Healthy employees are happier and more productive employees, says Lisa Speaks, director of Human Resources at ASG Renaissance. A wellness program instituted three years ago has helped ASG Renaissance control health care costs, but the biggest benefits have been in increased productivity and employee retention.
“We hope we can see a decrease in insurance rates if our employees are healthier. But the other two pieces are more critical in terms of having an immediate impact on our bottom line,” Speaks says.
A 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Health showed wellness programs reduced health care costs by 20 percent to 55 percent, cut short-time sick leave by 6 percent to 32 percent and increased productivity by 2 percent to 52 percent.
“Employees spend a good portion of their waking hours at work, so the work environment can have a powerful influence on behavior,” Speaks says.
Smart Business spoke with Speaks about employee wellness programs and their benefits.
What are examples of employee wellness programs?
A wellness plan can be anything from a small health seminar held on-site for your employees to a yearlong initiative focusing on different health topics each month. For example, you might want to offer blood pressure screenings at the work site in February in recognition of Heart Health Month. The most important point is to make it convenient for your employees, so they can get the information and health screening they need without missing a lot of time away from work.
Another way to positively affect employee health is to schedule a day for a masseuse to visit the workplace. Stress can have a huge effect on your health, and relieving that stress may help your employees avoid catching a cold or flu that’s circulating in your area.
One popular program in our office has been healthy cooking classes, where we’ve brought in an outside professional to educate our employees about healthy eating and talk to them about what they eat and how it affects their body.
Once you have taken your first step in offering a wellness program, it’s important to continue to develop the program each year by adding new components. You always have to be looking for a new approach.
How do your determine what to offer?
Start by conducting an analysis of where your employees might have issues related to illness and disease. For example, asthma, weight management and diabetes are common areas of concern. There are many resources available through advocacy organizations focused on these health issues that can help you provide information to your employees explaining the risks and what they can do to alleviate the situation.
You also can work with a benefit broker, which works with firms that create wellness programs. For some programs, you might work directly with a wellness company.
ASG Renaissance has been recognized as one of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies and is invited to symposiums where managers hear what other companies are doing. Likewise, you can collect information from other firms that are interested in engaging employees and keeping them happy.
Are employees offered a participation incentive?
There are several insurance programs centered on wellness that offer incentives for participation. We offer the Healthy Blue Living Program. As part of enrollment in Healthy Blue Living, employees are encouraged to visit their primary care physician in the first 90 days of the plan year for a thorough health evaluation. Following the evaluation, their physician will develop a plan to help them improve their health. Because of their participation, employees are eligible for lower copays than if they do not participate. This doesn’t mean that employees have to meet their goals to be eligible for the plan incentive, they just need to take steps to improve their health.
How does encouraging employees to stay home when they are sick reduce absenteeism?
For a number of reasons, it’s better to stay home when you are sick than come into work and risk getting everyone else sick, too. You’re not as productive when you’re sick, and co-workers are not as productive because they are concerned that they might get sick, too. If loss of work time is an issue for your employees, telecommuting — the ability to work from home — may be a benefit to add to your wellness program.
How do you measure results?
Key measurements are absenteeism and work force productivity, which could be measured in performance reviews, retention rates and the overall wellness of employee population as measured by your insurance carriers.
ASG Renaissance has not seen direct savings yet in terms of health care costs. However, the rates haven’t increased as much as they were previously, and employees are getting better benefits out of their health care insurance for the same cost. The goal is to encourage prevention to avoid bigger issues down the line.
What steps should a company take to develop a program?
The key is to get feedback from your employees. There is no benefit gained by spending thousands of dollars on a workout facility that no one will use. The other thing is to take small steps. If you jump in and implement a full-blown wellness program from day one, it can be intimidating to employees. Develop a three-year plan and introduce one new initiative per quarter in year one, every other month in two year and then by year three have a different wellness initiative once a month. Have a strategy behind what you’re trying to accomplish.
