Back to School: Making it Easier for Employees

It’s that time of year again. You’re ushering children out the door and onto the bus and battling the uptick in traffic on your commute, all while sadly saying goodbye to beach days and barbecues.

Back to school time sees kids nervously entering new classrooms, but for you and your employees, it means the habits you’ve developed over the summer likely need some adjustments. Don’t let the stress of new routines overwhelm your employees or throw off the healthy habits they formed over the summer. Understand habit change and recognize the warning signs of burnout and you can help make the seasonal shift a breeze for employees.

Habit Change 101

When it comes to forming healthy habits, it takes a mix of three factors, according to Dr. B.J. Fogg, director at the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab and Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board member. An intended behavior first needs a trigger – and the more positive the immediate emotional response, the better.

It’s then a matter of ability and motivation. Make a habit easy to do – think simple task, now think even simpler. Ability is much easier to account for than trying to consistently find motivation. Even the least motivated employees can keep up with building habits day in and day out when small, simple steps are taken.

As schedules and priorities begin to change, helping your employees focus on the final key to behavior change – revision – becomes more important than ever. Employees’ triggers may need to change. Maybe habits that were easy over the summer no longer are, and that morning run alarm is better set to late afternoon now.

When employees design and revise their targeted behavior changes with these approaches in mind, even the most drastic changes in routines won’t throw off their habits.

Advanced Stress Management Strategies

If employees push through routines that no longer work – while still attempting to manage the rest of life’s demands – it’s a perfect recipe for burnout. But knowing the signs can save a lot of headaches on everyone’s part.

One of many symptoms of burnout to be on the watch for? When a go-getter employee suddenly becomes a detached, reclusive one. And if those attributes shift to outward pessimism, that employee is at even greater risk of burnout.

Help your employees make the back to school transition easier – while keeping their healthy habits and stress levels in check – by considering flexible work policies. Giving employees the option to adjust their hours or telecommute so they can get the kids on the bus can make all the difference. What’s more, 89 percent of employees say their best ideas happen outside the office, and flexible work arrangements can cut business costs by up to 13 percent – meaning everyone wins.

Skip the shot nerves this back to school season. Support employees’ healthy habits and stress levels by helping make their new routines a little easier and offering policies and programs that aim to improve all areas of life.

M. R. Brown writes content for the marketing team at Virgin Pulse. He looks to dispense his know-how on well-being to help get employees and employers alike engaged in healthy workplaces. You can find him running trails on weekends, endlessly motivated by the thought of being chased by a wolf. Follow him on Twitter @writermrbrown.

[WEBINAR] Tapping Social Connections to Fuel Well-being

A version of this article originally appeared on: LinkedIn

social runningEver tried a “biggest loser” contest with a friend or a group of co-workers? Or make your significant other go on a diet with you? Alternatively – have you tried to do either of these things yourself? If so, I bet you noticed how much easier it was to keep up with a healthy habit when you had a friend along for the ride.

Personally, I’ve been trying to get into running. I’m past the “hate it” stage, but haven’t quite hit the “love it” stage yet. While I’m not running with anyone yet, that’s my goal. There’s a local run club that I want to join, and although they accept runners of all capabilities, I want to have a good leg up before I get going. I’ve connected with a lot of them on some running apps, and they’re encouraging me along the way, but just think of what I could do if I was running with a whole group!

Social connections, like the one I just mentioned, have a huge impact on well-being. Dr. Nicholas Christakis, the key researcher studying the spread of health through social networks, has proven this time and time again with his analysis of the Framingham Heart Study data.

Social influence represents an untapped power when it comes to behavior change. You’re more likely to work out harder, reduce smoking, manage chronic disease better, or feel fulfilled when those around them behave similarly.

Dr. Christakis will be joining us for a webinar on September 3 at 2pm ET. He’ll discuss the power behind real-life social networks and explain how our connections drive behavior change, and how you can use this in your company. I’ll be joining him to give real life examples of how employers have used these examples to drive well-being. Hopefully, I’ll even have joined the run club by then, and can give you an update on my progress for you all to keep encouraging me through my journey.

Register today for Tapping Social Connections to Drive Employee Well-being, a free webinar with Dr. Nicholas Christakis.

Megan Berry is a Senior Manager at Virgin Pulse, responsible for all marketing programs. Born, raised, and schooled in the Boston, MA area, Megan earned her bachelors degree in marketing from Bentley University, a small, private business university just outside of the city. When she’s not at work, you can find her kayaking down the Charles River, or exploring her new passion for photography.

Why Physical Activity is a Wonder Drug

Physical_Activity_Virgin_PulseBob Dylan once wrote, “The times they are a changing.” And truer words have never been spoken when we look at the new face of chronic disease in the U.S.

What’s killing us today is far different from what was a century ago. In 1900, influenza and pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal infections were the three leading causes of death in the country. Today, heart disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases top the list – with the top two accounting for 45 percent of all deaths.

But what if I told you there was one thing we could do that would lower risks of all three of these leading causes of death? Something so powerful scientists have taken a shine to calling it a wonder drug. And it’s something you’ve been told to do since you were a child.

Some is Better than None

Remember the days when your parents would tell you to eat your vegetables, get a good night’s sleep, and go outside and play? You may not have known it then, but they were giving you the foundations of well-being. And it’s physical activity in particular that will be key to combating today’s chronic diseases.

A little sweat goes a long way. The U.S. guidelines call for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity – spread out over the course of a week to help reduce fatigue and injuries of course.

Hitting this number isn’t always easy. From managing work and family schedules to setting aside time to cook a healthy meal each night, getting in a few more steps at the gym can be difficult.

But the guidelines take some of that pressure off: “Some physical activity is better than none,” and “additional benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration.”

Live Long(er) and Prosper

You already know the questionable, but no less true, logic that to gain energy you need to expend energy. But one study’s closer look at what exactly that translates to is a window into how we can extend our life.

When individuals did some physical activity – below the minimum guidelines but a far cry from sitting all day – they had a 20 percent lower risk of dying. What does that mean for the long haul? It’s equivalent to gaining an added two years to your life.

What’s more, when individuals upped their frequency and duration to meet or exceed the minimum guidelines – between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity – they reduced their risk of dying to 31 percent. And that works out to an added three years of life.

There’s no magic pill to solve what’s killing us. But that doesn’t mean there’s not already a solution at hand. Physical activity will not only add years to you and your employees’ lives, but it reduces the risks associated with each of the leading causes of death. And as Dylan said, it’s yet again time for a change.

Wondering how heart disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases don’t stand a chance against some physical activity? Read our ebook by Dr. I-Min Lee (Professor at Harvard Medical School and T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board Member) titled “Physical Activity: The wonder drug for chronic disease prevention” to learn more.

M. R. Brown writes content for the marketing team at Virgin Pulse. He looks to dispense his know-how on well-being to help get employees and employers alike engaged in healthy workplaces. You can find him running trails on weekends, endlessly motivated by the thought of being chased by a wolf. Follow him on Twitter @writermrbrown.

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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!