage distractions like noisy co-workers by tuning into them, instead of letting them drive us crazy. . . by noticing the sounds and their effects on our bodies, we rob the distraction of their power over us.
  • Pay attention to our walking by slowing our pace and feeling the ground against our feet.
  • Anchor our day with a contemplative morning practice, such as breathing, Zen, yoga, meditation or even a walk.
  • Before entering the workplace, remind yourself of our organization’s purpose, and mentally recommit in that moment to our vocation and to being a leader.
  • Throughout the day, pause to make sure we’re fully present before undertaking the next critical task, call or meeting.
  • Practice “strategic acceptance,” which is not seeing every setback in catastrophic terms. When we feel our stress levels rising, we shouldn’t try to force ourselves to cheer up or calm down — rather, simply accept how we feel. That doesn’t mean to ignore the problem, but instead, to observe and accept reality in that moment before making a plan to tackle the problem.
  • Find time to unplug from electronic gadgets, phones, computers and video games — studies have shown that excessive reliance on technology can make us more distracted, impatient and forgetful.
  • Get in touch with our senses by noticing the temperature of our skin and background sounds around us.
  • Review the day’s events at the close of the day to prevent work stresses from spilling into our home lives.
  • Before going to bed, engage in some spiritual reading.


If you’re not enjoying 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!

Investing in employee health and wellness

It’s often said that to succeed, you have to walk before you run. In the case of C.M. Smith, it might be seen as the other way around: Employees started with a marathon and, in short order, followed that effort by walking themselves toward a wide variety of health and wellness programs that has morphed into a year-round sprint.

Since 1974, the C.M. Smith Agency, Inc. and C.M. Smith Financial have provided businesses and individuals with a broad range of employee benefits, insurance, and retirement services. Focused on their customers’ financial health and wellness, it made sense to target their own employees’ health and wellness, too.  And they were able to find creative ways to both encourage wellness and enhance employee engagement through programs designed and implemented by employees, with the blessing, support and encouragement of C.M. Smith management.

Brigid Gunn is the company’s Human Resources and Operations Director, and their Wellness Champion. She explained that when the company moved its offices from Glastonbury to Hartford in 2013, some employees were discouraged by the longer commute and perceived inconvenience of working in the city. A CBIA Health Connections member since the 1990s, the company wanted to find a way to improve morale, support team activities, encourage wellness, and link employee interests with the advantages of working in downtown Hartford.

An employee wellness committee was formed, and meets bi-monthly to brainstorm creative health ideas and to examine activities that were conducive to being downtown. It also was important, she explained, to offer a diverse selection of events, programs and activities that would appeal to differing employee interests, while being convenient and easily accessible.

“We already were a reasonably healthy population,” Gunn observed, “with few smokers and pretty active employees. But not surprisingly, reducing life and work stress was typically mentioned by staff as a key goal. So we set about finding ways to help reduce stress and encourage participation across the board. We also were hoping that every employee would participate in at least one activity in 2015.

“Not everyone likes to walk or run recreationally, and some people want to go home right after work, or exercise early in the day or at lunch, Gunn added. “Like most organizations, we’re a real melting pot, so we needed to make sure we offered something that would appeal to every employee at some point. Also, with two related but separate businesses, we wanted to encourage people to ‘play’ together, as possible, but also feel free to pursue activities on their own.”

The company created an activity budget of $50 per employee, and also arranged to pay for employees to use a fitness center located in their building. Three offsite employees who are on-staff personal health coaches are available to their associates, and the wellness committee sponsored lunchtime learning sessions; lunchtime yoga classes are now planned for March.

“There’s no shortage of clever, fun and interesting ideas to try when you’re committed and have management support,” said Marah Block, Marketing & Data Reporting consultant, whose responsibilities include managing internal employee communication. “We held our own, very successful ‘Biggest Loser’ contest for employees and most of the office attended a UCONN hockey game at the XL Center. We’re also planning downtown clean-up days, and a variety of contests and exercise opportunities. Once you get started, it becomes contagious, and employees have responded very positively to our efforts.”

