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Lindsay Henwood

U-Haul’s Nicotine-Free Policy: Fostering Wellness, or Cutting Costs?

If a company eliminates applicants because of an unhealthy behavior, are they fostering workplace wellness, or cutting healthcare costs? Are they promoting a culture of healthy employees, or discriminating against potential candidates? Or is it somewhere in between?

With U-Haul’s new smoke-free policy, workplaces across the country have to ask themselves where the policy falls.

U-Haul’s New Policy

On December 30th, U-Haul International announced that beginning February 1, 2020, it would implement a nicotine-free policy in 21 states without protections for smokers’ rights. As of February 1, it will become one of the first major companies to decline applicants who are nicotine users.

The policies will be enacted in:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington

According to the company, applicants in these 21 states can expect to see the anti-nicotine policy on their job applications. They will be questioned about their nicotine use and may be required to undergo nicotine testing in certain states before they can be deemed hirable.

The policy also covers e-cigarettes and vaping products. Any current U-Haul employees who are nicotine users will be grandfathered into the policy, offering nicotine cessation programs to assist them.

The goal of the policy, nominally, is to further U-Haul’s goal of promoting one of the healthiest corporate cultures in the United States and Canada.

Policy Implications By the Numbers

In Arizona alone, where U-Haul is headquartered, the implications of the policy are significant.

U-Haul employs 30,000 workers in the United States and Canada. In Arizona, it is one of the state’s largest employers, with a workforce of more than 4,000. It is also legal in Arizona to discriminate against nicotine users in the hiring process.

That might be good news for people exposed to nicotine, but not for applicants who use nicotine.

As of 2017, 15.6% of adults in Arizona smoked cigarettes, while 5.3% of adults used e-cigarettes and 2.8% used smokeless tobacco. Out of a population of roughly 7.1 million, that’s over 1.1 million adults who smoke cigarettes, 376,300 who use e-cigarettes, and 198,800 who use smokeless tobacco.

All of whom would no longer be eligible for employment with U-Haul — which is, again, one of the largest employers in the entire state of Arizona.

The Public Health Implications of Smoking

Of course, the public health implications of smoking and nicotine use are nothing to sneeze at. Nicotine is known to be a dangerous and highly addictive chemical, and it is by no means the only chemical associated with smoking. Cigarettes contain more than 5,000 chemicals, hundreds of them harmful to human health, including:

  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Cadmium (a metal used to make batteries)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Tar

Smoking has been linked to 90% of lung cancer cases. Almost one-third of coronary heart disease deaths are the result of secondhand smoke. 

Nicotine itself is known to increase blood pressure, narrow the arteries, and contribute to hardening arterial walls, which in turn can lead to heart attacks.

It is, in short, one of the main preventable causes of death in the United States.

The risks are also high for anyone around secondhand smoke: people exposed to it are 25% to 30% more likely to develop heart disease.

Public Health, or Lower Healthcare?

U-Haul posits the policy as part of a shift toward corporate health and wellness, asserting that the shift toward a healthier workforce is an investment in the wellbeing of their team members. The policy, according to U-Haul, will help reinforce a wellness program that encourages workers to focus on four areas: health, fitness, nutrition, and mindset.

However, the company also noted that the policy was part of a continued effort to decrease healthcare costs.

Are There Cost Benefits? 

Workplace wellness is an industry with $8 billion in annual revenue in the United States. Almost half of all employers with at least 50 employees offer a workplace wellness program. Of those that don’t have a program, half have said they plan to introduce one.

The popular story among corporations and researchers is that these efforts reduce healthcare costs for employers. A 2010 review by a Harvard economist stated that wellness programs return $3 in healthcare savings and $3 in reduced healthcare costs for every $1 invested.

But is that actually the case?

Research by the RAND Corporation, including data from 600,000 employees from seven employers and 10 years of data from a Fortune 100 employer, found that wellness programs have little, if any, immediate impact on employer healthcare costs.

Generally, wellness programs have two components: lifestyle management (which focuses on employees with health risks such as obesity or smoking), and disease management (which focuses on employees who already have a chronic disease). Together, the two programs generate $30 in savings per member per month. But 87% of those savings came from disease management, even though only 13% of employees participate in disease management — compared to 87% participation in lifestyle management.

One might make the case that disease management can result from diseases caused by smoking, but U-Haul’s policy targets lifestyle issues and prevents nicotine users from being hired in the first place, thereby precluding their ability to participate in disease management programs.

In short, it’s hard to say whether U-Haul’s policy can save the company healthcare dollars in the long run.

Loopholes in the Policy That Penalize Workers

But what we can say is that the policy penalizes nicotine users, including those who are trying not to use nicotine.

The program as presented makes no exceptions for nicotine users who are trying to quit smoking. And while nicotine users can remain smoke-free, 30% of them do so with the aid of some kind of nicotine product.

What about quitting with nicotine-free products? That’s not as easy as it sounds. The FDA has only approved two nicotine cessation products that don’t contain nicotine: Chantix and Zyban.

And yes, nicotine replacement products and medicines do show up in nicotine screenings. Nor does the policy seem to differentiate between smokers and those with nicotine in their system due to secondhand smoke, or between cigarettes and nicotine products with a lower risk to bystanders, like smokeless tobacco.

Balancing Wellness and Fairness

Is the policy good for worker health? From the perspective of removing harmful substances from the workplace, yes.

Is the policy fair for workers? From the perspective of smokers and people with smokers around them, not so much.