Lisa Speaks is director of Human Resources at ASG Renaissance. Reach her at (248) 477-5046 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Staffing is brought to you by ASG Renaissance
Human beings find comfort in routine. As children, we gain a sense of security from knowing what will happen, when it will happen, for how long and how we are expected to react to each situation. As we mature, knowing that home and family will be where we left them allows us to go out and explore the world as young adults, secure in the knowledge that we can always come home if we need. However, as we age, this penchant for sticking to the routine can work to our detriment.
We begin to settle in at home more and more, often opting to camp in front of the television rather than venture into a new neighborhood or to try a new vocation. Our sedentary ways can have damaging health consequences, most significantly for that muscle that drives the body: the heart. To stay strong, the heart needs daily movement that includes periodic challenges (to force it to pump more oxygen than normal), foods that declog blood vessels and keep them flexible, limited preservatives and refined foods, and regular activities that relieve stress. But, once sedentary, inertia can make it seem as if changing our habits is an insurmountable task.
However, with concerted effort in three areas, what I call affect, behavior: and cognition – the ABCs of Change - we can break the cycle and embrace good cardiovascular practices.
First, start by tracking your moods, your activities and your thoughts in relation to heart-healthy activities such as walking, jogging or any other activity that works up a sweat. Jot down on paper how you are feeling and what you are thinking at the moment when you decide to engage in any act that undermines your heart.
Next, write down how you will change your behavior each time you feel yourself slipping into the unhealthy mindsets that precede unhealthy behaviors. Now, write down what things inspire you to get up and move or to make heart-healthy decisions.
Then, commit to doing at least one heart healthy activity each day and to modifying your environment as needed each time you feel yourself sliding into unhealthy practices.
Last, give yourself time. Generally, it takes 21 days of repeat activity to develop a new habit; however, you may slip up. They key is to review your strategy and recommit each time you fall. Ultimately, your heart will be the better for it.
Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.
Executives are some of the busiest people I know. They are often some of the unhealthiest, as well.
The trend in today’s workplace is towards doing more and more with less and less. This adds strain to the already overworked executive. That strain affects the health of the executive and hinders his or her ability to do their job effectively.
This trend cannot continue. It is destroying the lives of too many top-notch professionals.
Here are 27 tips for staying healthy as a busy executive:
1. Remember to smell the flowers. Take time out to enjoy the little things in life. Being just as impressed by small events as large ones helps to cultivate wisdom and clarity.
2. Stop living a “hit-and-miss life.” Living aimlessly is like shooting multiple arrows that miss their targets. This is a waste of time and not a trait of an effective leader.
3. Anxiety is anticipation run riot. Anticipating the worst keeps us from enjoying the present. Realize that anxiety does not facilitate self-control.
4. Remember to take breaks. Taking breaks during work helps you accomplish more during the time that you are working.
5. Avoid procrastination. Remove temptations around you such as an instant messenger program or magazines, which might tempt you from being efficient at work.
6. Keep things simple. Eliminate the things that cause clutter in your life, such as unnecessary magazine subscriptions, paper and too many unused gadgets.
7. Take care of yourself. Executives who look haggard or tired tend to have more responsibilities heaped on them, because your physical condition and dress sends the message that you permit that.
8. Commit yourself to exercise at least three times a week. Keeping yourself in shape will help you perform efficiently in all areas of your life.
9. Always eat breakfast. Low blood sugar as a result of not eating properly can cause unproductive afternoons.
10. Take your vitamins. If you eat constantly on the run to save time, take vitamins to avoid potential slumps in energy.
11. Bag your lunch. Not only is this cheaper, but it is more nutritious because you have control over what you eat. This can spare you from eating empty calories that exhaust you.
12. Sit down with your family for dinner. This is the one thing that you can do each day to bond with family members. It also saves money and allows you to control your diet.
