Traditional Wellness Doesn’t Work (But Here’s What You Can Do)

icon-callouts-1 (7)Over the past few years, corporate wellness programs have come under their fair share of fire. Add to the list a recent headline featured in Inc., “Why Wellness Programs are Very, Very Sick,” which attempts to dispel wellness programs and position them as intrusive and ineffective. (Spoiler alert: eventually, the author admits that wellness is still a relatively new discipline and isn’t something employers should write off.)

Here’s the thing – we’ve got to agree. Our CEO Chris Boyce has said it before, and we’ll echo it for him again. Traditional wellness – Wellness 1.0 – doesn’t work.

It’s the outdated Wellness 1.0 strategies that have the unfortunate spotlight in Inc.’s piece, and we firmly believe that this narrow approach to employee health simply doesn’t go far enough to be effective. For starters, Wellness 1.0 typically focuses on the sick or at-risk employees, using tactics like HRAs and biometrics to get data but offering up little support to employees about what that information means or how they can change their behaviors.

Some newer programs go a stepfurther, by honing in on one or two areas of health, but it’s still not enough. Because, let’s be honest, health isn’t just physical. If employees are stressed out, struggling to keep their head above water, worrying about bills or missing out on quality time with family and friends, they’re not going to feel their best, and they sure aren’t going to make healthy habits – like getting enough exercise, eating right, and sleeping well – a priority.

Ever slept terribly one night, then ate poorly and skipped your workout the next day? Then you don’t need us to tell you that maintaining healthy habits has a direct impact on nearly every aspect of life. It’s widely reported that physical activity reduces stress, anxiety, and depression – and increases resilience and happiness, optimism, and overall quality of life. These same benefits surface when we eat healthily. And experts agree that getting enough sleep lowers risk of disease, obesity, illness, accident and death, all while improving brain function, cognition, reaction time, productivity, capability, decision making, mood states, happiness, and job and life satisfaction.

workforce-2Health is more than just physical and to really feel great, employees need to feel like they’ve got a grip on all aspects of life. Their mental and social well-being are part of the picture just as much as their physical well-being.

Here’s the good news. You can bridge the gap from “wellness” to “well-being” and get so much more from program investments. Shift from that one-dimensional definition of wellness to a holistic approach that offers tools and resources to support all aspects of employees’ well-being and you’ll not only help employees feel great across all areas of their life, you’ll drive broad business benefits in the process. They’ll feel more energetic, focused and motivated and you’ll drive engagement, productivity, focus and more.

Learn more about why now’s the time to shift from outdated Wellness 1.0 to a holistic, Wellness 2.0 approach to employee well-being. Download the eBook, “Progressing Past Wellness 1.0 – How Wellness 2.0 Creates Engaged Workforces and Better Businesses” today.

4 Top Tips for Bringing Well-being Abroad

cover-2We’re in the midst of a wellness shift worldwide. Globally, more people are ditching the idea that wellness is limited to physical health alone, and have started embracing a holistic view of health taking all areas of well-being into account.

In fact, a newly released Gallup poll ranked 135 countries on their national well-being, taking into account factors like people’s sense of purpose, social connections, community, finances, and physical vigor (a big congrats goes out to Panama—the world’s most thriving country according to the poll).

Countries like Syria and Afghanistan ranked last, but the United States’ lackluster 12th-place finish was both a surprise and a bit of a shock, particularly when considered as the sum of its parts, ranking 15th for social well-being, 18th for sense of purpose, 21st for financial well-being and 25th for both physical well-being and community.

With so many U.S. companies out there today operating internationally in other countries like Denmark (No. 3), France (No. 51), and the United Kingdom (No. 26), the rankings beg the question— are countries across the globe focused on improving all aspects of well-being? Or are they still looking at wellness as one-dimensional?

While no one company can drive national well-being alone, – let alone global – every organization, particularly those with international reach, has an opportunity to engage its employees in a common goal. Supporting employees in living happier, healthier lifestyles will pay dividends for the companies they work for.

workforce-2It’s not as simple as just expanding a U.S. program to reach other international branches, though. In fact, the first thing companies need to keep in mind when approaching employee engagement at a global level is that one size doesn’t fit all. Factors like culture, religion, and even countries’ unique regulatory systems come into play and can have a significant impact on the program’s success and the perceptions and engagement of employees.

For example, France – with its 35-hour work week, guaranteed minimum of five weeks’ paid leave a year, and mandated post-6 p.m. phone shutdowns – may not need to be told about taking time with friends and family. But according to the Gallup index, as little as 15 percent of the population is thriving when it comes to their physical well-being. In contrast, community well-being in the Netherlands is incredibly strong, due at least in part to its national culture of volunteerism and giving back. On the other hand, its 25 percent social well-being score suggests that the Dutch struggle when it comes to establishing supportive personal relationships.

Put simply, it’s unrealistic to expect that a program designed for the U.S. will have identical results in Denmark, France, India – or anywhere else. That said, there are a few rules of thumb that should be applied when designing an employee health and engagement program, no matter your region.

    • Know your audience. Get to know and understand what physical, social, emotional and financial well-being means to them. For example, in the U.S., National Employee Wellbeing Month is every June—a good time to kick-start summer wellness. But for regions like Southeast Asia that are home to large Muslim populations, June 18 marks the first day of Ramadan in 2015, meaning many employees may not be able to participate in all aspects of a well-being program during that month.
    • Communication’s critical. Make sure you’re communicating constantly, consistently and in line with local laws, language, culture and expectations. What works domestically may not always apply abroad, so be sure to refine your approach accordingly or risk cutting out or even offending employees.
    • Tap social networks. Involve employees’ co-workers, peers, and family members for greater engagement. Studies have shown that when people work toward a common goal together – healthy eating or fitness, for example – they’re more likely to succeed. Look for ways to support group activities and challenges that help employees embrace well-being both at work and at home to ensure healthy habits stick around.
    • Make it fun for everyone. Offer up challenges and events that resonate with both local and global employees and you’ll connect your workforce while driving program participation in the process.

To learn more about what your company can do to help engage its global employees, check out the eBook, 5 Keys to Taking Wellness Global, or listen to this webinar.

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.

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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!