WHAT IS EMPLOYEE WELLNESS…REALLY? 4 PRACTICAL TIPS
How long have you been in the insurance industry? Whether it’s 5 or 25 years, you’ve had opportunity to see a lot of change. Premium and out of pocket costs are skyrocketing. As a result, we’ve seen growing popularity in high deductible and consumer driven health plans, with more employers choosing to self-fund. These are examples of changing behaviors. Employees are more engaged in the costs of care and employers are choosing to offer benefits that help offset the higher costs their employees are taking.
But what does this have to do with wellness? I believe the current insurance industry landscape provides an opportunity to help employees consider wellness in a way that influences lifestyle choices that impact the level and cost of care they need.
Today, I’m sharing 4 simple tips that can help employers exhibit and promote real wellness for their employees…
1. Get outdoors
There’s a lot going on out there every day. Breathe deeply and take in the fresh air. Feel the sun on your face and the wind on your skin. Ever wonder why the beach feels so relaxing? Bare feet in the sand with the warmth of the sun and the smell of salt water - it doesn’t get much better. From encouraging employees to use vacation days (55% leave vacation time unused) to suggesting walk breaks or simply plugging into their surroundings, workers need time to disengage from technology and work demands.
I live near the woods with lots of trees. It’s been home for 27 years. Guess what? Only 2 years ago did I start noticing the birds. Where have I been? I’m certain the birds have always been here. My point: sometimes we all need a nudge to be conscious about life around us, and a workplace that provides that nudge contributes to well-being.
TIP: Our freshbenies co-founders love to take “Steve Jobs walks” where they tackle big business decisions and issues. They report that EVERY time they do this, major decisions are made and next steps are successfully in place by the end of their stroll.
2. Enjoy people
If you interact with people in a way that makes you feel good, it’s probably making the other person feel good, too. Choose to smile, be considerate and kind. When everyone is treated with respect, it brings positive contributions — particularly true of any work team. Simple things like a few minutes at the beginning of meetings to connect before “getting to the task” or sharing lunch gatherings that aren’t work sessions can foster these types of behaviors. When we become conscious of the people around us, we’ll gain perspective and appreciation of others. This article from Mental Health America shows how connecting with people increases happiness, health and longevity.
TIP: Employers can help foster this with their employees in many ways. We recently did a survey of our entire team asking fun questions about life, childhood, preferences, etc. For instance, “If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 things would you bring with you?” After, we did a game where we saw answers from some of the team members and we guessed who belonged to each answer. It was a very fun way to learn more about my fellow team members.
3. Choose real food
Like the insurance industry, the American food industry has changed a lot over time. Faster and more convenient often means less healthy. At the same time, low-carb, supplements, energy drinks — these trends abound. I say, eat food you could grow yourself. In fact, go ahead and grow it yourself. Start a small garden if you can. See what it’s like to watch a planted seed turn into a tomato plant. It’s an amazing part of life we’d do well to notice. No fancy diets, just eat real food.
TIP: How can workplaces encourage healthy eating? In addition to making good choices for those group lunches, what about fun contests to give away a month’s worth of meal planning kits, home delivery of healthy snacks or even cooking classes? Eating well empowers people and puts us on the offensive against all forms of sicknesses and disease.
4. Embrace activity
Staying active keeps us young. If we don’t use the body, we will lose it prematurely. Committing to some sort of activity2 to 3 times a week can make a big difference. How about walking the dog twice a day instead of once? Schedule weekend hikes at parks in your area. Join a gym and learn how to use the machines - most have free intro sessions or limited-time trainers you can hire.
TIP: Employers could offer fitness or training classes at lunch or after work to break up the day, or group health coaching sessions. Again, contests to offer prizes like free golf, tennis, racquetball or yoga lessons can encourage some down time and exercise for employees. It’s natural for us to move, so we should do it more and make it fun.
BONUS TIP: If you think my 4 tips are helpful, I highly recommend this excellent summer read: Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Health risk assessments, biometric testing etc. will continue to be useful tools. Giving employees easier and more convenient access to care while reducing out of pocket costs will increasingly be a part of any organized wellness plan. But it’s important to balance these tools with behaviors that help employees invest in their overall wellness and address the most basic level of managing health care costs. Going the extra mile to discuss ideas of incorporating ways to make health a fun part of the work environment might just make you a hero with your HR contacts.
Now it’s your turn! What suggestions do you make to employers to facilitate wellness among their employees? What have you seen be successful? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.