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Wearables Embed Employers in Health and Wellness Initiatives

health and wellness initiativesWearable technology is gaining popularity in the consumer market and has the potential to transform the way employers structure their employee health and wellness initiatives. The transformation will have an effect on the price tag of these initiatives, but the direct effect of incorporating wearable technology will ease the time it takes for employers to track employee wellness activity.

Wearables allow employers to track employee activity automatically and integrate it into a master database. There is no need to verify and compare employee activity. Wearable technology streamlines health and wellness initiatives by embedding employers into the process alongside employees.

Wearables also provide a unique motivator for both employers an employees. Employees get involved with the latest technology trends, and they get to get competitive with both themselves and  their employees through existing social networks and digital infrastructure. Employers get a full picture of how employees are doing with their fitness goals which allows them to keep struggling employees motivated and reward employees who are reaching their goals.

Having automatic tracking also allows employers to streamline rewards into health and wellness initiatives. Since employers can track goals and achievements they can deliver rewards automatically. With the flexibility of e-gift cards to deliver gifts digitally, the entire cycle because cheaper for employers and more streamlined and consistent for employees.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

The Quick Start Guide to Corporate Wellness Programs

corporate wellnessCorporate wellness programs are a hot topic amongst corporate HR departments, especially given the incentives available through the newly minted Affordable Care Act rules that can provide discounts to employers and employees for healthy behavior. If you don’t have a corporate wellness plan, it’s time to put one in place. Healthier employees are more productive, and represent less financial risk to your organization.

Here are a few tips to help you get going.

  • How do I start? A great way to kick off your corporate wellness program is to offer optional biometric screenings. Give your employees a baseline to start from. It will be a great motivator in the beginning of the program and give them a milestone to look back on as they continue to improve those readings and live a healthier life.
  • What incentives do I offer? Small incentives can often be as effective as larger ones. Giving spot rewards to help promote a healthy lifestyle to retailers like CVS/pharmacy, Whole Foods Market and GNC are great ways to support employees while celebrating their healthy milestone.
  • What are the financial implications? 80% of an employee’s healthcare costs are incurred in the last 20% of their career timespan. This is a statistic that can be affected by employees who take a proactive stance on employee health. Corporate wellness programs may not totally change this statistic but they can help control corporate costs.

For more information on how to start your corporate wellness program check out this article from Smart Business Online.

corporate wellness

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Healthy Employees are Good for Business

Every organization strives to have a strong workforce. They are looking for employees who can drive the business, build relationships and advance organizational goals. But creating those strong employees has to go beyond just business and into health and wellness. Ensuring that employees are exercising, eating right, and generally taking care of themselves by using their healthcare benefits will create a stronger workforce, both mentally and physically. Some of the numbers around employee health benefits are staggering. Investing in healthy employees can increase productivity and strengthen your business as a whole

Using health and wellness programs, as outlined in the Public Health Institute’s infographic below, increases productivity by minimizing employee’s time away from work. Focusing programs on preventing avoidable conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol invoke achievable goals for employees. Incentivizing these prevention program with small rewards help employees maintain a healthy lifestyle and are a great way to give your employees a boost, as they give your business a boost.

Download the brief here.

infographic outlining how health prevention leads to healthy employees

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

The Use of Health and Wellness Rewards Increases

New research from Mercer LLC shows a 3% increase in use of carrot style rewards in the context of health and wellness programs. These health and wellness rewards are largely tied to employees’ achieving a certain change or reaching a certain biometric range for preventable conditions like obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc. According to the research, 23% of large employers are using positive reinforcements as health and wellness rewards.

A Towers Watson study from September also indicates an increase in outcome-based health and wellness rewards, with 18% using them currently and 10% planning to add programs in 2015. While some health and wellness industry professionals believe the days of spot rewards are over, in favor of an organizational shift towards discounting insurance costs, this shift is only being observed by larger firms. While smaller businesses cannot absorb the financial impact of larger policy discounts, spot rewards offer an alternative with the potential to scale up or add larger rewards at a later date.