That U-Haul’s policy lacks any differentiation implies that the company’s stance is a moral one more than a health one. Given that the healthcare cost benefits to the employer seem unclear, it begs the question: How much employers can force their own policy views to restrict the lives of their own employees?

It’s not a bad idea to discourage unhealthy habits per se. The issue is doing it in a productive and nondiscriminatory way. U-Haul’s broad policy is a bit unclear in that regard, so we’ll have to watch how this plays out.

8 Creative Ways Leadership Can Jumpstart Workplace Well-being

Actions speak louder than words. It’s something we all can agree on. And yet, when it comes to workplace well-being initiatives, few organizations fully realize the culture of health and experience the participation and engagement rates they anticipate. From my experience working with organizations of wide-ranging industries and sizes, there often is a disconnect between the program’s strategy and plan, and the follow-through.

Employees recognize the same—in a recent HealthFitness study , we found that 60 percent of employees who do not participate in well-being initiatives at their organization are willing to, but choose not to for a variety of reasons, including lack of information or awareness, an unsupportive company culture, and/or trust and privacy concerns.

While there are a number of ways to address these barriers, we must recognize that each of these issues traces directly back to leadership actions. If well-being programs are going to succeed and reach their true potential for lowering healthcare costs and reducing health risks and enhancing company culture, top leadership needs to be involved. Not through fiscal sponsorship and support alone, but through upfront participation. Actions speak louder than words—this applies to everyone, but especially those in leadership.

Changing employee perception and engagement in well-being takes time and requires coordination of an entire organization’s teams, tools and processes. But nothing can spark interest quite like a senior leader. That’s why I’ve rounded up some of the most creative ways I’ve seen company leaders at all levels of the company get involved in well-being programs within their organizations, and set the tone for the rest of the team to follow suit.

  1. Create a beat the boss competition. Senior leaders at one health plan are often called upon to lead health-related competitions. One is a weekly step competition—

employees track their total daily steps and those who beat the boss for the week are entered into a raffle to win a prize. And earn bragging rights.

  1. Take a tour. Leaders at one manufacturing company serve as well-being tour guides for their departments, taking employees on a tour of the company’s new corporate fitness facility. Not only does this spread the word about the facility; it also encourages them to participate in the full offerings of the company program.
  2. Walk (or run) it out. Stilettos are the running shoe of choice for this CEO to help raise awareness for the 5K charity race at a leading financial services company. Employees raise money and participate in the race just for the chance to see their CEO (who happens to be male) strut his stuff in red stiletto heels. This fun approach to well-being has a lasting impact on employees—they are already planning next year’s race with more leaders wearing heels!
  3. Be a walking billboard. Senior leaders at one leading technology company become walking billboards—they encourage healthy eating by dressing up in fruit-patterned leggings, wearing sandwich boards and walking around the campus to encourage employees to eat more fruits and vegetables. You can also lead the way by ordering healthy options for team meetings and off-sites.
  4. Make a splash. Sign up for the dunk tank—employees at one leading financial services company compete in fun fitness challenges and get the opportunity to dunk senior leaders at the annual “Fitness Field Day.”
  5. Integrate well-being into your meetings. Some managers lead walking meetings, and some have taken the next step to invite well-being practitioners into meetings to lead energy breaks with their employees.
  6. Let your voice be heard. At one technology firm, video interviews of company leaders describing what being healthy means to them play on video monitors throughout campus. The videos are also shared with remote employees as part of the company’s well-being communication initiatives. Using these videos in company emails and newsletters can also help engage remote or global employees.
  7. Share your moves and your tunes. A leading insurance company hosts weekly “flash mob”-style dance parties on Fridays, with leaders taking center stage for 15 minutes to help everyone get up and move around. And employees at one leading financial services company often take spin class in their onsite fitness center with their CEO—as the instructor. He breaks a sweat with employees and shares his favorite workout music throughout the class.

Photo Credit: urban.shake Flickr via Compfight cc

Three Ways Health Coaches Can Jumpstart Corporate Wellness

Amazon. Netflix. Zappos. Today’s consumer culture is increasingly dominated by brands that thrive on facilitating a personalized experience. So, when it comes to your corporate wellness program, why should your employees expect anything different?

They shouldn’t, and in reality, they don’t. In fact, according to recent research, almost 75 percent of wellness program participants say a personal touch is important in their health, wellness and fitness program.

In our industry, health coaches help put this personalized experience into practice. Coaches guide employees on their journey to help them reach their health goals, providing expertise, structure, encouragement, accountability and human connection along the way. In many of our client programs, health coaches are available to meet with participants at their choosing, allowing employees to select the mode, pace, duration and frequency of their coaching sessions. This helps employees feel like a person, not an appointment, and gives them peace-of-mind knowing they have the flexibility and freedom to access support when they need it most.

Coaches deliver benefits far beyond fulfilling employees’ desires for personalized wellness. Here are three ways personal health coaches can jumpstart and significantly impact corporate wellness programs: 

  1. Coaches can help facilitate healthy behaviors

In a survey among our own clients, we found that coached participants gained 70 percent less weight than non-coached participants. Nearly 20 percent of coached participants lost around 8 pounds each year (versus just 2 pounds per year for non-coached participants). Coached participants were also 29 percent more likely to quit using tobacco versus non-coached participants. Across the board, coaches made a significant difference when it came to encouraging those essential, healthy behaviors.

