I’ve fessed up about two of my employee mental health flops. But I’ve had successes, too, including providing health care workers with one of the best-proven opportunities to get stress under control.
The scene was a large population of employees at a major medical center, where I served as employee wellness program manager, and partnered with our internal Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to offer the Yale Work and Family Stress Program. EAP counselors went to Yale to get trained on the program, and made a few adaptions suitable for our health care worker population. Continue reading »
Well-meaning employee mental health advocates, including wellness leaders, may — in our zeal to address mental health — inadvertently reinforce or perpetuate mental health stigma. Here’s how:
1) Viewing stigma too narrowly, especially seeing it only as failure to seek treatment. Mental health stigma includes public stigma, characterized by lack of information (and stereotyping), prejudice, and discrimination, and self stigma, which includes internalization of social stigma stereotypes, reduced self-esteem, and reduced self-efficacy. Reluctance to seek treatment (or not being aware of treatment opportunities) is a critical consequence of stigma. But people who receive treatment, and people who don’t need treatment, experience stigma, too.
2) Not understanding how to address stigma. Anti-stigma campaigns are based on protest (e.g. speaking up against stereotyping); education (like the communication tactics employers commonly implement); and contact (interacting with people who have “lived experience” with mental health problems). Continue reading »
Meaning and purpose at work go far beyond the simplistic “Find your why” self-help trend that’s made millions for certain marketing gurus (though it would be more properly attributed to Nietzsche) or the appropriation of ikigai that’s the latest buzz.
There are no simple answers to meaning, only explorations. I suggest seekers take a look at Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” and, for contrast, Maslow’s “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Then bring it into the modern work context with Job Crafting and Cultivating Positive Meaning and Identity in Work, by Amy Wrzesniewski et al.
Today’s big news in the employee health industry is the merger of telemedicine company Teladoc Health and virtual disease management company Livongo. Both have been high flyers in 2020, with their revenues and their stock prices (Livongo just celebrated the one-year anniversary of its IPO and has been a Wall Street darling since then) skyrocketing. Each of the two companies stock prices are up by more than 100% year-to-date.
Telemedicine has been all the rage among employee benefits directors for at least five years, but utilization remained lackluster until this year, when the COVID-19 pandemic radically accelerated consumer uptake.
Benefits of the merger include “joining two leaders in consumer behavior change,” according to a joint news release.
Speaking of behavior change, both companies’ stocks made it onto the markets’ Biggest Loser list on the day of the merger announcement, with Teladoc down 19% and Livongo off by 11% — the second and fourth biggest losers for the day, respectively.
Wellness (orwellbeing, if you will) is usually illustrated as a perfect circle divided into uniform wedges.Gallup’s5 wedges, for example, represent Social, Financial, Physical, Community, andCareerPurpose wellbeing.National Wellness Institutehas its Occupational, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Emotional dimensions.
There’s no end to how circles can be sliced up into the elements of wellness, whether there are 6, 7, 8 wedges, or — even as some models have it — 12 wedges of an inner circle surrounded by 8 pastel sections that join to form 2 concentric circles. (Stop this ride, I’m getting dizzy!)
These wellness merry-go-rounds are mostly the product of an American spin on wellness. Elsewhere, especially Europe, the focus is on what wellnessis— something related to happiness and life satisfaction. You know…wellbeing! In the US we obsess over thecomponentsof wellness — no time to fret about what they add up to — as you may recall from my post “Wellbeing and Pizza: In Search of the Secret Sauce.”
These tidy geometrics are a swell way to say that wellbeing goes beyond physical health. But a handful of static, one dimensional, and evenly distributed wedges — crammed into a flawlessly circular vessel — don’t resonate with my experience of wellness. And I wonder if they’re an ideal way to describe what other people’s wellbeing — ultimately their lives — are or can be.
Meet My Globules
My wellness is more like a lava lamp: An ever-changing bunch of free-floating globules of different shapes and sizes. I’ve got fitness globules, mental health globules, spiritual globules. Some rise to the surface for as others submerge. They’re fluid. They expand and they contract.