The increased use of health and wellness rewards at a variety of levels, from small spot rewards like gift cards to large discounts on health insurance, signals a larger trend. Health and wellness programs and health and wellness rewards are becoming a mainstream, integral part of the way benefits and healthcare are delivered from employers to employees. Health and wellness rewards has become a mechanism for employers to make healthcare more affordable for employees, while also ensuring their workforce is healthy and productive, and healthcare is also affordable at the organizational level.

For more information on health and wellness rewards and how they are being used, head over to BusinessInsurance.com.  

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Employee Health Keeps Costs Low

Employee Health & WellnessIt’s the time of year for diets, gym membership renewals and for some, delusions of grandeur about a healthier year. The key is to turn that burst of enthusiasm into long-term healthy habits that help employees fall into routines that are here to stay for the long haul.

Healthy employees miss less work, and are more productive, focused and hungrier to move up and improve. So how can we bring good habits to employees that foster healthier, and ultimately stronger, contributors? The answer is simple. Bring the health and wellness initiative into the workplace.

From zumba classes at lunch and yoga happy hours, to health-conscious gift card reward options like CVS/pharmacy and Whole Foods Market for reaching weight loss goals or maintaining those habits, employee health and wellness is a win-win for the entire company.

While employees get healthier, healthcare costs get reduced for both employees and employers. One example of this is at USI insurance. If employees and spouses agreed to annual biometrics screenings, healthcare costs could drop as much as 30%. While some employees can find these screenings invasive, 89% of USI employees enrolled in the program, finding the discount to be worth the tradeoff of the screenings. The impact that the discount has on employees and their family budgets is significant, and they can attribute that financial relief to their employer.

If that’s not enough motivation to keep those new year’s resolutions, then I don’t know what is. For more information on the impact employee health has on your business and it’s staff, check out this article in the Orange County Register.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Wellness Programs Should Save Employees Money

Working on and measuring savingsThe headline speaks for itself here. Employee wellness programs should save employees money, while also instilling healthy habits. A recent New York Times article suggests that, for most employers, wellness programs save money but only by penalizing employees for unhealthy behavior or bad biometric readings. This is entirely possible. Especially since the Affordable Care Act doesn’t have a structure in place allowing employers to levy financial penalties against employees who are outside of a healthy range.

However, if you’re going to spend the time and resources to implement a health and wellness program wouldn’t you rather invest in employee success rather than save a buck in their failure? Using a structured, well communicated program and small spot rewards is a recipe for mutual success between employee and employer. Using small denomination gift cards to healthy retailers like Whole Foods Market, CVS/pharmacy or Nutrisystem encourage employee participation and provide employer support of employees lifestyle efforts.

Focus on mutual successes with your employee rewards program because if employers win and employees lose the retention and engagement benefits of a truly successful employee wellness program will be lost. An initial investment can pay dividends in the longer term.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Wearable Devices in Your Corporate Wellness Program

Wearable devices are becoming a growing trend in the fitness community and now for employers looking to track their corporate wellness programs. Wearable technology provides a unique opportunity for both employees and corporate wellness program administrators to track participants’ progress in real time. Here are a few ways incorporating these “wearables” into your corporate wellness programs can boost its effectiveness.

  1. Create Team Challenges- Use the real-time data to create fun team challenges. Can the marketing team take more steps in a week than the IT team? Program administrators can track progress and bolster competitiveness within the office. The competitiveness can become loftier wellness goals for all teams involved in the challenge.
  2. Make “Wearables” Part of Company Culture– Providing a wearable fitness tracking device to participants of your corporate wellness initiative has the capacity to boost participation and get employees engaged with the program on a day-to-day and even hour-by-hour basis.
  3. Use Incentives for Participants– Providing nominal incentives, like small denomination gift cards to healthy retailers like Whole Foods Market, GNC and CVS/pharmacy can give employees a boost in a healthy direction. Promoting wellness by example is a productive way to boost participation and level of commitment.

