Sharing wellness information is easy, inexpensive and healthy

If you’re an employer concerned with keeping your workforce healthy and productive, there are a variety of simple and inexpensive steps you can take to help keep employees informed, motivated, and focused on their health and wellness. Raising awareness so employees make smarter health decisions doesn’t take a lot of effort, but the return on investment — measured through improved customer satisfaction, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, better teamwork and enhanced morale — can be significant. October is a busy month on the national health observance calendar. There are numerous listings including:

  • Breast cancer awareness month
  • Health literacy month
  • Bone and joint health awareness month
  • National health education week
  • National infection prevention week

Each of these is important in its own right, and providing material or access to information for any one or a few of these would be valuable for your workforce. In fact, this issue of CBIA Healthy Connections has articles on bone health and how to prevent or limit infections, and another article on skin health. You also can find more than 200 articles on different health topics in the CBIA Healthy Connections archives.

There’s an abundance of good facts, recommendations, articles and health- and wellness-focused websites available for free on the Internet. There also are services you can subscribe to, and resources available locally through hospitals, health benefits providers and your physicians or various health provider offices. Additionally, most diseases or illnesses have dedicated national and local organizations specializing in outreach, prevention and education.

If you haven’t already, consider creating a simple disease-awareness grid or calendar, and choosing one health or wellness topic to discuss monthly, every-other month, or even quarterly. Your wellness champion can help lead the charge, or you can ask other employees to choose topics of interest and potential action steps to share internally with their associates.

Consider posting information on bulletin boards, in lunch rooms or other common spaces. Talk about the focus health topic at weekly or monthly meetings, and consider internal competitions to make it more fun and engaging. Involve employees’ families, as well, so the benefits cascade and are carried home. Set and post goals and measure progress for all to see. Also, fund targeted efforts through small incentives like gift cards and education materials, or by hosting a small recognition event after goals have been met.

Additionally, many local health organizations and hospitals are happy to send in a speaker to address your employees and to disperse materials. The bottom line IS your bottom line: By leading these efforts, you reinforce your commitment to your employees’ health and wellness, boost teamwork, and enhance workplace productivity.

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 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!

Stress at Work is Costing a Fortune

Feeling stressed lately, moody or irritable? Falling behind on your sleep? Finding it harder to come to work? Requiring more patience than usual with work associates, family members, friends or your kids? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions — and let’s face it, most of us recognize at least one of those behaviors in ourselves at one time or another — you’re probably experiencing some normal side effects of workplace-related stress. How much stress, and what you can do about it varies, but one thing’s for certain:  If you ignore the causes or effects, they’re not likely going to disappear on their own anytime soon.

When we’re experiencing stress, we’re distracted, fatigued and less focused. The quality of our work and the service we provide slips, accidents are more common, and we’re harder to get along with in general. This can have a negative impact on teamwork, morale and customer satisfaction. It also can facilitate or aggravate chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and hypertension, and reduce our resistance to common illnesses.

As if that wasn’t enough, researchers have actually tried to put numbers on the costs of stress in the workplace, and the potential losses are staggering – estimated at up to $300 billion per year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity and healthcare costs, according to a recent Randstad Engagement study.

When asked to select up to three out of 10 possible factors that might push an employee to leave their job — including excessive workload and difficult working relationships — a high stress level (at 24%) was the third-most-selected reason, behind pay (37%) and opportunity for advancement (27%).

The study found the negative effects of workplace stress vary by gender and, to a lesser extent, age. For example, 27% of women (compared to 22% of men) cite a high stress level as a top reason to leave their current job. Within generational groups, one quarter (25%) of Gen Y/Millennial employees say stress is a likely reason they would leave their current organization, similar to Generation X and Baby Boomers, both at 24%.

How can you help?

The good news, according to the Randstad study, is that workplace stress can be managed, especially when employers provide support — and that starts with being well-connected to your workers. Companies can help reduce employee stress by communicating regularly with workers to identify their concerns, and establishing wellness programs that make healthy stress management a top priority across the organization.