13. Make dates with your mate. Planning romantic outings keeps your relationship erotic and alive.
14. Get professional help. If you can’t cope due to bad time management skills or emotional problems, get the help that you need.
15. Ask for help if you need it. Pride prevents most executives from asking for assistance from higher ups or colleagues. Being trained wastes less time than trying to figure out something yourself.
16. Make sure you have quiet time. Set personal time aside for yourself each week doing something that you enjoy doing alone. This gives you clarity and is a form of meditation.
17. Get enough sleep. People who are sleep deprived make more time consuming mistakes and are too irritable to lead a quality life style.
18. Never get too hungry. People who are hungry are irritable and make mistakes so that things need to be done over again.
19. Avoid people who suck your time. Needy or emotionally disturbed individuals can seriously throw your plans for the day astray. Avoid them the best you can.
20. Deal with your anger. Angry individuals are hasty, reckless and make careless errors that cause time consuming mistakes.
21. If you are tired, rest. It is better to rest and do a task twice as fast afterwards, rather than do it slowly because you are exhausted.
22. Take life one day at a time. Live in the present, not in the future, and you will accomplish more.
23. Give back to the community. Engage in one meaningful activity where money is “not the goal”. This empowers you spiritually and prevents you from getting too stuck in your own problems.
24. Make yourself inaccessible at certain times. Let others know when you are working and cannot be disturbed.
25. Reward yourself for a job well done. Whenever you complete a big task, make sure to keep motivated by giving yourself a reward.
26. Seek out the good in every situation. Disappointments and delays are a part of life. Learn how to make it up to your family if you are late and can’t be there for them.
27. Realize that you always have choices. Make choices about how you spend your time, and do not be at the mercy of obligations that you cannot fulfill.
As a busy executive, staying healthy has to be at the top of your priority list. It is essential to your job as a leader. Use these tips to guide you into the healthy lifestyle you deserve.
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email email@example.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
There has never been a more challenging time for employers dealing with the dual problem of rising health care costs and declining employee health. As such, employers need to be thinking very differently about how they approach health care, says Jim Winkler, a senior vice president and large employer segment leader at Aon Hewitt.
“Employers need to actively, directly and candidly talk with employees about the need to change behaviors for better health,” says Winkler. “You need to build in the right combination of rewards so that employees understand that if they want to spend a large amount of ‘house money’ on health care, they have to follow ‘house rules’.”
Smart Business spoke with Winkler about the challenges and solutions surrounding health and benefits, and how to address them.
How can employers begin to have a conversation with employees about health care?
You first have to understand how consumers think about health care. Our Consumer Mindset 2011 research tells us that they understand that the system is broken, they understand the political dynamics and they know what they need to do in terms of health. Everyone knows they shouldn’t smoke, they should eat better and they should exercise. However, the messages that employees react best to are those that make navigating health easier and more personal.
Don’t talk to them about the company’s costs. Instead, talk about how a lack of health may be getting in the way of teaching a grandson baseball. You need to make it meaningful to employees so they understand the results of good health.
You also need to deploy more than just one tactic. You can’t just have a great communications strategy, and you can’t just have a plan design or incentive strategy. With consumer-driven health plans, consumers understand that you want them to be better consumers, but if all you give them is that design mechanism, you’re just going to frustrate them because they don’t understand the cost of specific health services. You have to give them the tools and information to navigate a broken system and help them see how their exposure to potentially higher out-of-pocket costs is going to enable them to make healthier decisions. You have to connect those pieces.
For example, if you have a consumer-driven plan, don’t just put employer money in the savings account. Instead, say, ‘If you complete a health risk assessment and you know your biometrics, then we’ll put money into your account.’ Make it very clear that you want employees to be successful under the benefits plan and to have access to more of the employer’s money, but you need them to do something in exchange.
People don’t always like that, but they can see very clearly how the actions they take can lead to good things and how inaction can result in a less satisfactory benefit plan.
