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Encouraging Health and Wellness at Work

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The new year is a great time to encourage employees to meet health and fitness goals. Many want to participate in wellness programs, but may feel it's too hard, unfamiliar or inconvenient. Employers and managers may see a wellness program as a frivolous cost with no way to measure the return on investment. In truth, with a little inspiration and planning, none of these arguments are valid.

In this post we’ll explore the great variety of forms a wellness program may take, as well as some ways to measure the effectiveness of your program. Towards the end of this article we’ll explore many of the apps available that can make your program more cost-effective, diverse and (with a little creativity) even fun and engaging.

PROGRAMS CAN TAKE MANY FORMS
When we talk about wellness programs, many people will think of fitness and weight tracking. While these may be important parts of a program, here are some other suggestions to consider offering/addressing:
Sleep Health
Programs Which Aim to Reduce the Need for Prescription Drugs
Flu Shots
Mindfulness Programs
Disease Management (Diabetes, for example)
Gym Memberships
Smoking Cessation
Financial Health Check-ups
Opportunities for Employees to Positively Influence the Community

MEASURING THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Ron Goetzel, who also serves as vice president of consulting and applied research for Truveen Health Analytics, understands that not all wellness programs are created equal. He said the good ones demonstrate a culture of health validated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several Harvard University studies.

"They concluded that those programs have a positive impact on health behaviors and financial outcomes and that, done right, can save money. You're not going to see overnight changes," he cautioned. "It may take two to three years to improve population health. But if you can get 1 to 2 percent improvement in each of those areas … you'd see reduced ER and hospital visits and reduced absenteeism."

Goetzel, who is president and CEO for The Health Project, which recognizes superior wellness programs, said companies that the project recognizes each year "must provide documentary evidence that programs work and save money."

So the financial payout might not come immediately, but what other results or indicators can you look for to make sure you are on the right track? Fortune Magazine, in its April 2015 issue, listed '5 signs you have a successful corporate wellness program' as:
1. Programs are practical and accessible.
2. The work environment is health-conscious.
3. Wellness is integrated into the company’s structure.
4. Wellness is linked to existing support programs.
5. Health screenings and education are offered.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT: WELLNESS APPS
Apps can educate your employees about wellness programs and make participation more convenient and personalized. Here are a few options to consider:

Calorie-Tracking Apps
Some employees may skip weight loss wellness programs because they feel that the process is overwhelming. This is where calorie-tracking apps like MyFitnessPal help. This app lets you track the calories in the meals you prepare and consume. It also provides a huge database of foods found at restaurants, so you don’t have to guess how many calories you consumed during your lunch out, either.

Step-Tracking Apps
Step-tracking apps make it simple for employees to see how much they’re moving each day. You can set up competitions and offer rewards to those who walk the most. You can even look into step-tracking apps that link to charities, which provides an extra motivation. For example, Charity Miles lets you earn money for charities based on how far you walk or bike.

Fitness-Focused Wearables
Wearables are another way to make wellness participation convenient. Some wearables — such as those offered by Fitbit — can be tied directly into your wellness program. You can hold contests based on Fitbit stats and offer prizes like extra time off.
Other wearables like Jawbone provide health insights, including personalized suggestions. It can alert you that due to lack of sleep, you’re probably less active and need to compensate with a higher protein breakfast.

Apps that Focus on Short Breaks
You can overcome the convenience barrier by using software that lets employees take short breaks while on the job. Hotseat is one app that ties two-minute breaks into an overall workplace wellness program.
The app schedules breaks into employees’ days and “nudges” them when it’s time to get up and move. Employees pick which type of activity they want to do, from climbing stairs to walking or even dancing. Employees can set up group challenges and compare their stats.

Mindfulness Apps
Small businesses would be wise to focus not just on employees’ physical health, but on their mental health, as well. Mindfulness practice, for example, has many benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, North Arizona University reports. Mindfulness apps are a way for employees to find out if meditation is a good fit for them. The Mindfulness App offers a tool with top reviews, and other apps like Headspace and Smiling Mind are also recommended.

Much of the content of the wellness apps section of this blog post was taken from the following article by by Stephanie Dwilson: https://thebenefitsguide.com/health-apps-can-increase-wellness-program-participation/?elqTrackId=4b4efe79108a495096f678d8e0a56b22&elq=e67a79867ca14558b40cf7df56001750&elqaid=3006&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=984

Other information above came from the following sources:

Do Workplace Wellness Programs Work?http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-wellness-programs-health-0720-20160718-story.html

What Will Wellness Look Like in 2017? http://www.workforce.com/2016/12/16/will-wellness-look-like-2017/?utm_source=MyEmma&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=WF%20Week

The Skinny on Wellness http://www.workforce.com/2016/12/13/the-skinny-on-wellness/?utm_source=MyEmma&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=WF%20Benefits