[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.

Build an Unbeatable Case for Well-being at Your Business

Before we can begin talking about how to make the most of well-being programs, there are two truths that need to be said: 1. Employees are overwhelmed by well-being initiatives, but 2. You’re in the unique position to get employees engaged, educated, and empowered.

Building a Case for Well-being

Well-being programs recharge your workforce and make your company a great place to work. But all too often they’re limited to only finding the sick employees and getting them healthier. Moving beyond this approach supports all employees – and drives business results.

You want to make the best case, but know that results relating to medical spending alone are limiting. There are meaningful, measureable results in engagement, loyalty, and productivity – you just need the right tools to find them.

Here’s two ways to begin building the case for employee well-being that’ll wow your organization’s top brass.

1. You Can’t Do Nothing

Sometimes an easy solution is to do nothing – but we all know that rarely works. The first thing you need to demonstrate is that doing nothing is actually hurting everyone. In fact, the U.S. economy loses $576 billion a year to poor health. Lost productivity from employee absenteeism or presenteeism accounts for $227 million of that, and another $117 billion from wage replacement for long-term disability, short-term disability, or workers’ compensation.

Factor in the effects of lower engagement, higher turnover, and lost employee investment and the results are just as striking. And with 70 percent of American employees disengaged at their jobs, these problems aren’t going away on their own.

So you must do something. But where to begin? The first place to look is your company culture – and its focus on supporting employee well-being. Eighty percent of employees are engaged in their jobs when they’re inspired to make healthy choices by their organization’s culture.

2. Tapping Well-being’s Real ROI

You want to make a convincing case for a holistic well-being program to your C-suite leaders, and that likely means two things: results and dollars. But you can do that – it just might not come from where your company’s leaders would typically think.

The competitive advantage of any company is not it’s product or benefits package – it’s the employees. And you need them feeling healthy, engaged, and productive each day as they walk through the front door. You can predict the following year’s profitability by looking at employee satisfaction, behavior, and turnover. Onboarding new employees alone costs companies an average of $1,200 per employee per year, according to a survey from the Association for Talent Development, curbing employee turnover is a first step.

When you take care of your employees, you drive their loyalty. Sixty-four percent say they’d stay a minimum of five years at their company if they’re satisfied with its health promotion.

To make your organization a great place to work, it takes everyone – from new hires to the CEO. And creating a culture that supports and values employee well-being will pay on and off the balance sheet. With these first two steps, you’re well on your way to demonstrating meaningful ROI that’ll have your C-suite executives sponsoring a holistic well-being program in no time.

Interested in building the rest of your company’s employee well-being case? Read The Business Case for Well-being: The ‘Why’ Behind Well-being to learn everything you need to know about making a meaningful case to your organization’s top executives.

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!