How can an employer target better health for employees?
There are two starting points. First, as an employer, you want to have your arms around your data. Maybe you’ve done a health risk questionnaire and you have medical claims data in such a way that you can stratify it to say that, of the eight greatest risk factors (such as smoking, lack of health screenings, poor diet, etc.) and the 15 most prevalent chronic conditions, these are the ones that are most prevalent in your population. From that, you can target those two or three greatest risk factors that will lead to the best improvement in health status and a lessening of the frequency and severity of chronic disease.
If you don’t have that data because you’re a smaller company or you haven’t performed a health improvement strategy yet and have no real insight into company-specific risks, the three areas to target are poor diet, physical inactivity and lack of health screenings.
Your real opportunity for impact is to get after weight, as more than two-thirds of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese, and physical inactivity. With health screenings, you begin to build a baseline, and the more screenings you do, the more you understand risk in your population. And screenings are an early identifier of risk and disease, so you start to put a dent in high-cost conditions. If people wait until they’re diagnosed, then they’re likely to be on medication for life and have a higher cost outcome.
How do you address concerns about employers being involved in employees’ health care?
As an employer, you have to start with the basic premise that your current cost environment, the way you’re running your benefits program today, is not sustainable. If you’re going to change the status quo, can you continue to do the things you’ve been doing, like plan design changes that shift costs to employees and changing your medical vendor? Is it reasonable to assume the same tactics will produce a different outcome?
No, so you have to take a different approach. There are two paths you can take. One is the path of house money, house rules. Be candid with employees and share that the reason you’re talking to them about their health, and their behavior, is that you’re spending a lot of money on health care, so the organization has a vested interest in managing health care costs more effectively.
Second, in a challenging global economy, you need a healthy, present, high-performing work force. What percentage of your work force is out because of health issues? What if you could cut that number in half? You add nothing to your payroll costs, you spend less on medical coverage, and you get people back to work who are more productive to the business.
It’s in your best interest to drive business results to spend less on health care and have a healthy work force, and the way you’re going to get that is by engaging people around their health.
Jim Winkler is senior vice president at Aon Hewitt, the global human resource solutions business of Aon plc. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Linda Van Howe is senior vice president at Aon Hewitt, Detroit practice leader - Health and Benefits. Reach her at (248) 936-5238 or email@example.com.
Insights Risk Management is brought to you by Aon Risk Solutions
The so-called “fitness” industry has become awash in a sea of backward thinking, untested and unproven premises and, worst of all, dangerous practices.
“It may sound extreme to suggest it, but if ever there was a Dark Age for exercise we are in it,” says Joshua Trentine, president of Overload Fitness.
Smart Business learned more from Trentine about how to leave the dark ages behind.
Why do you say we are living in the dark ages of exercise?
Most of our collective consciousness concerning exercise is based on aerobics philosophy. In 1968, Kenneth H. Cooper coined the term aerobics to denote his fascination with running. He later expanded this to include a host of activities, thus crossing over to millions of people and their pet interests and pastimes. Over the past few decades, the term aerobics has been replaced by the term ‘cardio’ under the assumption that ‘steady-state’ activities serve to stimulate and improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, aerobics undermines the necessary process to stimulate strengthening. It promotes injuries and thwarts the body’s ability to adapt to the stimulation were it to occur. In this regard, aerobics philosophy, i.e., steady-state notions, represent the Dark Age of Exercise.
Why are aerobics activities not as useful as many believe?
It is important to realize several facts. First, the center of metabolism in the body is the skeletal musculature. It possesses the greatest vascularity, the greatest concentration of mitochondria, and the greatest peripheral nerve supply. It is also the site of a majority of chemical reactions and heat production.
Second, although the heart is a muscle, it is involuntary. It is optimally accessed with exercise only by meaningful muscular (skeletal/volitional) loading. The very nature of steady state (aerobics) is to avoid meaningful muscular loading by burdening the bones, so that the muscles are spared to permit endurance and thus avoid exercise.