The company still supports employee participation in The Hartford Marathon and gathers donations for local charities and events. Their medical director recently gave a presentation on healthy dieting, and walking challenges, downtown scavenger hunts, UV and sun protection education, and a harvest fruit and vegetable month are all in the works.

“For us, wellness started by encouraging our team to complete the CBIA Healthy Connections health assessments, but to work effectively and keep people engaged, it has to escalate into a far more comprehensive and energetic effort,” Gunn concluded. “Our employees are heathier, downtown has become an asset, and having this program in place makes coming into work a lot more fun!”


If you’re not enjoying 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!

Make improving employee wellness your winter project

January is over, the deep freeze has set in, and many of us have gone into physical hibernation until the spring thaw. The well-intentioned wellness plans and goals we formulated in late December and early January are already at risk of going south. It’s too cold to walk outside, going to the gym is a time hassle, and we need our comfort food.

If you’re an employer, now is a good time to step in and rally your troops. When we don’t exercise, eat properly or otherwise take care of our bodies mentally and physically, we open ourselves up to obesity and chronic illnesses such as heart and respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer. Fatigue and depression become commonplace, and all of these maladies contribute to increased time away from work, less productivity while at work and a general malaise that has a negative impact on teamwork, productivity, customer service and morale.

Adopting an organization-wide policy designed to support healthy behavior overall and to improve health outcomes is an important strategy. These programs comprise activities such as health education and coaching, weight-management programs, medical screenings, on-site fitness programs and more.

Wellness programs also include policies intended to facilitate employee health, including allowing time for exercise, providing on-site kitchens and eating areas, offering healthful food options in vending machines, holding “walk and talk” meetings, and offering financial and other incentives for participation. Effective workplace programs, policies, and environments that are health-focused and worker-centered have the potential to significantly benefit employers, employees, their families, and communities.

Here are some ideas to get you started. A useful approach is to recruit employees to meet and discuss wellness options, and then help implement these ideas, with your support.

  • Sponsor walks, runs, bike rides, golfing or other activities for charities or special causes, and encourage workers to participate (pay their entry fees)
  • Sponsor dance lessons, onsite or off
  • Pay for swimming lessons or open-swim time at a local recreation facility
  • Conduct a health fair, with screenings for cholesterol, BMI, blood sugar, etc.
  • Promote “stretch time” and breaks and encourage workers to move around physically
  • Offer smoking-cessation workshops
  • Create healthy competition for achieving personal healthcare goals and a system for monitoring progress and rewarding participants who meet their goals (not just the top achievers, but everyone)
  • Bring a massage therapist to the office or workplace for scheduled appointments with workers
  • Conduct yoga, meditation or other wellness-related classes onsite during the day or after work hours
  • Pay all or a portion of gym or fitness center memberships
  • Consider creating a workout room or space onsite, even if it’s a shared space like a large conference room, lunch or storage area
  • Encourage employees to “wear the colors” and participate in local softball, volleyball, soccer and other competitive sports
  • Bring healthy snacks into meetings and serve healthy lunches
  • Encourage employees to walk at lunch, during breaks or before and after work
  • Make health and wellness videos and educational materials available to employees
  • Instead of candy, cookies and soda, substitute fruit, yogurt and other healthy snacks at meetings and in vending machines
  • Invite guests, such as nutritional experts, chefs and personal trainers to present to employees onsite or locally.

These are just a few ideas — there are hundreds of good programs and suggestions for improving employee health. Although some health risk factors, such as heredity, cannot be modified, focused education and personal discipline can change others such as smoking, physical inactivity, weight gain, alcohol use and, by extension, hypertension, high cholesterol, and even depression.


If you’re not enjoying 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!

CBIA Healthy Connections at Work

When your employees are sick or absent, it has a measurable impact on service and your bottom line. When they’re at work but not feeling well — physically or mentally — it affects their attitude, their responsiveness, their interactions with customers and other employees, and their overall performance.