Some globules, like my health globule and my financial globule, merge for a while. My emotional globule occasionally smothers my intellectual globule; other times, it’s the other way around. Look: My creativity globule and logic globule are going at each other right now!
But even the lava lamp analogy eventually runs dry. Ultimately, I want my globules to be set free, to be unbound by time and space, and to interconnect with others’ globules — those of people who love me and those of people who don’t. Any model of real wellbeing has to show our globules interacting and interconnecting. You heard me right: We must have global globules.
The change starts within. To paraphrase an ancient sage: Be a lava lamp unto thyself.
Copyright 2020 by Bob Merberg. All rights reserved. (My globules may be your globules. But my work is not.)
“It’s the damnedest thing, hahaha” my father-in-law would say, his thick Irish brogue muscling its way forward through his baritone laugh. “I hate tomato sauce and cheese, and I don’t like bread, but I like pizza. Hahahahah!”
As a Brooklynite weaned on pizza, this reallywasthe damndest thing I’d ever heard. But the corporate world’s newfound adoration of “wellbeing” gives me insight into my father-in-law’s pizza predilections. And vice versa. Continue reading »
In her incisive Redesigning Wellness interview with Julian Reif (principal investigator of the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study), Jen Arnold elicits answers to controversial questions like how the research team defined “comprehensive program” and why they believe their randomized study design “cancels out” most previous wellness program study findings.
Thanks Jen (and thank you for the shout-outs), and thank you, Julian Reif.
Essential listening for wellness leaders who care about results. Click below to go to the podcast episode page:
I don’t agree with everything in The Hard Problems of Corporate Wellness, including the premise that wellness hasn’t worked. But I’m grateful as all get-out that my friend and colleague Scott Dinwiddie is saying it. We don’t all need to agree, but we progress only by questioning the status quo, engaging in civil dialog, and seeking better solutions.
If we’re inclined to look, in this article we find wellbeing as a microcosm for the human condition. In fact, Scott’s exploration of personal accountability in the context of systemic disorder may shine a light on social issues that appropriately preoccupy us today.
In the aura of this microcosm, we in the wellness profession are called upon to renew our own personal sense of purpose.
New study findings from the University of Illinois confirm that an employee wellness program doesn’t improve health or healthcare costs.
Here’s what will happen next:
Wellness critics will argue that wellness programs must cease at once.
Wellness profiteers will, once again, falsely claim that the studied program was atypical and that the researchers failed to report on measures such as mental health, energy levels, quality of life, or job satisfaction.
Here’s what should happen next:
We should be prepared to accept, based on a growing body of evidence, that typical wellness programs don’t deliver on their promise.
We should collaborate with employees to figure out how we can effectively support their wellbeing.
Research should be leveraged to improve employee wellbeing strategies. Circling the wagons around the status quo or interpreting studies simply as a yay/nay on employee wellbeing are both unproductive.
Check out Margaret Moore’s post, 20 Years to a Vision with Wings, chronicling the path of Wellcoaches Corporation (and wellness coaching) leading up to the organization’s 20-year anniversary.
I’m honored that Margaret, Wellcoaches Founder and CEO, included me amongst the founders of the wellness coaching field, and especially honored to be associated with the other distinguished innovators she mentions:
Our inspiring fellow founders of the field we now call health & wellness coaching included Sean Slovenski, Bob Merberg, Michael Arloski, and Linda Bark.
Congratulations to Margaret, Wellcoaches, and the 12,000 coaches they’ve trained across the globe, who over 20 years have shaped the field that has benefited the wellbeing of so many!
A headline in the Washington Post (April 26, 2020), based on the researchers’ conclusions at the time, blared, “In New York’s largest hospital system, 88% of coronavirus patients on ventilators didn’t make it.” (As of April 25, the headline wasn’t corrected. By May 5, it had been changed to read “…many patients on ventilators didn’t make it.”)
The ventilator mortality rate excluded from the denominator patients still in the hospital.
After an immediate outcry from others in the medical community, the research paper was corrected in JAMA online:
“The sentence reporting mortality for patients receiving mechanical ventilation should read, ‘As of April 4, 2020, for patients requiring mechanical ventilation (n = 1151, 20.2%), 38 (3.3%) were discharged alive, 282 (24.5%) died, and 831 (72.2%) remained in hospital.'”