Third, cardio makes about as much sense as cutting your heart out of your chest and putting it on an exercise machine.
Aerobics is poor science. It is unhealthy. It is antithetical to exercise. It is backwards and uneducated. It is empty exercise. It subverts the loading required for exercise. It will not burn significant calories or meaningfully improve one’s appearance. It severely compromises what can be accomplished for the heart. Aerobics will incur injuries that lead to inactivity, depression, overeating and greater fatness.
Worse, in recent years, a literal wave of bastardized exercise trends have stemmed from the ‘cardio’ religion and have, in fact, transcended it in the fitness ranks:
n high volume training
n westernized yoga and its hybrid equivalents
n functional training
n explosive and ‘speed-strength’ training
n dance aerobics
n boxing aerobics and hybrids
n vibration devices
n stretching programs
n cross training and recent cross-fit programs
n boot camps
n home exercise programs such as P90X
Despite the apparent differentiation in the activities listed above, they are all built on an achievement-oriented premise that focuses on the process of the activities and not the results. If you’ve been engaged in a program of fitness that focuses on aerobic activity such as walking or running, using elliptical machines, jogging, or any of the practices listed above, you’ve been wasting much of your time.
This may seem shocking and outrageous but I suspect most readers will have their sense of shock immediately followed by a sobering moment of quiet agreement. If engaging in the above activities did lead to any good (as promised in every infomercial and health club banner), our society would be populated with the fittest people the world has ever seen because the majority of people are doing these things. But this is not the case. In fact, there are fewer and fewer lean and fit people today than ever before. And it’s getting worse.
So how can people stop wasting their time?
There is a solution to not only the challenge of physical conditioning but also the time commitment necessary to affect the kinds of improvements we all seek so dearly.
The key to all of this is proper exercise. And proper exercise is strength training. Strength training is the only practice that can lead to total fitness; that which directly and efficiently encompasses all of the suspected and unsuspected benefits that a person can experience from exercise. Strength training is the only exercise activity that asks not ‘how much can you tolerate?’ but more appropriately ‘how little do you require?’ In strength training, only the results matter; the process is secondary.
True exercise stimulates skeletal muscular strengthening. All reasonable expectations from exercise are accessed through the skeletal muscles — the only window into the body — by strengthening or attempting to strengthen those muscles. These expectations include: improvements in bone density, vascular efficiency, metabolic efficiency, joint stability, muscular strength and cosmetics.
It’s time to replace all the backward thinking, the erroneous concepts and the absurd and dangerous practices with valid principles and a new understanding.
It’s time to truly level the playing field so that the most feeble, debilitated and elderly homebody can eventually perform with the same sense of vitality and purpose as the most truly gifted, advanced and youthful athlete.
It’s time to ensure that a program of progressive intensity is never compromised by equally progressive risk of injury.
It’s time to admit that exercise requires not only ample intensity but also the correct dosage of volume and frequency.
Joshua Trentine is president of Overload Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569 and visit www.overloadfitness.com.
Retained surgical sponges in patients are one of the most frequent and most costly surgical errors among hospitals, as well as the most commonly reported.
Each year hospital infections add an estimated $30.5 billion to the nation’s hospital costs, according to the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. More than 100,000 deaths occur each year from preventable hospital infections, according to The Institute of Medicine. That number is more than the yearly deaths from AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined.
David Palmer, president and CEO of Pittsburgh-based ClearCount Medical Solutions Inc., a medical device company focused on patient safety solutions, has developed technology called the SmartSponge System to track surgical sponges, making hospital surgeries more efficient and reducing extra costs.
Smart Business spoke to Palmer about how this technology can benefit hospitals nationwide.
Where did this idea come from?