  1. Coaches can help improve employee productivity

Accountability gets results: Employees who were supported by a coach completed more sessions and stayed enrolled in corporate wellness programs longer. Seventy-one percent of coached employees remained in their program past three months, while only 35 percent of those who were self-directed achieved the same. The results aren’t limited to health benefits either: 84 percent of employees who worked with a coach reported improved productivity.

  1. Coaches can help employers save bottom-line health care dollars

When it comes to cost savings and health coaching, I’ve found the 70:30 rule usually applies. In other words, 70 percent of employers’ medical and pharmacy cost savings are coming from the 30 percent of their wellness program participants who enroll in coaching. Employees who participate in company wellness programs save an average of $261 in medical costs per year. However, those who work directly with a personal health coach save an average of $586 annually—more than double the savings!

Personal health coaches provide far-reaching benefits to employees and employers alike. Coaches help employees gain momentum on their wellness journeys and provide support in achieving their health goals, while realizing greater program engagement, productivity and health care cost savings for employers. When combined with the right technology and resources, a coach-driven approach can create new levels of improvement and program results for all.

Photo Credit: garibalde.neto Flickr via Compfight cc

Five Ways to Foster a Wellness Culture

I’m going to say it loud and proud: I love workplace wellness programs. And I will shout it from the rooftops until every company in every industry finally understands how invaluable they are to overall corporate success. Here’s the thing—a happy, healthy employee is good for profits. In fact, the American Heart Association found that for every $1 invested in workplace wellness, companies could expect to receive up to $3 in return. That’s fantastic ROI.

I also love technology, but it’s true that technology has disrupted our work lives and our family time. And while that slow-creeping crossover has had (some would say) an adverse effect on “family time,” as most of us remain tethered to our mobile devices, it has had a different, more positive impact on work. Today, people can virtually work from anywhere, at any time. Companies offer more flex time and work from home options, and employees see previously grueling travel schedules reduced due in part, to things like online video collaboration.

But, that constant connectivity and flexibility comes at a price.

Why Wellness Programs are the Future of Work

When Staples Business Advantage conducted their second annual Workplace Index, what they found was telling. Instead of technology reducing workloads, employees are today working too much. In fact, of their U.S. respondents, most reported working longer hours to try and catch up on work they couldn’t tackle during an eight-hour day. And that workload is taking a toll.

  • Sixty-four percent of respondents say their workplace has contributed to stress.
  • Nearly half report feeling overworked is motivating them to look for another job.
  • Thirteen percent have even taken a workplace stress-related leave of absence.
  • And yet, 66 percent of employees still consider the office as the most productive place to get work done.

Clearly, the onus lies with employers to ensure the workplace is a healthy one. “This study shows that there is a tremendous opportunity for organizations to focus on and design employee experiences where employees truly want to show up,” said Jacob Morgan, author of The Future of Work. Morgan, who worked in conjunction with Staples Business Advantage on the report, stated, “Offering employees health and wellness programs, well-designed office environments and up-to-date modern technologies are all a part of that employee experience. This is crucial to be able to attract and retain top talent.”

He is absolutely correct. Consider this: While a full 62 percent of respondents said the availability of a wellness program is a selling point when looking for a new job, 58 percent reported their workplace doesn’t offer one. Let’s get started today on changing those statistics, and creating corporate environments where healthy workers become top priorities. Here’s how.

Five Ways to Foster a Wellness Culture

The employees surveyed in Staples Business Advantage’s Workplace Index 2016 made it clear they want more from their employers. Here are five ways to help foster a wellness culture, and actively maintain a health-focused culture.

  1. Create well-designed, inspiring workplaces. Even with remote work and flex time on the rise, as mentioned above, 66 percent of employees still rate the office as the most productive place to get work done. But sadly, many workers describe their workspaces as being less than inspiring. According to the survey, “The majority of survey respondents describe their office as standard, plain and dull…Forty-three percent would like to see more attention paid to workplace design, with respondents also citing a desire for natural light, private spaces, standing desks, lounge areas, and ergonomic/flexible furniture for multiple uses.” While this sounds like a lot of change, you don’t have to break the bank to keep employees happy and healthy. Standing desks can be jerry-rigged, or shared among multiple team members, and you can use an underused boardroom for increased collaboration part of the time, for private or small group projects.
  1. Make breaks mandatory. Did you know that 53 percent of employees eat lunch at their desk every single day? I know I’ve been guilty of it more than once. Not surprisingly, the Workplace Index revealed that more than three-quarters of employees say they feel more productive after a break. So why don’t they take them? Guilt. As Kerry Anne Carter, vice president, Staples Business Advantage, said, “Taking a break in the always-on modern workplace can seem like a pipe dream, but it shouldn’t be.” More than half of those surveyed want breaks actively encouraged, and even something as innocuous as having a well-stocked break room offering healthy snacks can significantly increase employee productivity.
  1. Focus on personal and professional development. Having the right tools available is a major step toward a healthier workplace. As well as having the most up to date technology and software solutions on hand, providing a way for employees to continually better themselves at work will help improve retention rates. Create an easily accessed “professional development” Intranet where employees can do research and take courses. Implement a companywide year-long personal growth program, and have managers work with staff to reach their goals. And work with staff each year to reward them in some way for their hard work, whether through small promotions or pay raises or by awarding them an extra week of much-needed vacation time.
  1. If you haven’t already, adopt flexible work hours and paid time off. Stress kills, and there’s nothing more stressful than juggling life and work commitments, especially when there are children in the mix. Allowing flex time and remote work options, and ensuring people have the right technology that enables them to work, gives people control of their lives and goes a long way toward fostering employee loyalty. Also, as a bonus, studies have shown that people are 13 percent more productive when they work from home. Plus, when they inevitably come down with an illness like the flu, they won’t feel pressured to bring those germs into the office, possibly infecting colleagues. According to Chris Correnti, vice president of Staples Facility Solutions, “The flu is responsible for an estimated 70 million missed workdays and billions of dollars in lost office productivity each year.”
  1. Make daily fitness part of your employee policies. While having an onsite gym or offering fitness subsidies might sound like options only the largest of companies can afford, even the smallest businesses can incorporate fitness into the workplace. Walking increases creative thinking, and by now we all know that sitting all day is awful for your health. Instead, get employees moving by holding “walking meetings.” If you absolutely have to have those laptops out, get out of the old boardroom routine by walking to a nearby coffee shop for your gathering. Or, invest in fitness wearables and inspire teams to challenge each other in monthly or quarterly exercise contests. Make it easy for employees to bike to work by providing safe areas to lock up their gear, and, if possible, to shower at work.