For more ways to promote your corporate wellness program through wearable technology (and vice versa) head over to Entrepreneur.com.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Healthy Employee Culture Drives Participation

f4429a1a0a658cb0f0b6a1849e15ae8a_SInitial engagement in employee health and wellness programs doesn’t always drive long term participation like healthy employee cultures. While new employee health and wellness programs often drive short term engagement through the first few months, or maybe even the first few years, creating healthy employee champions and a culture of wellness is what creates long term employee participation.

Providing non-cash rewards as a component to a healthy employee culture is a great way to drive long term participation. One example of this was offering a discount in the employee portion of the health insurance premium which almost doubled employee participation in Herman Miller Co’s employee wellness program; jumping from 40% to 79% year over year for the first 3 years, but seeing a plateau in participation levels in subsequent years. Offering small denomination gift cards to retailers like GNC, Nutrisystem and CVS/Pharmacy are another way to promote a healthy employee culture by assisting employees in forming a healthy lifestyle.

Instead of using typical carrot tactics to get employees to change habits, providing an environment for creating a healthy employee culture will provide longer term results that will have a greater impact on your workforce and healthcare costs.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

3 Points in Favor of Employee Wellness Programs

Employee Wellness ProgramEmployee wellness programs work well for a lot of reasons. While they may not be the most scientifically measurable, metrics-based programs, there’s still a lot left to learn about employee wellness programs? These programs are relatively new in the space of human resources and employee benefits and while we don’t claim to know everything, here’s some great points you may find useful:

  1. Healthy employees take fewer sick days. According to the CDC, a healthy weight man misses 3 days of work a year due to illness, where an obese man misses 5. Does 2 days annually make or break a career? Probably not, but if I were a business owner and I knew that employees at a healthy weight were more consistently attendant at work, I would work to help them achieve their weight goals.
  2. People like wellness programs. Access to exercise, convenient health screenings and support or work-out groups bring people together and are seen as an employee perk. Providing access to and support for the tools employees need to get healthy and maintain an healthy lifestyle are a great way to boost morale. Give the people what they want, because the comparative cost can be high.
  3. Measurable benefits do exist. One meta-analysis of a 42 program set of employee wellness programs revealed that at the onset of the wellness programs the organizations experienced a 25% reduction in absenteeism and health costs as well as a 32% drop in worker’s comp and disability claims. These results help to prove the point, employee wellness programs are here to stay and can make a positive impact on your workforce.

If you still need convincing about why employee wellness programs work (or some more skepticism about what we still don’t know) check out this article from Fast Company.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Building Employee Health into Your Culture

Do You Have Healthy Rewards at Your Company?Employee health and cost of healthcare are relevant to all businesses, regardless of size. Whether you have 2 employees or 200, keeping healthcare costs in check as more provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect is crucial. Making employe health a part of your organization is a great way to ensure these costs remain manageable.

For some employers even the location of the office is a matter of employee health. For a software company in Cedar Rapids, choosing an office on the third floor of a building helps employees get away from their desks during the day; climbing two flights of stairs to get to the cafe to eat. Building fitness into the day is a way for employers to promote behavior that will help control organization costs. This approach can be more sensitive to employees who are unwilling to have either indirect or direct conversations with their employer about their health. For some employees it will be a topic they are unwilling to broach, and employers have to be sensitive to that population of their staff as well.

Other employers take a more direct approach. A biometric screening found that 56% of the young workforce at a Tax Services firm in Dallas were considered overweight. As a result they took steps to change the lifestyles of their employees, offering cooking lessons, health club memberships and health fairs in the office to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. Adding spot rewards, like small denomination gift cards to healthy retailers like CVS/pharmacy, Whole Foods Market or GNC, for reaching a goal like losing weight, or completing a 5k is a great way to support more independent employee efforts.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.