Employee Well-Being Platforms: A Buyer’s Guide + Discussion


The New Year’s upon us and we’re back in the swing of things. We’re thinking about what 2015 has in store – both personally and professionally. Many of us ask ourselves questions like, “Have we set our goals? Are we clear on what we want to accomplish? What will help us achieve the results we’re hoping for? And how can we really make a difference this year?”

Most likely, our employees are considering their personal and professional priorities, too, wondering how to best manage and accomplish them. Here’s the thing: everyone has competing priorities. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day (even Beyoncé), and there’s only so much we can accomplish in that finite amount of time. Too often, when we’re stressed, overwhelmed, and squeezed for time, we’re careless with our own well-being.

Think about the days when a last minute 5:00pm meeting pops up, a deadline gets pushed up, the babysitter calls out sick… you get the idea. Ever skip a workout, hit a drive-thru instead of cooking a healthy meal, or not get enough shut-eye because you’re trying to do too much or your mind simply won’t let you rest? Yeah, me too.

Point is, when we don’t take care of ourselves, our energy bottoms out, we’re less productive and motivated, and our ability to think clearly and make good decisions is… well, let’s just say less than ideal. None of that’s good for us nor for the businesses where we work.

Companies need a workforce full of people with the physical energy, mental focus, and emotional drive to fuel their businesses. Healthy, engaged, productive employees are any company’s best assets, and that’s why so many employers are increasingly investing in the well-being of their workforce. But often those efforts are disparate, hard to manage, and can appear confusing to employees.

That’s where a platform comes in.

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Well-being platforms simplify the process of designing, developing, implementing, and managing various aspects of a well-being program. They bring together much of what you offer into one easily navigated, easily digested space, then individually guide employees as they take steps to improve their health and well-being.

But selecting the right well-being platform is no easy task. From finding the right partner, to implementing the solution, to communicating the new offering to employees and measuring the effectiveness it delivers, the investment can be significant. So, how do you go about selecting the right one?

Virgin Pulse recently partnered with Fran Melmed, founder of context, a communication consulting firm specializing in workplace wellness, to create a decision-support guide. It’ll help you compare well-being platform options and be confident in your decisions – whether you’re selecting one for the first time or making a switch this year.

Thinking about offering a new employee well-being platform this year? Download the guide. Here’s a peak at what you’ll find in the guide:

Key things to look for

Lots of things to consider as you evaluate well-being platforms, right? What’s critical for some companies may not matter so much to others. From helping you understand the impact a particular platform can provide, to the various features it offers (think components, flexibility, integration, reporting, etc.), to the user experience, support you’ll get, and more, the guide contains 15 critical components to consider. Use it as a resource as you determine what your company needs, evaluate your options, and pick the best fit for your organization.

Critical questions to ask

Once you’ve assessed your options and defined what you’re looking for, it can still be tricky to really dig in and figure out what to ask so you get the information you need to make a decision. The guide offers some useful, specific questions to ask vendors. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a great foundation to start from that’ll undoubtedly spark some ideas about more questions you’ll want to ask.

How to advance strategy, assess investments

Whether you’ve already got an employee well-being platform or you’re looking to put one in place, you’ll want to make sure you’ve made a wise choice. Use the guide as you assess your investments and get tips on how to think about the value you’re getting from them. There are countless metrics you can measure, but what really matters for your company? The guide can help you determine the best metrics that are critical to your company’s success.

Meantime, let’s take this opportunity to learn together. Take a look at the guide, then share with us in the comments:

  • Your must-have and can-do-without features and services
  • Lessons learned and costly mistakes avoided
  • Categories and questions you think we missed

Katie Tierney is Director of Marketing at Virgin Pulse where she leads marketing communications and public relations. One of Virgin Pulse’s original employees, Katie led efforts to create National Employee Wellness Month, a campaign that helps business leaders learn how companies are successfully engaging employees in healthy lifestyles. A pop culture champ and dance buff, Katie can usually be found busting a move in a Zumba class (or anywhere, really). Follow Katie on twitter: @k_tierney.

Virgin Pulse Wins Everyday Healthiest Employer 2015

vpAward season is so much fun. The drama. The dresses. The inevitable trip-fall-swoon while Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman rush to catch you (you know, the usual.)

Well, Virgin Pulse has swooped up its own coveted award this year to the tune of 2015’s Everyday Health’s “Healthiest Employer” award! These awards recognize companies demonstrating an incredible understanding of where the digital health marketplace is going and how to propel it forward.

We at here Virgin Pulse know the benefits of having a healthy company culture and   the role it plays in helping employees stay on top of their well-being so they can be engaged and productive at work and beyond. (It works, folks!) We also know it’s important to walk to the talk, which is why it’s pretty common to run into our CEO, Chris Boyce, at our in-office gym many mornings.

So join me in saying, “Woo-hoo, Virgin Pulse!” on 1-2-3… swell! (Pretty sure I heard you. Might’ve been someone still laughing over Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.)

But wait, there’s more! You can check out the other categories and winners for the 2015 Everyday Health Awards. (There’s even one for Pet Health! Cute puppy pics included. So, you know, you should probably check that out…. for research.)

Margaux Novak, Marketing Communications Manager, manages public relations and social media at Virgin Pulse. Merging her knack for reading everything in sight with her slight risk-taker tendencies, she’s always up for trying out newly researched marketing campaigns. Apart from this, Margaux is an avid traveler, photographer, and publishing poet. Follow her on twitter: @margauxnovak 

Why Wellness Isn’t Working: 5 Tips to Help Shift Perspectives

shutterstock_134020973Wellness programs are a hot topic. When experts and HR departments hone in on their success (and failure), a number of themes surface. Often, companies say they offer wellness programs, but actually offer programs rooted in the surveillance method: Employers collect information, targeting at-risk employees. Or maybe the programs are set up as health risk assessments or biometrics screenings, neither of which actually do much to change long-term behavior.