Building a health-focused work culture doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and the rewards far outweigh the costs. Make sure that managers and other business leaders walk the walk as well (no pun intended), and inspire employees to follow their lead into a healthier, happier, more productive workplace. You and your employees will be glad you did.

This post is sponsored by Staples Business Advantage.

Image credit: StockSnap.io

Six Leadership Tips for Thriving Wellness Programs

When corporate wellness works well, it starts from the top-down. Leadership buy-in of corporate wellness programming can make a big difference in the success of the program. In fact, research shows that sincere interest in the well-being of employees is considered a top driver of sustainable engagement.

At HealthFitness, we’ve learned that visible support from a company’s executives sets the tone for employees—communicating that it’s acceptable to fit in a workout during the workday, take part in a weight loss challenge with co-workers or take advantage of healthy food options.

Here are six approaches we use at clients’ sites to engage leadership—and encourage employees—to participate in corporate wellness programs.

Be a wellness role model

At one of our technology client sites, participants in a focus group we conducted shared that a key barrier to participating in wellness programs was an underlying perception that if they were seen working out, leadership might assume they did not have enough work to do. We helped change that perception by recruiting C-suite leadership to work out while on the clock, opening the door for employees to see that health and fitness was a priority all of the way up the ladder. We positioned leaders as wellness role models by ensuring they were visible during onsite biometrics screening events – waiting in line for their appointment along with the rest of the employees.

Beat the boss

When leadership walks the walk, everyone benefits. Senior executives at this health plan lead weekly walks with employees to support a walking program that encourages employees to walk up to 10,000 steps each day. Participants track their total steps daily and those that “beat the boss” for the week are entered into a raffle to win a prize. This interactive program adds friendly competition and allows employees to get to know senior management better. 

Take a tour

Senior executives at this large manufacturing company each serve as wellness tour guides for their respective departments, leading employees through a tour of the company’s new corporate fitness facility. Not only does this get the word out about the facility, employees learn more about the additional wellness resources including stress relief, sleep tips, how to relieve stiff joints and more.

Get dunked

Leaders at this leading financial services company receive special recognition during “Fitness Field Day,” where employees compete in fitness challenges. Senior managers serve as “judges” for the fitness events and were also invited to get dunked in a dunk tank.

Energy in and out

At several client sites, HealthFitness staff move beyond the four walls of the corporate fitness center, asking managers to invite them to one of their meetings to lead an energy break with their employees. In return for the on-site energy break, the manager receives a personal training session.

Screen time stories

HealthFitness staff asks senior leadership at this large technology company to describe what being healthy means to them. The interviews are displayed on video monitors throughout the company’s large corporate campus as well as shared with remote employees. Senior executives provide information about the company’s health and wellness services, including its corporate fitness centers, health coaching and more.

Implementing these six approaches will promote leadership buy-in and encourage employees to participate in your wellness programs. Visible support from leadership can make an enormous difference in the success of your company’s wellness program.

About the Author:
Ann Wyatt (@AnnMWyatt) is vice president, account management at HealthFitness. In her role Ann oversees a national account management team, provides leadership support and guides strategy development for new health management and corporate fitness programs, the transition of existing programs, employee recruiting and training, program quality assurance and operations management. 

Photo Credit: rulke via Compfight cc

#TChat Preview: How Wellness Programs Improve Employee Performance

The TalentCulture #TChat Show is back live on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, from 1-2 pm ET (10-11 am PT).

Last week we talked about the blended workforce and its benefits and challenges. This week we’ll be talking about wellness programs; how they improve employee performance and the importance of leadership buy-in for employee participation.

According to the American Heart Association, sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950, and physically active jobs now make up less than 20% of our workforce. By comparison, in 1960, about half of the US workforce was physically active.

Being physically active improves employees’ health, which is ultimately good for your business. In fact, research shows that workers who exercise during the day reported a 15 percent boost in performance, a happier mood and an increased ability to meet deadlines.

We all know how hard it can be to fit exercise into a busy schedule, so what should we do?

Whether you have an on-site corporate fitness center or not, there are simple ways to help employees find time for fitness and support their overall health and well-being.

Sneak Peek:

#TChat Events:How Wellness Programs Improve Employee Performance

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio — Wed, Nov 18th — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #TChat Show co-founders and co-hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as they talk about health, leadership, and employee wellness programs with this week’s guest: Ann Wyatt, vice president of account management at HealthFitness, a health management leader that creates effective health management and corporate fitness programs.