This is one example — the cornovirus pandemic has provided many — of the importance of proper denominators.
Denominators often are not scrutinized closely enough by journalists, by businesses, or by wellness professionals. The gross oversight described here reminds us that, without any background in statistics or data science, denominators used in calculations — when, indeed, they are used — are one reasonable starting point (population size is another) when interpreting data.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to the economy or what course the coronavirus pandemic will take. But I’ve had time to reflect on what a new world order may mean for employee wellness and the future of work.
Here are 10 hopes, fears, and questions (not predictions):
1) We’ll re-frame “meaningful work” — I recently heard, in an interview, a worker who delivers tortillas to grocery stores poignantly articulate what will prevail as a fresh take on meaning and work: Continue reading »
Jozito’s Bob Merberg Served As Key Consultant For Innovative Emotional Well-Being Program
Mindfulness, Gratitude, Optimism, Connection, and more.
The Art of Living an Emotionally Healthy Life
I’m delighted to tell you about a solution to an employee well-being gap I’ve written about often — a solution just announced by my client, Health Enhancement Systems (HES)…
Work of Art is a program about the art of living an emotionally healthy life, featuring the personalization, quality, and spirit that only HES can deliver. As a consultant on the product, playing a major role with background research, content development, testing, and some feature design, the release of Work of Art — a program I’m certain will make a difference in the lives of workers and the organizations that employ them — is one of the proudest milestones of my career.
I urge you to learn more about Work of Art, and to pass this message along to your colleagues, because it may just be the most important employee wellbeing product of its time.
A new study repudiates gratitude interventions as a treatment for depression.
The original intention of positive psychology was to expand mental health, not to cure mental illness. But wannabes self-help gurus, and some mental health professionals, hawk positive psychology interventions as a panacea for clinical disorders.
As the study authors note, gratitude interventions have value (for example, improving relationships) — but not much for the treatment of depression or anxiety.
Consistent with past reviews, we found gratitude interventions had a medium effect when compared with waitlist-only conditions, but only a trivial effect when compared with putatively inert control conditions involving any kind of activity.
In other words, gratitude interventions didn’t fair better than other behavioral activities used as controls.
A remaining controversy is how the limited efficacy of gratitude interventions compares to popular antidepressant medications.
Withholding earned pay for 2-week or 1-month “pay periods” is a vestige of days gone by, serving the funds-holder but penalizing the earner.
While some companies already have introduced on-time (on-time = real-time) payment as an opt-in service paid for by employees and/or their employers, it inevitably will become the standard. This is an important option to be considered by employers genuinely committed to their employees’ financial wellness. But it only makes sense if the employees incur no fees. Employers generally don’t charge employees for other payroll services, just as they don’t return dividends to employees when they’ve managed to realize savings (say, through increased payroll system efficiencies, contracting with more cost-effective providers, and so forth.)
There is a cost… in service provider fees and the loss of “float” (the interest employers earn on the money they’re withholding — big money, especially during periods of higher interest rates). This needs to be built into employers’ financial models.
A long-haul truck driver fell asleep during his shift in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 13. Heading north on Route 147, he drifted into the eastbound shoulder for almost 375 feet, struck the side of the road and flipped his rig. Thankfully, the driver only suffered a minor injury and nobody else was harmed.
8 lessons from the 2020Iowa caucuses… for Wellness, HR, and Employee Benefits Managers launching new apps/websites:
Conduct your due diligence with the vendor.Find and talk to the vendor’s ex-clients — not just the references provided to you. Visit the vendor’s offices (i.e. site visits), when possible.
Attach steep performance guarantees to implementation.Look for at least 10-15% of the first year’s total fees.You only get one chance for a smooth launch.If the vendor balks, they’re telling you they don’t have confidence in their capabilities. Consider metrics like launch-date readiness, uptime, loading speed, speed to answer help desk calls and to reply to emails, and participant satisfaction (measured by you, not the vendor) with the initial process. As usual,you don’t want to have to collect these performance guarantee fees. Youdowant the vendor to be motivated and accountable. Of course, you can only hold them accountable for things in their control.
