How to Avoid the Scarlet Letter in Your Employee Wellness Program

scarletLetterHester Prynne struggled with the open shame and guilt of sin—much like many employees today who are forced to endure the shame placed upon them by well-meaning employee wellness programs.

The name Hester Prynne may not ring the bell of our memory, but many of us remember what she was forced to bear. Hester is the key character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. She gives birth to a daughter, revealing her affair.  Upon being found guilty of adultery in 17th Century Puritan Boston, she is forced to wear the scarlet letter “A” on her dress as a sign of shame.

With employee wellness booming across America, we are seeing some effective initiatives and some flops. Mixed within both spectrums of the attempts at employee wellness success, is the unintended consequence of employee shame. “Laura” is a modern-day Hester Prynne. Read more of this post

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What Sophisticated Employers Know

Who are the enlightened and sophisticated employers? According to Andy Webber, President of the National Business Coalition on Health, they are the employers who “see health management not as an operating cost but an investment in workforce health and productivity.”

ZeroTrendsDee W. Edington wrote Zero Trends with the purpose of demonstrating that the improved health status of employees will not only reduce healthcare costs for the company, but also increase performance and productivity in the workplace. His book is about a new model of healthcare that defines healthcare as a combination of illness and wellness strategies that affect the bottom line of organizations far beyond simply striving to reduce the cost of insurance premiums. He contends “health management is a health strategy, but equally important, health management is a business and economic strategy.”

Avowing the cost of health is less than the cost of disease, Edington maintains that an unhealthy workforce cost an organization more than just the expense of treating illness. The cost of poor health hits employers through Read more of this post

The Company That Solved Health Care

When your company’s wellness program rations Viagra then you know there is an extensive wellness initiative in place. So it is at Serigraph, a Wisconsin-based company with 1,500 employees in Wisconsin, Mexico, China and India.

Following a presentation I gave on Employee Wellness, one of the participants came to me and recommended I read John Torinus Jr.’s The CompanySolved (1)Company That Solved Health Care. What a great recommendation. Thanks Batya!

Torinus served 20 years as CEO of Serigraph, and now serves as its active Chairman. With compelling detail, he shares how he involved their employees in their own health, enabling them to be effective consumers. It’s healthcare consumerism in overdrive. Five years into the reform, Serigraph spends one-third less than the national average to insure its workers. Read more of this post

Employee Wellness: What are Outcome-based Incentives?

Outcome-based Incentives are the new buzz words in Employee Wellness. As employers look to employee wellness plans to minimize the rising cost of healthcare and keep employees productive and engaged, there is a growing emphasis on outcome-based incentives. Furthermore, with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) encouraging the use of Outcome-based Incentives, their use is expected to spread. Therefore, what are outcome-based incentives?

Outcome-based Incentives are employee wellness programs where employees receive a financial reward for meeting specific health outcomes. In some programs there may also be a penalty for failing to meet the health goals. A primary purpose of Outcome-based Incentives is to increase participation by employees through the motivation of financial reward. Read more of this post

The Best Improvement to Your Employee Benefit Package May Not Cost You Anything

EAPSometimes the best way HR Directors and small business owners can improve their Employee Benefits offering is to better communicate what is already provided.

Often it is the employees who do not take the time to listen to, or read, the information we provide for them. At times, however, we in HR are at fault for not communicating effectively. Typically, we will provide adequate information regarding the most notable benefits such as the retirement plan and health, dental and disability insurance. However, one hidden treasure rarely getting meaningful air-time during the annual open enrollment meeting is the Employee Assistance Program, (EAP).

With stress being a leading cause of medical and disability claims, we owe it to our employees and our organizations to effectively communicate what is provided through the EAP—and communicate it often.

We recently gathered our staff to discuss the wellness offerings we provide for our employees. We introduced a few new initiatives including the opportunity to earn a new pair of exercise shoes, reimbursement for gym memberships and quarterly wellness educational opportunities. However, we used a lengthier segment to explain an underused, and often overlooked, benefit that could have a significant impact on the wellbeing of our employees—our Read more of this post

Why Employers Are Now Addressing Stress in the Workplace

Speaking to a group of employee benefit brokers from around Atlanta, Ron Bachman shared revealing statistics about the role of stress in the workplace including how 21.5% of all healthcare costs are stress-related. His emphasis on how stress dramatically clogs productivity was driven home later that same day as we learned Don Perry, Vice President of Public Relations for Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, had died suddenly of an apparent heart attack.  Was Perry’s death a vivid illustration of what Bachman was addressing?

When Perry died he and Chick-fil-A had been in a public relations quandary in the wake of Dan Cathy voicing his support of the Biblical view of marriage. Vocal gay-rights advocates, along with a few politicians and businesses, railed the fast-food giant while many Christians and conservatives praised Cathy and the company for their traditional family values. While the Los Angeles Timesreported Perry had issued a statement writing “going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,” he was, no doubt, engaged in determining how the company would respond to a very public debate.

I certainly cannot be definitive on the cause of Perry’s death. Was it a heart attack? If so, was it brought on or hastened by stress? Read more of this post

The Most Overlooked Critical Piece of an Employee Wellness Plan

AfamilyEmployee wellness is catching on. Organizations are creating employee wellness teams and displaying wellness posters throughout the facilities for their employees. Some employers invite their employees outside for an additional 15 minutes at lunch for Friday Frisbee. Others hand out pedometers and offer “Lunch & Learns” for employees on healthy eating and how to read food labels.

Notice, however, the key word – Employee. If all of the focus is on the employee then our wellness programs may fall well short of the intended results. The most successful wellness initiatives target Read more of this post