Drum Roll, Please! Announcing Our Annual Life Changers Award Winners!

Companies across the country are making employee well-being a priority. They’re working to create a healthy, productive workforce that’s able to thrive both at work and in life. Today, we’re excited to announce the winners of our first-annual Virgin Pulse Life Changers Awards!  We created these awards to recognize and showcase companies that have changed their employees’ lives for good and made their companies better by making employee engagement, health, and well-being a priority.

LCEarlier this summer, leading employers shared with us how they’re making a major impact in the lives of their employees. We received lots of great submissions and it was tough to choose, but ultimately we selected 5 organizations for this year’s Life Changes awards, including (in alphabetical order):

  • Aera Energy, one of California’s largest oil and gas exploration and production producers, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the state’s production. The company was recognized for fostering a culture that supports improving health, fitness, and lifestyle decisions, and leverages their employee wellness program as a differentiator when recruiting new employees.
  • Ascend Performance Materials, a premium provider of high-quality chemicals, fibers, and plastics. Ascend extended their wellness focus to include both employees and employees’ families, and its company wellness program is designed around whole-health, rather than just physical well-being.
  • BBVA Compass, one of the United States’ 25 largest banks. While the bank started its wellness program with a main goal of cutting healthcare costs, the company has seen the added benefits of a healthier workforce—both in productivity and engagement.
  • BP Canada, a Canadian oil and gas company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, and a subsidiary of BP plc. The company’s program is the first of its kind in Canada and enjoys extraordinary enrollment—more than 90 percent of its employees chose to take part.
  • Howard County (Md.) Public Schools, a Maryland school system comprised of 76 schools, more than 8,000 staff and more than 50,000 students. The system created an employee wellness council to develop mission and goals for the program, as well as an ROI model based on overall healthcare savings; this resulted in the system being awarded Gold Certification from Healthy Howard, an initiative “bringing together all facets of the community to create a public health model that can improve the health and well being of every resident.”

Here’s what Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, said about this year’s winners:

“We’re extremely happy to see the number of clients who took the time to enter this competition and proud of the results they’ve achieved by making employee well-being a priority in their company culture. The five winners represent a diverse group of industries—from education, to energy, to manufacturing—and despite their varying approaches, illustrate the universal powers and business benefits of programs that support employees across all aspects of their lives.”

We’ll highlight the award winners and their programs on a webinar this afternoon. Representatives from each of the winning companies will discuss the obstacles and issues that drove their adoption of a holistic well-being and engagement strategy. They’ll also share tips about what worked for them in terms of engaging employees. Beyond the webinar, we’re excited to announce that these companies will also be spotlighted at the Virgin Pulse Thrive Summit in April 2015!

Read more about our Life Changers here. How are you making a major impact on the lives of your employees?  Leave a comment below.

Challenge Complete! Team Members from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse Cycle 250+ Miles for Charity


Last week, team members from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse met up in the Boston to start their 250+ mile cycling journey across 5 states in 4 days. The Cycle USA adventure brought together two companies from the Virgin Group in an effort that challenged them and raised money for the charity, Free the Children. (Check out our first blog post on this adventure here if you missed it) On Saturday, the Cycle USA 2014 team was met by staff from Virgin Atlantic as they officially crossed the finish, signaling the end to their journey. We spoke with the riders who shared details of their experience and thoughts on the adventure.

The whole ride was filled with beautiful scenery and plenty of hills – and a few sore muscles! Halfway through, cyclist Allison McDonald, Virgin Pulse, said, “I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing team! As an amateur cyclist, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into but I’ve already proved to myself that I can do this – and all the incredible support will keep me pushing on.”

Another participant, Virgin Pulse’s Jamie McLeod added, “The first 45 miles are always hard, so the tough job for the mornings after the long rides is to get everybody used to the aches and pains of the saddle and hips. And I’m happy to say we’ve done just that.”


Cyclists said one of the best parts of the ride was having the time to get to know fellow members of the Virgin Group family over delicious food and drinks at the end of each day.

Katharine Williams, Virgin Atlantic, who, among others, was instrumental in organizing Cycle USA 2014 said, “As one of the organizers and leaders of Cycle USA, it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to integrate staff, family and friends from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse to create an adventure where everyone pushes themselves out of their comfort zone.”