Tune in LIVE online Wednesday, Nov 18th

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wednesday, November 18th — 1:30 pm ET /10:30 am PT Immediately following the radio show, the team will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What activities can employees do to easily integrate exercise into daily living? #TChat  (Tweet this Question)

Q2: How can companies support a culture of fitness with or without on-site facilities? #TChat  (Tweet this Question)

Q3: How should companies measure fitness and wellness program effectiveness? #TChat  (Tweet this Question)

Until then, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!!

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Should Desk Chairs Go The Way Of The Smoking Lounge?

I have fond memories of smoking.

There’s something about having a cigarette with a cup of coffee that only a smoker or ex-smoker can appreciate. I enjoyed my cigarettes until I woke up one day and realized that they had the potential to kill me. So I quit twenty-odd years ago and never looked back.

Sitting is the New Smoking

If you haven’t heard sitting is the new smoking according to Runner’s World. Even those who exercise regularly are not immune to the health hazards of long commutes, hours spent watching TV, and averaging eight-plus-hours a day at a desk. Spending all this time sitting has been linked to everything from cancer to heart disease to depression.

In the Runner’s World article, Travis Saunders, a PhD student and certified exercise physiologist at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, said “Up until very recently, if you exercised for 60 minutes or more a day, you were considered physically active, case closed. Now a consistent body of emerging research suggests it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary, and that sitting increases your risk of death and disease, even if you are getting plenty of physical activity. It’s a bit like smoking. Smoking is bad for you even if you get lots of exercise. So is sitting too much.”

So much for daily walks on the treadmill.

With health care costs expected to increase by nine percent this year and the ongoing expense of workplace absenteeism, employers may want to consider stepping up their employee wellness efforts. A good start would be helping desk-bound employees build a little activity into their day.

One solution is to give employees the option of an active desk chair. There are a variety of models from the Swopper, an adjustable stool which encourages movement while you’re sitting, to the less costly Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair, which engages your core while ensuring the “balance ball” doesn’t roll away.  With chairs in every price range this might be relatively inexpensive option.

While somewhat more costly, employers who want to ensure even more activity may want to offer employees a standing desk. There are plenty to choices from the UpDesk UpWrite, a motorized standing/sitting desk that can even accommodate a treadmill, to the more modestly priced VARIDESK Pro, a full-standing workstation which attaches to a desktop. To determine if a standing desk is a viable option before making an investment it might be wise to try a DIY version which can be as simple as putting a box or table on top of an existing desk.

Ready, Set, Stand!

Many companies are already on board with standing desks. While some provide standing options only to employees with a doctor’s note, Google provides them to employees as part of their employee-wellness program. Standing desk supporters say that using the desks increases energy and productivity.

Employers who are not quite ready to fund active desk chairs and/or standing desks can take advantage of a free and easy option. Have employees stand during meetings. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri found that teams who stood while working together were more engaged and creative than those who were seated around a table. They also found that the standing teams were more willing to collaborate and less protective of their ideas. This research supports other studies which found that walking boosts creativity and standing while working may make employees more productive.

Despite the health benefits, providing active chairs and/or standing desks to employees is a financial investment. However, giving standing meetings a try is not. While this tactic might not work for longer meetings standing for 30-minutes or less might be a great way to add a little activity to everyone’s day. And that’s not a bad thing.

(About the Author: Annette Richmond, MA is a writer, optimist, media enthusiast and executive editor of career-intelligence.com. Having changed careers several times, including working as a career coach, she has a unique perspective on career management. When starting career-intelligence.com over a decade ago, her goal was to provide a one-stop online career resource.

In addition to being a writer, speaker and consultant, Richmond contributes career-related articles to various other sites including ForbesWoman. She holds a BA in English from Sacred Heart University and a MA in Applied Psychology from Fairfield University. She resides in Rowayton, CT, with her husband, Eric, and their four-legged kids.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

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Employee Engagement: Say It Like You Mean It #TChat Recap

(Editor’s Note: Looking for details of this week’s #TChat Events? See the Storify slideshow and resource links at the end of this post.)

Dearest Employee:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I give you a fair wage. I give you competitive benefits. I give you a safe workspace. I give you freedom to work at home, and innovative tools to communicate. I give you beer bashes and company events. I give you a professional title. I give you a team, a staff, a department. I give you the work you love.

But it’s just not enough, is it? It’s never enough. You just keeping taking, and taking, and taking.

What else can I do? What’s that? Oh, I see. It’s not you, it’s me — is that it?

Talk Is Cheap

Even the most gracious, modest employers can develop this kind of benevolent hubris. But competition for top talent is continuing to heat up, and people are losing interest in luke-warm relationships with their employers. Combine that with the fact that the world of work is getting more stressful for us all — from CEO to freelancer — with blurred lines between professional and personal life.

So, what more will it take to win employee hearts and minds? Workforce wellness pioneer, Virgin Pulse, has advice, based on results of a new U.S. employee survey. And that’s what the TalentCulture community discussed yesterday at #TChat Events with our guests Chris Boyce, CEO at Virgin Pulse, and Kevin Herman, Director of Worksite Wellness at The Horton Group.

Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

Here’s the good news: Less than 2% of respondents say they hate their company and want out. Even better, 75% say they either “love” their company because it’s a great place to work, or they feel “pretty good” about it. At first blush, that looks like a win for employers. But here’s the rub — only 25% of respondents say they feel love in return.

This gap signals a major opportunity for companies to develop stronger relationships with their troops. But how? The same survey asked employees to rank what they wish mattered more to their employers:

 44% my financial well-being
  40% my career development
  39% my work/life balance
  35% my emotional health (e.g. reducing stress)
  29% my overall well-being and quality of life.