Some of that relief can come through team athletic activities, sponsorships, gym or fitness center memberships, walks during work hours, health-related classes during the day, yoga, massage, meditation, or a variety of other options.  Access to Employee Assistance Programs, if available, can make a significant difference as well for workers struggling to keep it together and seeking assistance outside the office. The important thing is to be tuned in to your own – and your workers’ – behaviors, realize what may be driving additional stress, and figure out how to step away from it, regain perspective and relax.

Here are five tips to help alleviate workplace stress:

  • Communicate often: By effectively communicating with workers, managers can better gauge the stress level of their employees and work to diminish pressure before it affects morale and productivity.
  • Encourage camaraderie: Employees who actively connect with one another often create a better office environment. It’s important to set aside time for staff to socialize and get to know one another, and to encourage extracurricular activities such as sponsored walks, softball, bowling or whatever works for your team. 
  • Promote wellness: Give employees access to wellness programs that help relieve stress. Whether it’s a company workout facility or reimbursements for yoga classes, wellness programs are proven strategies to help relieve workplace stress.
  • Set an example: Healthy stress management starts at the top. If employees consistently see their boss as being stressed, the negative energy can trickle down and have an impact on the entire team.
  • Empower your employees: One of the most stress-inducing triggers is feeling out of control, so allow your staff to take ownership of their work and give them as much control as possible when it comes to making decisions on how work gets done.

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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!

Take your best shot at keeping employees healthy

There are a variety of ways employers can help their staff improve overall health and wellness, and at the same time enhance productivity, reduce time lost to illness, and build workplace morale. One easy solution is to consider an educational campaign aimed at verifying and promoting immunizations, to host an immunization clinic at the worksite, or to work with a local medical clinic to make it easy for employees to ensure they are properly immunized.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. We’ve written two articles this month (read “Immunizations are nothing to sneeze at” here) on the topic to help provide more complete information on the importance of immunizations.

There’s a common misconception that vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States today have been virtually eliminated. In some cases, people use that erroneous belief to put off having themselves or their family members vaccinated, or they fall prey to misinformation about negative side effects.

It’s true that vaccination has enabled us to reduce most vaccine-preventable diseases to very low levels in the United States. However, some of them are still quite prevalent — even epidemic — in other parts of the world. Travelers can unknowingly bring these diseases into the United States, and if we were not protected by vaccinations these diseases could quickly spread throughout the population, causing epidemics here. At the same time, the relatively few cases we currently have in our country could very quickly become tens or hundreds of thousands of cases without the protection we get from vaccines.

We should still be vaccinated, then, for two reasons. The first is to protect ourselves. Even if we think our chances of getting any of these diseases are small, the diseases still exist and can still infect anyone who is not protected. Travelers are especially vulnerable. In 2005 and 2006, outbreaks of measles and mumps occurred in several U.S. states. The measles outbreak began in a group of travelers who had not been vaccinated upon their return from a trip to Romania where they had been exposed to measles.

The second reason to get vaccinated is to protect those around us. A small number of people cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons such as a severe allergy to vaccine components and a small percentage simply do not respond to vaccines. These persons are susceptible to disease, and their only hope of protection is that people around them have been successfully vaccinated and cannot pass disease along to them.

Soon it’ll be flu season again. Influenza sickens hundreds of thousands of Americans annually, and kills thousands. Flu vaccine is easily obtainable and a smart preventative health measure you and your employees can take to keep them from getting sick. Talk to your staff about the importance of updating their immunization history (a simple blood test can determine existing antibodies), and lead by example – the team that gets their shots together stays well together!

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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!

You’re never too stressed to take a vacation, right?!

If all decisions in work and life were truly based on rational thinking, taking a vacation would be a no-brainer. We work, we go to school and run around, take care of kids and family, shop and launder and cook and more and more “ands” than there is time to count. We know we want, and need, time off from our many regular pursuits, yet as employers and workers, making that time, taking that time, and using it to the fullest are huge challenges.