Catching up with the team afterwards, cyclists expressed the roller coaster of emotions they all experienced throughout the journey – nervousness to excitement, questions if they could do it, and finally the exhilaration of the last day knowing they were so close to making their goal and that they could do it! Amy Smith from the Virgin Atlantic group enthused, “I spent the most memorable week with the friendliest, most inclusive people I’ve ever met at the most well-organized event I’ve ever attended, and I’m a much better person for participating!” If this doesn’t spell success, then we don’t know what does!

“Last Wednesday, after weeks of training, ten Virgin Pulse cyclists met up with riders from Virgin Atlantic to begin their journey to New York City in a joint effort fundraiser for Free the Children,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse. “It’s been exciting to follow their journey, and now that it’s over, we couldn’t be more proud of everyone’s efforts. Congratulations to all of the riders from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse on a successful effort, and a special shout out to all the organizers including Jared Harris from our own team for all your hard work in creating this great event.”

Taking a well deserved break by the water

What’s really amazing is that the good deeds and fundraising didn’t end at the start of the journey. Along the way, the team reported random acts of kindness. Strangers pulled off to the side of the road to help with a flat tire. Others wanted to hear about Free the Children while others made an on the spot cash donation.

After the adventure, Simon Bradley, VP of Marketing for North America with Virgin Atlantic, summed it up by saying, “What I remember most of all is the spirit of camaraderie that was formed among such a diverse group and how we managed to raise over $25,000 for Free the Children in the process!”

Cycle USA has once again been an amazing journey and collaboration between Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse – one where everyone pulled together as a team to make a difference. Always up for a challenge, we’re excited about next year’s endeavor and the new stories we’ll have, miles we’ll tackle and funds we’ll raise!

Got a comment for the riders? Post it below or tweet it to us @virginpulse using #CycleUSA2014.

Is the ACA Making Your Wellness Program Unfair?

icon-callouts-2 (2)The Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to be a hot topic in wellness. Last week, The Wall Street Journal had an interesting read about The Business Roundtable, a group of prominent CEOs, and its report calling for “more flexibility for employer wellness programs.”

The report claims that, while the ACA paved the way for employers to offer wellness programs that reward employees who achieve certain health goals and penalize those who come up short, these outcome-based programs need to provide different standards for workers who can’t meet certain health outcomes.

The Business Roundtable’s stance is that “outcomes-based incentives” can create a perception of unfairness against employees who’ve already got their health in check.  The problem here, according to the Roundtable, is that employees who are already maintaining healthy habits can complete simpler healthy tasks within the program – like drinking enough water each day – and receive the same reward as those employees who are working to meet more rigorous goals – like losing a significant amount of weight.

And it’s true – unfairness could come up in an outcomes-only incentives strategy, like rewarding employees who lose weight but offering nothing for those who may already have a healthy weight range and maintain it. But the article and the Roundtable neglected to mention that the regulations only apply to those wellness programs utilizing health insurance premiums or discounts as part of their incentive strategy in the first place. If you’re offering cash or a cash equivalent – or other non-monetary incentives – instead of using health insurance premiums, you won’t have to limit your program to the rules of the ACA regulations.

Maybe you are using health insurance premiums as part of your incentive strategy. Instituting an ACA-compliant program by taking a blended approach to incentives – one that includes outcomes-based, along with activity-only (meaningan activity that relies on compliance, like attending all sessions of a weight-loss class – rather than an outcome – like losing weight) and participation-based incentives – makes it easy to reward the behaviors you want to encourage your people to do. A blended approach rewards employees throughout their program journey for meeting the larger milestones and for completing smaller actions – driving sustainable healthy behavior change through daily interactions and engagement.

While traditional wellness programs (Wellness 1.0 as we call it), like the type highlighted in The Wall Street Journal, show employees you care about and are investing in their health, they also typically only target the sick, aiming to manage their illnesses and keep a handle on their risks. While these programs certainly have their place in a wellness strategy, on their own these types of programs don’t drive daily habits or long-term healthy behavior change, or reach and engage everyone in your workforce.

Looking to implement an ACA-compliant wellness program? Think beyond the limits of Wellness 1.0. Take a holistic approach to employee well-being and engagement with programs and strategies that support all aspects of their health. Drive daily healthy habits with a robust wellness incentives strategy that’s applicable to all your employees. By meeting your employees where they are on their well-being journey and giving them the tools and resources to hit their healthy goals, you’ll increase engagement, boost productivity, and create a workforce that’s thriving both at work and in life.

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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!