Ensuring that your employees are at their personal best was part of the vision in creating CBIA Healthy Connections. When we function at 100 percent of our capacity, everyone benefits. And when you and your employees are healthier, it increases productivity and saves you money. Ultimately, these savings can help control escalating premium costs, which is good for your business, your employees, and their families.

It’s a new calendar year, and opportunities abound for improving workplace health and wellness. If you’re new to CBIA Health Connections or considering membership, the benefits of workplace wellness are waiting for you and your employees!

Helping employees take control of their health

As a small business owner, you know how important every employee’s contribution is to your bottom line. So CBIA Healthy Connections is designed to help employees take better control of their own health. Benefits of increased health and wellness at work include:

  • A decrease in paid and unpaid sick days
  • Reduced general absenteeism
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved morale and teamwork
  • Fewer work-related accidents and violations
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction

Once you and your team are enrolled, a CBIA Healthy Connections representative will contact each employee by email and encourage them to complete a free, confidential, online health assessment on his or her physical and mental health. The health assessment utilizes a simple online questionnaire that helps determine the employees’ current understanding of and commitment to wellness. It includes questions about their general health such as weight, stress, diet and exercise, and asks about habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption. The information is confidential. None of this information is shared with the employer or with the insurance carrier.

In return for completing the health assessment, each employee will receive a $50 electronic gift card. After the employee completes the health assessment, they’ll receive a report that outlines their general state of health and highlights areas for improvement. The employee will be encouraged to visit CBIA’s interactive, personalized wellness website for health tips and suggestions, educational information, and to participate in wellness workshops.

This easy-to-use online program will provide you and your team with:

  • Increased awareness of the benefits of wellness
  • Access to useful, pertinent health and wellness information
  • Simple interactive tools
  • Informed decision-making about health choices
  • A dedicated support mechanism
  • Personal and team incentives

Each participating employee has access to information through the website that covers a variety of wellness topics including diet and nutrition; exercise and recreation; stress reduction; weight reduction or weight-gaining guidance; smoking cessation; and much more. They’ll be able to return to the site as often as they’d like to receive confidential program feedback and support.

Learn more about CBIA Healthy Connections here. You can join up to 90 days after your company’s renewal. And remember, it’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

# # #

A gift to employees you don’t have to wrap

If you’re struggling to find the perfect gift for your employees that truly keeps on giving, think health and wellness! This is the ideal time of year to help employees explore their personal wellness regimen and health goals, and set positive behavioral changes in motion for 2015. As employers, we can set the pace for ourselves and our teams through proactive planning, education and outreach.

Chances are you’ve already picked the low-hanging fruit, such as completing individual health assessments. That’s a great start, but now it’s about moving from planning to action. Leaders help encourage and motivate their workforces. Healthier employees are happier, more motivated and productive. They also require less sick time, and are more attentive to their teammates and customers.

Supplementing the cost of membership in local fitness centers and gyms is a popular option. You also can bring health experts in areas such as nutrition, fitness and stress reduction into your office to talk with employees during the work day. Encouraging and sponsoring activities such as bowling, team workouts and charity drives encourages team-building and improves morale. This is particularly important during the cold winter months when getting outside is inconvenient or uncomfortable.

Spring, thankfully, isn’t that far away, so planning for charity walks, softball, volleyball and related activities can start now.

Some employers sponsor in-house fitness classes, yoga and health screenings, and offer personal health and fitness coaches. One local company, The Barn Yard & Great Country Garages, in Ellington, actually had a massage therapist in for an employee spa day. According to Michael Maiscalo, assistant vice president, when their company held their free massage day, 16 employees enjoyed 20-minute massages. The idea for this event resulted from a “Wellness Jumpstart” contest held by CBIA Health Connections earlier in the year to encourage wellness ideas. Submissions were collected and entered into a drawing.