Considering we’re a society that claims to love our vacations, it’s curious that Americans don’t take enough vacations, and often don’t even use the vacation days we’ve earned. Unfortunately, job reductions, doing more with less, constant deadline pressure, financial challenges, and our own sense of insecurity drives us to make bad choices about our need for healthful relief from our jobs. And whether you’re an employer or an employee, you’ll both suffer for the lack of time off, whether it’s staff or management time.

Vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle. We emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again. We gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines.

Alternatively, chronic stress takes its toll on our body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and ability to avoid injury. When you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and accidents are more prevalent. Ironically, though, even trying to arrange and take the time for a vacation is stressful – little wonder we often put off making our vacation decision, feel guilty taking time off, and have trouble relaxing when we finally do get away. But stop to consider the consequences of not changing our routines or finding ways to relax and get away from every-day worries.

Time off from our jobs and our regular routines helps us manage stress, improves our bonds with family, friends and co-workers, can alleviate fatigue, and strengthens our immune systems. When we’re stressed our work performance suffers. That has an impact on customer service, as well as safety, quality and productivity. Most of us are harder to get along with when we’re under pressure and feeling anxious, and more prone to depression, memory loss, distraction and bad decision making. We eat poorly and sleep less. Whether you’re typically healthy or not, that’s an insidious mix, and while vacation or time away from work and our regular routines won’t cure it all, vacations offer an important break.

With tough workloads and schedules, cost issues and market demands, employers often send mixed signals to their staff about accommodating time off. Instead of being supportive, there’s often the unspoken caveat, “Sure, take the time off, but make sure all your work gets done and nothing falls through the cracks.” The insinuation is that vacations are inconvenient, and the time is allowed reluctantly instead of graciously as the earned benefit and healthy break it represents.

Sometimes vacation days carry over from year to year, and employees “stockpile” them, but it isn’t healthy, despite longer-term intentions. And while in today’s unstable job market it’s understandable that employees – or managers – are reluctant to take time off, employers should be encouraging this healthy respite.

Vacations have the potential to break the cycle of stress that plagues most working Americans. When we return to work we’re happier, better focused, more pleasant and more productive. Everyone benefits – so if you’re an employer, start asking your team when they’re planning time off, make it as easy as possible for them to take their breaks, and book yourself some time off, as well!

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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!

Wellness support and outreach make for good chemistry

Company leaders know, instinctively, that supporting health and wellness activities is a valuable benefit for employees. Research has established that active work-based wellness programs help build teamwork, boost morale, reduce healthcare costs and improve productivity. But, like anything else that requires employee involvement on a personal level, it takes time, effort and ongoing communication to build momentum and participation.

Charkit Chemical Corporation, in Norwalk, has 55 full- and part-time employees, with 40 in Norwalk. This chemical distribution company offers a wide range of products to the specialty chemical, flavor and fragrance, personal care, food, pharmaceutical, imaging, water treatment and metal treatment industries. Founded in 1982 by Charlie Hinnant, Charkit’s president, Charkit joined CBIA’s Health Connections program in 2011. Bryant Hinnant, Charlie’s brother, is Charkit’s general counsel, part of the Charkit senior management team, and served as the Company’s original wellness champion.

Charkit  started out promoting health and wellness conservatively – everyone on their team liked the idea, but people were all very busy with work and life, and many had their own physical fitness regimens already in place. Employees were encouraged to complete CBIA’s online personal health assessment and CBIA Healthy Connections and other wellness articles were shared with the employees. There was some enthusiasm to start but no formal effort or large movement to jump on the fitness bandwagon.

“When it comes to personal health and a healthy lifestyle, people often have good intentions. But left to their own devices, motivation typically takes time, gentle and consistent prompting, and a significant change in personal health or circumstances to exact real change,” Hinnant says. “Some of our employees were golfers, some were runners, we had a few gym lovers, but we had a lot of ‘couch potatoes’ as well.”