You can see where this is going. Other recent research echoes these sentiments. We want a better life overall — and that doesn’t mean just more pay and health coverage. We want employers to invest in us as complete humans.

Two Ways To Connect

Yesterday’s #TChat conversation reinforced this understanding. The TalentCulture community got right to the heart of what motivates people in the workplace:

1) Aim Deeper: Surface perks like nap rooms, chair massages, and ice cream socials are nice, but there are more meaningful, practical options. People respond to things like flexibility to manage their schedule. They need to take care of business and family without compromising either — whether they work in a corporate office, at home, or both. They don’t want to feel guilty or take a financial hit when they’re tending to a family member’s health, or their own.

2) Aim Wider: People want to feel better about themselves while loving the work they do. They respond to programs and resources that improve their overall health and well-being — not just health club reimbursements, but onsite gyms and stress management support, healthy cafeteria options, even financial planning assistance. If they’re being asked to contribute “the total package” to their job, they want to know their employer has a similar commitment to therm.

So, Workforce Cupid, how do I love thee? Let me count the healthy ways. Happy Valentine’s Day.

#TChat Week-In-Review: Love Your Employees, They’ll Love You Back

ChrisB

See Chris Boyce discuss wellness and healthcare costs

SAT 2/8:
#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post featuring a brief video with Chris Boyce. See the #TChat Preview: “Does Your Workforce Feel the Love?

SUN 2/9:
Forbes.com Post:
In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, discussed how heartfelt leadership can drive better business results. Read “Let Love Inspire Your Leadership.

RELATED POSTS:
Job Hunting? Look For Employers That Care About Your Future” — by Chris Boyce
Leaders: Is Your ‘Work’ Self the Real Deal? — by Ted Coine
Workplace Wellness: The Story Starts With Healthy Culture” — by Chris Boyce

WED 2/12:

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Listen to the #TChat Radio show replay

#TChat Radio: Our hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talked with Chris Boyce and Kevin Herman about why and how employers should demonstrate their commitment to workforce well-being. Listen to the #TChat Radio replay now…

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin, Chris and Kevin guests moved over to the #TChat Twitter stream, for an open all-hands conversation with the entire TalentCulture community. This dynamic discussion focused on 5 key questions about employee engagement issues and opportunities in today’s business environment.

See highlights from the Twitter stream the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Does Your Workforce Feel The Love?

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/does-your-workforce-feel-the-love.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Chris Boyce and Kevin Herman for sharing your perspectives on the importance of driving employee engagement through wellness programs that serve the “whole” person. Your passion and perspectives are invaluable!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about employee engagement strategies? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week at #TChat Events, we’ll look at how employers can be more effective at finding and hiring top talent. Our guests are Chris Mursau VP at Topgrading, and Jean Lynn, VP of HR at Home Instead Senior Care. Look for more details this weekend, and save the date: Wednesday, February 19!

Meanwhile, the TalentCulture conversation continues daily on #TChat Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our NEW Google+ community. So join us anytime on your favorite social channels.

We’ll see you on the stream!

(Editor’s Note: CONGRATS to Paul Thoresen — winner of the recent Pebble smartwatch giveaway from Dice! And thanks to all the #TChat contributors who shared tech recruiting ideas and questions with Dice and #FutureofTech.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Job Hunting? Look For Employers That Care About Your Future

Written by Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin Pulse

Are you pursuing new job opportunities — hoping to take the next step in your career? How do you determine if a potential employer is a wise choice? What criteria really count?

If wellness programs aren’t on your “must have” list, you may want to reconsider. The evidence is mounting. Companies committed to workforce wellness — particularly those committed to total quality of life at work and at home — are likely to be your best bet.

Unfortunately, not all companies make that kind of commitment. It’s no doubt one reason why employee engagement is so poor. Of course, engagement is influenced by multiple factors, but in general today’s workforce isn’t feeling the love. In fact, Gallup research revealed last year that 70% of U.S. employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged — and it’s costing companies over $300 billion a year.

The Workforce Wellness Difference

If you’re looking for a new gig, it makes sense to bypass organizations whose employees just aren’t dialed in to the work they’re doing, or the company’s mission, or its culture. But how do you find a great place to work?

There are some amazing companies out there that demonstrate their commitment to employees by investing directly in their health and happiness. We see them every day.

Leaders at these companies recognize that employees who are engaged in life inside and outside of their work environment are likely to be more productive and loyal over time. These types of companies support their workforce with comprehensive wellness options, like healthy food choices in the cafeteria, free group exercise classes in corporate gym facilities, paid time off to volunteer in the community, and even cold, hard cash incentives to reward healthy behavior.

Why Total Wellness Matters

By improving your health in multiple ways — physical, mental, social and financial — you’ll improve your total quality of life and maximize your potential in your job. Smart companies know this, and smart job seekers do, too. According to our own research, 87% of employees believe robust workplace wellness programs are paramount when choosing a place to work.

In recent years, with technology advances like the Internet, smartphones, teleconferencing and a variety of devices that help us work productively no matter where we’re located, the lines are blurring between work and home life. Employers recognize this, and increasingly are helping employees improve their total quality of life — not only by offering stellar benefits and workplace wellness programs, but also by extending those benefits to family and friends. This way, employees can rely on their natural support network to influence and reinforce their healthy habits.