The original idea wasn’t from us, it was actually an operating room nurse who back in the mid-’90s had seen this reconciliation angst on a recurring basis and thought there had to be a better way to do this. Along with her husband, they came up with the idea that radio frequency identification technologies would be a great tool to help solve the problem. In 2004, ClearCount came about.
What are the inefficiencies your product is addressing?
There is a study published that one in 1,500 intra-abdominal surgeries results in a retained object. That gives you the magnitude of the problem that we’re addressing. Currently today, there is a manual reconciliation process that is performed in every surgical procedure. The purpose of that reconciliation is to make sure that they account for the number of things at the beginning of the surgical case, throughout the case, but most importantly, at the end of the case, to prevent that one in 1,500 intra-abdominal surgery event from occurring.
What happens is, whenever there is a miscount that occurs, there is quite a bit of time spent in the operating room trying to correct that situation. They’re trying to find that missing sponge by maybe digging through the garbage or recounting to make sure they didn’t make an error. There are a lot of things that are happening that impact the efficiencies when the count is off. That’s what we really prevent. We automate what is now an error-prone manual process in the operating room. We address both the patient-safety side of it, and through our automation and accuracy, we add efficiency to the operating room.
How does it work?
There is a radio frequency identification chip which is comparable to a tic-tac and that is sewn into the surgical sponges when they are manufactured. Each sponge has a tag which contains a unique identifier on it that allows that sponge to be counted. Before a case begins, the sponges are quickly scanned into the counting process and all those tags are read and they establish an in-count and then during and after the case, the sponges are discarded and that’s where they are counted out and there’s a display screen that shows the ins and outs and how many are missing. It tells you not only how many sponges, but the type of sponge. Then there is a wand attached to the device which allows the nurse or the physician to scan the patient or use it in the room to find a sponge as well.
Are hospitals looking to use this technology?
It’s a very immature market right now. I think the level of awareness clearly increased over the past 12 to 18 months. That’s the awareness that technologies are available to help the problem. The problem has been well known and documented. The solutions have been less well known, and that’s the reason for the relatively underpenetrated market. What we’re noticing now is that many hospitals are actually proactively looking for technologies to help with this problem.
What are the advantages for hospitals to adopt this technology?
First off, we offer to our customers an additional financial backing and we have a special policy that stands behind our products in the event that a hospital would incur an incident while using our technology.
There is also the advantage of the efficiency in the operating room. Because our product is so easy to use and not only includes the ability for the nurses to get an accurate count, but in the event that there is a missing sponge, we have the ability to find it as well. We are the only technology that can both count sponges and detect them.
HOW TO REACH: ClearCount Medical Solutions Inc., (412) 931-7233 or www.clearcount.com
ClearCount Medical Solutions Quick Facts:
Founders: David Palmer and Steven Fleck.
Goal: Uses RFID technology to prevent medical errors and make hospitals more efficient.
Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.
Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses how exercise can prevent cardiovascular disease, but it's not cardio or steady state exercise like most people think.
For more information, visit http://overloadfitness.com/life-changing.html.
Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See more at www.overloadfitness.com.
The content of this video is by Joshua Trentine, the founder of OVERLOAD Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569.
Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses the importance of a good night's sleep and how not getting seven to eight hours of sleep each day can negatively impact your fat loss goals.
We've all heard that we need eight hours of sleep per night. Still many adults are getting less than six hours of sleep per night, and it's hurting them in a number of ways.
Research shows that long-term sleep loss is related to increased obesity and diabetes. Also, metabolism slows when a person doesn't get enough sleep.
Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or email@example.com. See more at www.overloadfitness.com.
Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses how to set and then achieve your fitness goals.
Many people fail at their health goals because they never had a specific goal to begin with. By determining exactly what you want to accomplish, writing it down and then putting an action plan in place, you'll be able to achieve your goals.
Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See more at www.overloadfitness.com.
Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses eating healthy while on the road.
The key is to plan ahead — carry fruits, nuts or even supplements with you, so you don't have to rely on unhealthy options at the food court.