Charlie Hinnant decided to build an onsite gym and make it available for free to employees. Charkit added a weight room, universal exercise machine room, and bicycles, rowing, and jogging equipment. Charkit also added lockers and two shower areas, and a television monitor for cable shows or videos. Initially only a few employees used the gym, but that number is now up to 12 regular users,  plus a significant number of other employees who work out as time permits. Videos on training, biking and related subjects were purchased, and made available to employees as well.

About four months ago, Hinnant turned the wellness champion role over to Christian Gomez, an accountant at the Norwalk facility. Both acknowledge that every company or small business can’t build a gym at their office, but say there’s still much that can be done to encourage health and wellness and to involve employees in activities and events. For example, Charkit has sponsored flu-shot clinics and hosted fitness meetings and discussions. Gomez talks regularly to his fellow employees to gauge their interest and to measure participation, and Charkit management pays entry fees for community walks, charitable athletic events, sponsors activities in several local programs, and is very open to ideas and suggestions for new programs.

“In addition to working out, our employees have been involved in cancer walks, and we sponsor a co-ed kickball team,” Gomez says. “We support other team-building interests as well such as community food and clothing drives. If someone comes to us with a good idea, we’ll take it up the ladder as required to obtain funding, communicate it to the staff, and actively promote participation.” The support and outreach is appreciated, he stresses, and he turns to the CBIA Healthy Connections health and wellness portal and other resources for ideas and suggestions.

“Even though I’ve only been in the role a short while, I can see the difference in people’s attitudes and impressions,” Gomez observes. “While it’s all across the board, almost everyone here in Norwalk does something of interest to them related to improving their health and wellness, whether formally or informally. They appreciate the opportunities and the fact that our company is taking a role in helping them reduce stress and improve their health. What they’re doing doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they’re choosing to do something.”

Hinnant agrees, and adds that when companies demonstrate an interest in their employees’ welfare and health, people notice and this drives participation and strengthens teamwork. “In many ways, we’re just in our infancy when it comes to wellness,” Hinnant reflects. “We’ll continue looking for ways to participate, be it through softball, bowling, soccer, charity events or whatever interests our staff and fits their schedules. There’s only so much you can do when we all have our ‘day jobs,’ but as we get more experience and our efforts mature, so will participation and the direction of our programs.”


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!

Use your head to save backs — and bucks

If you or your workers spend a portion of each day working at a computer, a desk, or other type of workstation, repetitive motions, posture, and back, arm and wrist support all play significant roles in physical health and wellness. Proper chair type, size and design, workstation height, location of keyboards, phones, shelves, and tools can contribute to body fatigue, muscle strain, repetitive-motion injuries, and other debilitating factors affecting work and quality of life.

Ergonomics is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans with other elements of a system. It’s particularly relevant in the design of things such as safe furniture and easy-to-use interfaces with machines and equipment. Proper ergonomic design is necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders, which can develop over time and lead to long-term disability.

Ergonomics examines the “fit” between the user, equipment and their environments. It takes account of the user’s capabilities and limitations to ensure that tasks, functions, information and the environment suit each user. To assess the fit between a person and the technology, ergonomists consider the job (activity) being done and the demands on the user; the equipment used (its size, shape, and how appropriate it is for the task), and the information used (how it is presented, accessed, and changed).

Proper ergonomics may prevent musculoskeletal injuries (such as back strain or carpal tunnel syndrome) by reducing physical and mental stress caused by the workstation setup. By focusing on the physical setup of workstations and the tools employees use, employers can reduce chances of injuries. It also is important to evaluate the work process, including job organization, worker rotation, task variety, and demands for speed and quality.