Including family members is a no-brainer for employers, since spouses and dependents help boost wellness program participation. It should be a no-brainer for you, too. When exercising and dieting with a friend or family member, you have a 57% greater chance of losing weight than by going it alone, according to the Framingham Heart Study. Plus, getting healthy is more fun when you don’t fly solo. With innovative wellness programs that include your family and friends, you can challenge one another to simple, healthy competitions. For example, you can win bragging rights by tracking who climbs the most stairs at work, or who eats the most fruits and vegetables each week.

Employee Health Is More Than Fun and Games

But all of that fun also has serious impact. If your employer offers wellness programs you enjoy, and you take advantage of those programs, you’re more likely to adopt and sustain healthy lifestyle changes for the long-term. What’s more, the link between companies that provide robust workplace wellness programs and sustained employee engagement is strong. Our research shows that, at these organizations, 80% of employees feel their employer cares about their well-being.

So, in the long run, what can you expect? The payback of choosing a company that cares includes: fewer sick days, fewer workplace safety incidents, and an increased sense that your contributions at work have a greater overall impact, according to multiple sources. You’ll also feel a stronger connection with your employer, as you’re encouraged to stay active and healthy, and you see a similar commitment to those you love.

Bottom line: Healthier, happier employees are more engaged employees. And engaged employees perform more effectively at work. This can opening avenues to upward mobility and promotions that you might never have realized otherwise.

Factor these elements into your job search today, and I am confident that, in the future, you’ll find greater benefits both at work and in every other facet of life.

Chris-Boyce_color_web2(About the Author: Chris Boyce is CEO of Virgin Pulse. He is an accomplished technology entrepreneur who brings more than 15 years of consumer loyalty, enterprise and consumer software experience to Virgin Pulse. Leveraging Virgin’s philosophy that business should be a force for good, Chris’ leadership has been instrumental in guiding Virgin Pulse’s development of market-leading, technology-based products and services that help employers improve workforce health, boost employee engagement, and enhance corporate culture. Chris has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.)

(Editor’s Note: Chris Boyce discussed employee engagement with the TalentCulture community this week at #TChat Events. See full highlights and resource links in the Recap: “Employee Engagement: Say It Like You Mean It.“)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Does Your Workforce Feel The Love? #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for full highlights and resource links from this week’s events? See the #TChat Recap: “Employee Engagement: Say It Like You Mean It.“)

At one point or another, all of us have felt it.

You know what I mean. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, when you suddenly realize someone you desperately want to pursue is simply just … not that into you.

Talk all you want about The 5 Love Languages or 50 Shades of Grey. No amount of self-help advice or passionate persuasion is likely to alter the destiny of that relationship.

Employer Love: Beyond Hearts and Flowers

Fortunately, it’s a different story for relationships between employers and employees. Even companies that haven’t connected with their workforce in meaningful ways can turn a lackluster situation around. But what’s the best approach? And is it really worth the effort?

That’s the topic the TalentCulture community is taking on this week at #TChat Events. And we’re fortunate to be welcoming two guests who understand the importance of developing solid employer/employee bonds: Chris Boyce, CEO at Virgin Pulse, and Kevin Herman, Director of Worksite Wellness at The Horton Group.

Sneak Peek

Both of these executives see tremendous potential in strengthening employee loyalty and engagement by focusing on lifestyle fundamentals — health and well-being. Last year, Chris explained in a Bloomberg broadcast interview why it’s wise to invest in workforce wellness, especially in the face of rising healthcare costs and reduced benefits. Watch now:

Recently, Chris contributed a TalentCulture post expanding on this concept. In “Workplace Wellness: The Story Starts With Healthy Culture,” he makes the business case for embracing next-generation wellness programs — not just to promote employee health, but to build a more resilient business, overall.

What do you think about the importance of wellness programs and other employee engagement strategies in demonstrating employer “love”? This topic affects all of us in the world of work, so we hope you’ll join the #TChat crowd this week and add your perspective to the conversation.

#TChat Events: Love Your Employees, They’ll Love You Back

#TChat Radio — Wed, Feb 12 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

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Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Chris Boyce and  Kevin Herman about why and how employers should demonstrate their commitment to workforce well-being. Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Feb 12 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and our guests will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community, in a dynamic live chat.

Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these 5 related questions:

Q1: Why does workforce recognition and engagement matter more than ever?
Q2: What are the best ways employers can demonstrate this kind of “love”?
Q3: Where have you seen engagement in action, for better or worse?
Q4: What technologies help nurture workforce engagement?
Q5: What kind of engagement metrics are relevant and useful?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, and on our new G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Workplace Wellness: The Story Starts With Healthy Culture

(Editor’s Note: Chris Boyce is one of our featured guests at #TChat Events Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014. Join us to discuss employee engagement issues! See details in the preview post: “Does Your Workforce Feel the Love?“)

Written by Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin Pulse

Headlines are a funny thing. They often do a terrible job of telling a story. Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation published what headlines described as a sobering report on the state of workplace wellness.

At first glance, these initiatives appeared to be falling far short of the mark. But (as is so often the case) headlines only tell a tiny slice of the story. To find the truth, we must look beneath the surface.

Wellness 1.0: A Flawed Model

It’s correct that the traditional concept of wellness is broken. Employers have been overly prescriptive with wellness strategies — relying far too heavily on specific programs, health risk assessments (HRAs) and biometric screenings. These tactics typically produce short-term gains, but they lose on long-term impact. This “Wellness 1.0” approach clearly has failed.