The Barn Yard & Great Country Garages submitted their spa suggestion, and received a $500 gift from CBIA to help pay for the event. The feedback from this activity was very positive, said Maiscalo, and the company will look at repeating it and related wellness activities in the future.

There are a variety of health and wellness initiatives companies can entertain. Asking employees for their input and participation helps keep people focused and engaged. It can be something as simple as healthy recipe swaps, replacing candy and soda machines with healthier snacks, and sponsoring fitness activities. Friendly internal competitions with cash or other incentives go a long way toward promoting participation. In fact, incentives for improving employee participation in health coaching and related programs was a major topic discussed in November by The National Obesity Society (TOS) at its annual meeting in Boston.

Workplace wellness programs have the potential to significantly improve employee health, said lead researcher and author Jason Block, MD, TOS Member and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Population Medicine. “Our goal was to evaluate what motivates people to participate in these programs and what strategies companies and insurers can use to get everyone involved,” Block explained. “Our data show that financial incentives clearly work to motivate participation in a health coach program and in related health activities.”

Block offered the following tips on initiating coaching or wellness-related incentives:

  • Structure your programs to reward employees for engaging in healthy habits;
  • Avoid the use of body mass index (BMI) as a basis for financial penalties or incentives;
  • Ensure incentive programs are matched with health plans that cover evidence-based obesity treatment programs and medications;
  • Focus programs on overall wellness for all employees, rather than only those affected by obesity or overweight; and
  • Create a supportive workplace environment that provides opportunities for healthy behaviors, such as healthy food options in the cafeteria and vending machines.

Whatever you can offer your employees will be appreciated when it comes to recognizing their health concerns.

If you haven’t already, start your planning now and welcome the new year with a renewed commitment to workforce health and wellness.

# # #

If you’re not enjoying 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!

Watch what I say AND what I do

Humans are naturally complex creatures, but we take our social and behavioral cues from those around us. We carefully watch the actions of our mentors, partners, peers, leaders, and employers to see what they’re doing and what they’re saying.

It’s going to be tougher for employers to “sell” health and wellness if they’re walking around smoking cigars, drinking colas and handing out chocolate at meetings. The battle of the bulge notwithstanding, we all have work to do when it comes to our personal healthcare, but setting priorities and working toward shared goals makes a big difference in getting others to notice and follow suit.

So often, it’s the little things that matter…and while it’s not all nutritional, that’s a good place to start since everyone loves to eat!  Replacing candy and soda vending choices with healthier options says you’re paying attention and taking an interest in your employees’ health. Fruit at meetings in place of cookies and bagels, water in lieu of soda, coffee and sweetened drinks, and salads or healthy platters instead of pizza and grinders at office meetings will be noticed.

Eliminating smoking at the workplace — indoors, on company grounds and in company vehicles — sends a strong message as well. We can’t legislate what our employees do on their own time and outside of the office or shop, but we can provide smoking-cessation information, articles, incentives and access to programs. Paying for those programs sends an even stronger message.

Employers can link wellness in their workplaces to national monthly health-awareness events and activities. For example, November is American Diabetes Month; Lung Cancer Awareness Month; Alzheimer’s disease awareness month; and The Great American Smokeout. Each, by itself, offers a multitude of creative interventions and educational opportunities. For example, Type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity, poor nutrition and lack of proper exercise.  Smoking tobacco products is the primary cause of lung cancer…and the Great American Smokeout, held annually on the third Thursday in November, has become an institutionalized national movement (for more information, visit The American Cancer Society at 

Encouraging employee collaboration when it comes to health and wellness makes great sense in terms of health improvements, teamwork and boosting morale. Encourage staff to meet on company time and come up with ideas for improving team and individual health. Create competitions, offer prizes and awards, sponsor team events, invite guest speakers and wellness experts, supplement fitness programs…the list of potential activities is endless. And when company leaders take an active role – and walk the talk – employees notice and participation increases.

# # #

If you’re not enjoying 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.