Working intensely over long periods of time without taking breaks can greatly increase the risk for musculoskeletal injuries. Taking regular breaks from work and doing stretching exercises may reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries. For example, it’s advised that workers try taking three- to five-minute breaks or change tasks every 20 to 40 minutes. Here are some tips to improve workstation safety and efficiency:

  • Arrange work so you (or a worker) can sit or stand comfortably in a position that does not put stress on any specific area of the body. You should be able to keep your neck in a neutral position and minimize the need to look up or to the sides continuously while you are working.
  • Eliminate most movement from the waist. Keep the workstation and workstation tools within reach without having to lean, bend, or twist at the waist frequently.
  • Vary postures if possible.
  • Take 10- to 15-second breaks frequently throughout tasks. For example, look away from the computer monitor or machine, stand up, or stretch arms and legs. Short breaks also reduce eyestrain and buildup of muscle tension.
  • Stretch your body by getting up out of your chair and stretching your arms, shoulders, back, and legs. When you are sitting, shrug and relax your shoulders, and if you have a chance to take short walks, do so whenever possible.
  • If you do similar work or activities at home, be sure to apply these principles there as well to avoid the cumulative effect of repetitive motions.

For office workers, particularly, there are a variety of preventive solutions that can help limit or avoid muscular discomfort or injuries. Computer monitors, for example, should be easy to see without having to lean forward or look up to one side. They should be placed at a height where the top of the screen is at eye level or within 15 degrees below eye level, and less than an arm’s length from the user.

Protection against eyestrain can prevent headaches and vision problems. Glare guards can be placed over the monitor screen, and plasma screens reduce glare. Additionally, many keyboards and keyboard trays have wrist supports to help keep wrists in a neutral, almost straight position. But wrist pads are just there for brief rests. They are not meant to be used while typing, even though some people find they help even during keying.

It’s important to have a computer keyboard and keyboard tray that allows comfortable typing or keying, and it should be at a height that allows elbows to be bent about 90 degrees and close to your sides. Also, when you type, try raising your wrists from the support so your wrists are in a neutral position. You may want to alternate between resting your wrists on the supports and raising them up. Also, a computer mouse or pointing device that does not require a lot of forearm movement or force, such as a trackball mouse or touch pad, is more comfortable than a standard mouse for some people.

Of vital importance is the comfort and design of the office or workplace chair, which should maintain normal spinal curvature. A supportive chair:

  • Is adjustable, so that you can set the height to rest feet flat on the floor. Keep feet supported on the floor or on a footrest to reduce pressure on the lower back. Some people like to sit in a slightly reclined position because it puts less stress on the back, although this may increase stress on the shoulders and neck when they reach for items.
  • Supports the lower back.
  • Has adjustable armrests that allow elbows to stay close your sides. If you are not comfortable with armrests, move them out of your way. It is still important to keep your arms close to your sides even if you choose not to use armrests.
  • Has a breathable, padded seat.
  • Rolls on five wheels for easy movement without tipping.

These and many other ergonomic principles available online and through facilities consultants and workplace-design specialists will help ensure a healthier workplace and workers that are more comfortable and less prone to workplace-related injuries. Investing properly in worker comfort is more than a simple amenity – it will improve morale, safety and productivity, and reduce worker’s compensation costs and absenteeism.

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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!

Don’t Let Stress Break Employees’ Hearts or Their Spirits

It isn’t a coincidence that National Stress Awareness Month and National Humor Month are observed at the same time. Stress is a very common denominator for humans, regardless if at work, home, school, or wherever our daily travels carry us. And humor is a factor we can learn to embrace in our efforts to reduce the pressure and strains that are killing us, literally and figuratively.

We all experience stress, though it affects each of us differently. Sometimes we don’t recognize when we’re acting short tempered, impatient or easily distracted. When stress levels are high, we can become withdrawn, agitated, depressed or angry. We may not sleep well, can eat less or too much. We also may experience tightness in our chests, stomach discomfort, headaches, increased blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, and other physical manifestations.