The Power Of Wellness 2.0

Traditional wellness has struggled because it overlooks a critical issue — telling employees how to act is not the same thing as empowering employees to make their own healthy behavioral choices, and supporting them along the way. In short, for workforce wellness to gain a meaningful foothold and make a lasting impact, culture must come first.

How can companies accomplish this mission? In theory, it’s simple. But in reality, it can be a challenge. Developing a culture-first mentality means focusing on employees’ Total Quality of Life — including physical, mental, social, emotional, and financial health. It’s not just about convincing them to join a weight loss program or complete an annual HRA. It’s about connecting with them in ways that put lifestyle changes within easy reach, and encouraging them support one another through the process of transformation.

Creating a culture geared toward Total Quality of Life requires solutions that are engaging, social and fun, so employees naturally weave them into daily activity. It means moving beyond traditional wellness boundaries by connecting participants with a highly available online platform. It means providing “anytime” access to smart tools and resources that comfortably fit into an employee’s world — making it simple, interactive and rewarding to choose healthier options on a continuous basis.

Success Factors: Walking The Walk

Virgin Pulse Total Quality of Life Employee Engagement whitepaper cover

Download the related Pulse Paper now

Every Total Quality of Life strategy should incorporate healthy goals as foundational elements. For example, it’s essential to encourage nutritious eating habits and regular physical activity. But it’s also important for employers to demonstrate commitment to those goals by offering things like healthy cafeteria options and access to onsite workout facilities, so employees can easily integrate these choices into their daily routine.

Other elements can take Total Quality of Life even further. For example, classes that help employees establish and manage a 401k, or learn smart retirement savings strategies demonstrate an even deeper commitment to workforce well-being. The result? The more employers invest in employees’ personal and professional growth, the more committed, engaged and productive those employees will be. In short, a holistic approach is a wise investment in future business performance.

Measurable Improvement: It’s A Matter Of Time

Of course, cultural shifts take time. But they’re far more effective if employees believe you care about them — not just as “human resources,” but as whole humans. Employer commitment is key. Once employees move forward with wellness objectives, and begin to reach early milestones, they’ll start feeling better about themselves. Soon, personal achievements like weight loss or community volunteer involvement begin translating into direct payoffs at work. You’ll see more passion, creativity, and focus on the job. And when you reinforce these positive outcomes, it will lead to even more ambitious objectives.

Rewriting The Wellness Story

What headlines you should expect for Wellness 2.0? This next-generation approach to wellness, focused on Total Quality of Life, is helping companies shift their approach to a culture of continuous engagement. So keep looking for stories of individual and business transformation, fueled by more productive, loyal employees. Those stories are real, and ready to be told.

(Editor’s Note: Looking for more details about how to engage and support your workforce? Download the latest Virgin Pulse Paper, “Total Quality of Life: A Roadmap for Employee Engagement” by TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro.)

Chris-Boyce_color_web2(About the Author: Chris Boyce is CEO of Virgin Pulse. He is an accomplished technology entrepreneur who brings more than 15 years of consumer loyalty, enterprise and consumer software experience to Virgin Pulse. Leveraging Virgin’s philosophy that business should be a force for good, Chris’ leadership has been instrumental in guiding Virgin Pulse’s development of market-leading, technology-based products and services that help employers improve workforce health, boost employee engagement, and enhance corporate culture. Chris has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Virgin Pulse + TalentCulture Team Up To Champion Workforce Engagement

Changing The Engagement Game Together

Nearly four years ago, we launched TalentCulture on a simple premise — that talent-minded professionals can transform the “world of work” through purposeful social connections. Our vibrant community continues to grow and evolve, fueled by three core values:

•  Desire to advance the “human side” of business;
•  Passion for innovation;
•  Commitment to open collaboration.

In this spirit we welcome Virgin Pulse to the TalentCulture circle — where we’ll work hand-in-hand to help develop better business organizations from the inside out.

Virgin Pulse — Not Your Father’s Wellness Program

Virgin-Pulse

Learn more about Virgin Pulse

Part of Sir Richard Branson’s famed Virgin Group, Virgin Pulse (formerly Virgin HealthMiles) is the leading workplace health engagement platform. Every day, its “Total Quality of Life” approach empowers more than 1,000,000 participants to improve their health in ways that are meaningful, fun and sustainable. This elevates employee performance and retention, while simultaneously building stronger, more resilient organizations.

The Virgin Pulse philosophy fits naturally with TalentCulture’s emphasis on “seeing employees in 3D.” Together, we aim to advance the concept of “bringing your whole self to work.”

Everybody Plays — Everybody Wins!

What does this alliance mean for you? In the months ahead, look for TalentCulture and Virgin Pulse to:

•  Examine core engagement issues facing today’s business and HR leaders;
•  Investigate the connection between healthy employees and business performance;
•  Exchange benchmarks and insights from our respective communities;
•  Share thought leadership that is shaping engagement standards and practices.

Today’s organizational challenges are highly complex. There are no easy answers, but diverse ideas can lead to innovative solutions. That’s why we welcome everyone to the TalentCulture table — including HR technology and services vendors. We believe that this inclusive environment encourages effective problem solving, and accelerates everyone’s path to progress.

Our relationship with Virgin Pulse promises to add an exciting new level of depth and energy to the TalentCulture conversation. We invite you to join us each day on our combined social channels, as we explore workplace issues that affect us all.

(Editor’s Note:  Save the date for a very special #TChat double-header (BlogTalk Radio interview and Twitter chat) with Virgin Pulse CEO, Chris Boyce on Wednesday, October 23!)

Image Credit: by Mike Baird on Flickr