Certainly an important employer benefit, wellness programs shouldn’t center solely on cutting costs or checking boxes. To make the biggest impact, they should focus on helping employees make healthy, sustainable behavior changes leading to highly engaged, productive and driven workforces.

Wellness 1.0: A Stale Approach

The traditional Wellness 1.0 strategy focused on finding the sick or at-risk employees, aiming to manage their conditions rather than creating social, engaging programs supporting all aspects of well-being, no matter where an employee lands on the path to good health. While a good first step, Wellness 1.0 efforts don’t go far enough. By honing in on the sick population, they fall short in engaging the entire workforce. Because they lack daily engagement, these programs also fail to motivate long-term, healthy behavior change. While incentives like health insurance savings or even cash work particularly well to jump-start new behaviors, these programs often lack other motivational tactics, like peer support or competition, that help sustain behaviors long term.

Wellness 1.0 programs of old weren’t designed with the overall well-being of employees in mind. Wellness 2.0 supports all aspects of their well-being, considering everything that has an impact on a person’s happiness and health, like work-life balance, physical and mental health, and social and financial well-being. It makes getting and staying healthy more likely, creating productive, engaged and driven employees.

Looking to shift to a more comprehensive and engaging Wellness 2.0 approach? Following are five tips to consider before starting down a new path.

  1. Culture’s key. Wellness 2.0 supports employees across all aspects of their lives by establishing a deeper understanding of their obstacles and motivations for making headway toward healthy lifestyles. This insight helps connect you with employees, increasing the chances that you’ll support your workforce with relevant programs and tools — those that employees find valuable. According to our survey, “The Business of Healthy Employees 2014,” 87 percent of employees state that wellness had a positive impact on work culture. The key to this success is to take a culture-first approach to wellness and ask “How can we design a program that works with our mission and culture?” and “What can we do to make the healthy choice the easy choice?”

Take a look at your policies to see where there’s room for change. Would it be easy to refresh the cafeteria and vending machine options? Make exercising before, during or after work easier and more accessible? The key is to meet employees where they are on their journey to good health by offering tools and solutions that help them make small, manageable changes.shutterstock_138177785

  1. Better with friends. Peer motivation is key with Wellness 2.0. In our 2013 report “Employees Disengaged? Three Tips for Winning ‘Em Over,” 58 percent of employees say their colleagues help motivate their health habits. That’s a pretty compelling statistic. Imagine getting more than half your employee population to collaborate on improving their health. They’d be significantly more engaged and productive at work and home.

Social support is critical when making healthy changes, so allowing employees to invite their friends and family to take part in programs can help drive participation and healthy changes that last. According to the same report, when asked what motivates their health and wellness habits, respondents said: spouses/partners (53 percent), friends (41 percent) and children (32 percent). When employees have close family and friends helping them along their journey to good health, their motivation becomes stronger. 

  1. Make it personal. Employeeswant to be healthy. The“Business of Healthy Employees 2014” survey referenced early found that 96 percent of employees participate to improve their own health. To encourage participation, employees need to feel like the programs fit with their goals.

Take a mother of three, for example. She’ll likely have very different goals than a 22-year-old recent college graduate. Mom may be looking to set up a regular workout routine, implement a healthier diet and lower her BMI. The 22-year-old may be looking for a more challenging workout regimen, to get eight hours of sleep a night, and for a way to challenge his/her peers to take at least 12,000 steps a day.

Ideally, a Wellness 2.0 program appeals and applies to both individuals within the context of your broader wellness initiative. A good starting point is to provide an online portal and personal log-in for employees, letting them set and track their own goals; challenge family, friends and colleagues; and design a program tailored to their needs. It’s important to include face-to-face programs along with online challenges and games to offer variety.

  1. Test, test and test again. New to Wellness 2.0 programs or unsure how healthy culture changes will be received? Test it out. Not everything works for every organization. Collect feedback, monitor engagement, and create benchmarks to use within the broader population. Testing also helps identify which employees will be champions for a new program. These employees can help with a company-wide rollout, answer questions from peers, and encourage faster adoption across the company. This is a good practice even if your organization is just getting started with a Wellness 2.0 approach or making incremental changes to an already established program.
  1. ROE not ROI. Measuring a program’s success using health insurance claims alone doesn’t take into account all its benefits. While insurance claims are a tangible measurement, they don’t quantify employee engagement or satisfaction – critical benefits from a well-designed program. Consider measuring factors related to ROE (return on engagement) over return on investment and answer questions like: What percentage of our population is enrolled and engaged in the program? Has productivity increased? Has absenteesim decreased? Is the use of medical services down? This will help you more comprehensively evaluate your programs.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a tremendous shift in wellness programs. Wellness today isn’t about improving the weakest link’s health, but improving all aspects of employees’ well-being to create a more engaged, focused and driven workforce.

Jennifer Turgiss, DrPH, MS has 20+ years’ senior management experience in health & wellness organizations. Jennifer works with research partners to contribute relevant information to advance the field of workplace health, well-being, and engagement. Jennifer has a master’s in exercise physiology from the University of Colorado and doctorate from Boston University where she specialized in social and behavioral sciences in population health management.

Contents © 2014. Reprinted with permission from WorldatWork. Content is licensed for use by purchaser only. No part of this article may be reproduced, excerpted or redistributed in any form without express written permission from WorldatWork.

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Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!

Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!