In the workplace, these symptoms often drive increased absenteeism and presenteeism (coming to work while sick), lower productivity, and service errors. Stress also has a negative impact on safety, quality, and teamwork.

According to the 2013 Work and Well-Being Survey conducted by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence, more than one-third (35%) of American workers experience chronic work stress, with low salaries, lack of opportunities for advancement, and heavy workloads topping the list of contributing factors. The APA’s recent Stress in America survey (released last winter) also found high levels of employee stress, with 65% of working Americans citing work as a significant source of stress, and 35% reporting that they typically feel stressed during the workday.

Despite growing awareness of the importance of a healthy workplace, few employees say their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage stress (36%) and meet their mental health needs (44%). Just 42% of employees say that their organizations promote and support a healthy lifestyle, only 36% report regularly participating in workplace health and wellness programs, and just over half (51%) say they feel valued at work.

Employers can’t eliminate all the factors that cause their workers to feel stressed, but there are a number of items that can be addressed. Working with your staff to create wellness and feedback programs, encouraging them to take breaks, work out, walk, or nap are extremely beneficial. And providing access to stress-relief activities without having to leave work are a few solutions.

As one workplace example, Christy Graham, wellness champion at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, says they implemented yoga classes starting in fall 2013. The classes are held onsite once a week from 12:15 pm to 1:00 pm. Graham contacted several studios before choosing an instructor, and says the Bushnell staff really enjoys the classes. Half a dozen employees participate, she adds, and the fee is only half of what yoga classes held offsite normally would cost. She also sends out a reminder email about a farmer’s market held weekly near their office. Additionally, staff regularly walks together at lunchtime in nearby Bushnell Park, and they have added a water cooler to help keep hydrated.

Address the issues that are adding to your stress

Whether we’re the employer or an employee, often the best way to cope with stress is to find a way to change the circumstances that are causing it. And one common set of tools that traverse all aspects of our lives is our ability to efficiently manage time, especially if we tend to feel overwhelmed at work. Here are some useful tips for reducing time-related stress:

  • Set realistic goals. Work with colleagues and leaders to set realistic expectations and deadlines. Set regular progress reviews and adjust your goals as needed.
  • Make a priority list. Prepare a list of tasks and rank them in order of priority. Throughout the day, scan your master list and work on tasks in priority order.
  • Protect your time. For an especially important or difficult project, block time to work on it without interruption.
  • Get other points of view. Talk with trusted colleagues or friends about the issues you’re facing at work. They might be able to provide insights or offer suggestions for coping. Sometimes simply talking about a stressor can be a relief.
  • Take a break. Make the most of workday breaks. Even a few minutes of personal time during a busy workday can be refreshing. Similarly, take time off when you can — whether it’s a two-week vacation or an occasional long weekend.
  • Have an outlet. To prevent burnout, set aside time for activities you enjoy — such as reading, socializing or pursuing a hobby.
  • Take care of yourself. Be vigilant about taking care of your health. Include physical activity in your daily routine, get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet.
  • Seek help. If none of these steps relieves your feelings of job stress or burnout, consult a mental health provider — either on your own or through an employee assistance program offered by your employer. Through counseling, you can learn effective ways to handle job stress.

It’s also critical to keep your perspective. When your job is stressful, it can feel as if it’s taking over your life. To maintain perspective:

  • Get other points of view. Talk with trusted colleagues or friends about the issues you’re facing at work. They might be able to provide insights or offer suggestions for coping. Sometimes simply talking about a stressor can be a relief.
  • Take a break. Make the most of workday breaks. Even a few minutes of personal time during a busy workday can be refreshing. Similarly, take time off when you can — whether it’s a two-week vacation or an occasional long weekend.
  • Have an outlet. To prevent burnout, set aside time for activities you enjoy — such as reading, socializing or pursuing a hobby.
  • Take care of yourself. Be vigilant about taking care of your health. Include physical activity in your daily routine, get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet.
  • Seek help. If none of these steps relieves your feelings of job stress or burnout, consult a mental health provider — either on your own or through an employee assistance program offered by your employer. Through counseling, you can learn effective ways to handle job stress.


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!

Whether We Walk, Run, or Crawl, Athletic Charity Events Help Us All

According to a new survey from Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health, and The Futures Company, as employers explore new ways to create and maintain a healthy and productive workforce, employees who perceive their organizations as having a strong culture of health are happier, less stressed and more likely to take control of their well-being than employees in other organizations.

For the third straight year, these organizations surveyed more than 2,700 employees and their dependents covered by employer-sponsored health plans to determine their perspectives, behaviors and attitudes towards health and wellness. While the survey – called the Consumer Health Mindset survey* – focused on large employers, the information is largely applicable to medium- and small-sized employers, as well.

The report analyzed the responses of employees who work at organizations with strong cultures of health – or organizations that prioritize and encourage healthy behaviors in the workplace – and compared them to employees’ responses in organizations that do not.

Based on survey analysis, employees who work in strong cultures of health were more likely to say they have control over their health than those who work at companies where it is less of a priority (75 percent versus 63 percent). In addition, they were less likely to report that stress has a negative impact on their work (25 percent versus 49 percent). The report also showed a link between strong health cultures and general happiness. Sixty-six percent of employees in strong health cultures say they are extremely or very happy with their lives compared to just 32 percent of those in weak health cultures.

 Small efforts can produce large returns

There are many ways for employers to foster a culture of health and wellness. This month, we’ll focus on how employer encouragement and commitment focused on charity walks, runs and other athletic events can benefit employee morale, improve teamwork, boost health and wellness, and do good by increasing participation, raising awareness and raising funds for important charities and health-related benefit activities.

Now is the time to research and sign-up for a variety of charity events held in the spring across Connecticut. Employers should encourage their employees to find the events and activities they’d most like to support or participate in, and then – through financial underwriting, time for practice and involvement, sponsorship, or general cheerleading – make it easy for them to follow through, either individually or as teams. There also are non-athletic activities, such as helping Fidelco raise, train, maintain and support guide dogs for the blind – that bring people together and promote teamwork by working toward a common cause.

To get you started, here is a small listing of several popular and well-known charitable events held annually in Connecticut. Whether you support these or many other worthwhile charitable options, now’s the time to start. Choose one or more that work for you and your staff, get involved, and everyone wins!

The March of Dimes

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation


Easter Seals

Relay for Life

Komen for the Cure


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*For more information on the Consumer Health Mindset survey, visit

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!

Manufacturing a Healthier Workplace

If you’re a small employer, raising awareness about health, wellness and fitness typically isn’t a full-time job, and likely isn’t on the top of your priority list. Most business owners agree that staff and individual health and wellness are important goals, but achieving those goals takes time, work, and commitment. Many companies get there slowly, and understand that wellness is a marathon, not a sprint.

Pinto Manufacturing in Glastonbury, Connecticut, is a machine shop specializing in aerospace parts. This 12-person company joined CBIA Health Connections three years ago. Owner Bob Pinto named Joseph Marino, his office manager, their wellness champion. It was a good fit for Marino, who was already interested in improving his health, stayed active, and saw his new role as additional incentive as well as an opportunity to help his co-workers. But he was realistic, and knew things weren’t going to change overnight.

“Becoming the wellness champion worked for me, because I already was focused on health, and this gave me an extra boost,” Marino recalls. “I encouraged our guys to complete their online assessments, and started placing articles and printed copies of CBIA Healthy Connections in the break room. Several of us looked into gyms and different kinds of fitness classes. I never was a ‘gym guy,’ so I’m taking boxing classes with another Pinto employee, another guy is learning rock climbing, and others go to gyms. Some of us tried fitness ‘boot camps,’ then settled into whatever venue we liked best.  Fitness is personal, and people are motivated for their own reasons, and on their own timetables.”

The Amazon gift card, which is sent to everyone who completes the program’s online health assessment, was a useful “carrot,” Marino says, and a commitment from the boss helps keep wellness an ongoing topic of conversation. “Bob is very supportive, and we’ve talked many times about how staying active keeps the blood flowing, so to speak, and helps us all remain focused and healthier, which is good individually and for the Company. We promote the fitness message as possible,” Marino adds. “When the weather’s good, we now see guys outside walking during breaks and at lunchtime.”

Brian Pinto is the company sales manager. He acknowledges that having a formal effort, even though it’s loosely structured, is producing positive results, and that people are thinking about their health and taking steps that weren’t in place before the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program was initiated. His father, Bob Pinto, agrees.

“I’m almost 70, and have always been focused on maintaining my health,” Pinto explains. I go to the gym as often as possible, lift weights, and walk two miles three or four times a week. I had set a personal goal of achieving 50 pushups every morning, which I’ve now reached, and lost 16 pounds. We spoke with our entire staff when we got started, and I know many of them are now more active. When people are inactive, they get sick and can get hurt more easily, so there’s a business incentive, as well. But ultimately, success is self-determined, and starts with awareness. It’s mostly about trying to make something happen and ensuring it’s part of the larger conversations regarding quality, safety and productivity.”

Marino reflects that they still enjoy doughnuts at some team meetings, but that people understand that wellness is a long-term strategy, and there’s room for compromise. “When I started this assignment, I posted a ‘wellness champion’ sign on my desk, and took some good-natured ribbing for it,” Marino remembers. “But over time we’re definitely seeing changes, whether it’s small things like people snacking on apples instead of chips, or getting outside to walk during breaks. It’s a good bonding experience and a smart decision personally, as well as for the business.”  

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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!

Resolve to Establish a Wellness Champion

With the launch of each new year, health and wellness are on our minds, personally, just as organizations are concerned with the health and wellness of their bottom lines. Fortunately, these two concepts are not mutually exclusive — the link between employee wellness and organizational productivity, innovation, teamwork, quality and customer service has long been demonstrated. So as we do our 2014 planning, building in time for proactive health awareness should be part of our strategic thinking.

Organizations participating in CBIA’s Health Connections have access to online health and wellness resources, including this online monthly newsletter, Healthy Connections. But if you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to move past the lowest-hanging fruit and tackle the next simple step of appointing a Wellness Champion, someone from your organization who becomes your liaison to health and wellness information, encourages your staff to complete a simple, easy online healthcare assessment, and then participates in monthly outreach, promotes health education tools, and literally “champions” your internal health- and wellness-improvement efforts.

“When companies sign up for wellness benefits, they receive information on the role of the Wellness Champion, and then we help guide them, step by step, on duties and expectations,” explains Michelle Molyneux, insurance specialist, who oversees Healthy Connections for CBIA. “Our program is easy to implement and maintain, and beyond general support including regular emails and monthly updates, we offer a variety of financial incentives to encourage and reward participation.”

A website dedicated to health and wellness includes a dedicated portal for Wellness Champions, Molyneux says. It includes tips, best practices, access to workshops, and educational materials and videos on subjects ranging from smoking cessation and nutrition to exercise and fitness. Wellness Champions also see updates on how many employees in their companies have completed online healthcare assessments, a critical first step for designing a personal wellness program. Each employee receives a $50 Amazon gift card for completing the assessment, and each organization receives raffle “points” good toward a quarterly drawing for a $500 Amazon gift card. Additional raffle points are earned for completing online workshops and interactive educational materials.

“Wellness doesn’t have to be hard,” observes Molyneux. “Healthy habits come in many creative shapes and forms. The most important steps involve establishing a culture of wellness. Once you get started, you can take it in any direction that works for your organization or business.”

For more information on appointing a Wellness Champion, visit, or contact Michelle Molyneux (860.244.1966;

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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!