Test, test, and test again.Test as many scenarios (different kinds of users; different ways of using the technology; etc.) as possible.
During implementation, require regular updates on your vendor’s quality assurance processes.
Have an experienced project manager on your team, and an IT specialist who has access to the vendor’s IT team.Include other experts, as needed, and work within your organization to assure selected team members are fully engaged in the project, and not just begrudgingly doing something they consider outside their job responsibilities.
Collaborate with your vendor on systematic pre-launch trainingof key managers, leaders, and team members in your organization.
Require your vendor to identify an executive sponsor for your account — a leader on their team with whom you can establish a relationship and who will make sure the vendor’s organizational barriers are torn down when you need them to mobilize for action on your organization’s behalf.
Don’t scapegoat your vendor.When things don’t go well, look at your own performance and your organization to identify opportunities for improvement. (When things do go well, give credit where credit is due.)
The vendor blog post “Why We Love Patty McCord” perpetuates the cult-like status of an HR exec who made a name for herself blurring the lines between leading with transparency and leading with fear. Early on, the blog post proclaims that great workplace culture “requires companies to show employees they care.”
Another worthwhile read, which lends insight into why the aforementioned exec was fired (falling victim to the consequences of the culture she fomented), is “Working at Netflix Sounds Absolutely Terrifying.” The exec, this article reports, left a legacy of a “harsh, hyper-competitive office culture.” This is the same exec the “great caring culture” vendor says “we love.”
Do the simplistic platitudes that permeate our discussions of corporate culture enable workplaces to cloak ruthlessness as transparency?
Is it enough for a job candidate to “show up” for an interview?
A prominent voice on LinkedIn recently garnered more than 17,000 likes with a post that read, in part:
We just hired a Gen-Z candidate with zero experience. Here’s why… They arrived 10 min early for their morning interview (respect ✊), pronounced my name correctly (major kudos), had a firm handshake, dressed sharp, and brought a hard copy of their resume (I didn’t need it). During the interview they smiled, made eye contact, and were honest about having zero experience (we value honesty). They asked me questions, they wanted to learn, they showed up! To all the hiring decision makers out there, don’t disqualify candidates because they don’t have “experience.”
By all means, don’t discriminate against Gen-Z or any other Gen, or against candidates who don’t have experience if the job doesn’t require it. But be smart about hiring, based on Continue reading »
In 2019, employees filed a class action lawsuit against a prominent employer for allegedly selling out its workers’ 401(k), costing the plan tens of millions of dollars in excess fees and underperformance, in exchange for mega-donations and lavish personal gifts. These shady dealings with employees’ savings were being finagled at the same time financial wellness program promotions admonished employees to “understand their values and get their finances in order.” (Learn more in myFinancialWhatness?article.)
On the other hand, Dan Price of Gravity Payments, who, in 2015 raised his company’s minimum wage to $70,000 per year while slashing his own salary, launched aplanin 2019 to establish the same healthy wage for employees of a new acquisition in Boise, Idaho. Mr. Price has his naysayers, but you’ll be convinced he understandshisvalues when it comes to employee wellbeing — financial and otherwise — after you listen to this interview:
Just when you were getting on board with a plant-based dietcomes a new, supposedly more rigorous analysis by 14 researchers,saying it’s fine (nutritionally) to eat red meat, even processed meats like bacon. The new analysis argued that previous studies were either biased by veggie-lovin’ diehards and food industry shills or simply weren’t rigorous enough.
Browse the nearly 100 blog posts I’ve published onmy websiteand you’ll find no mention ofmillennials— because generational stereotypes have limited validity and are just another way to pigeonhole folks. So, while I can understand the backlash that may have led to 2019’s patronizing #OKBoomermeme,it ultimately serves only to perpetuate polarization.
OKBoomer may lead to someage discrimination lawsuits, or it may just be a soon-to-be-forgotten fad. Either way, it can serve as a reminder for each of us to embrace diversity, inclusion, and connectedness, in all their forms.
In the early going, a typical employee wellness program doesn’t have much impact on healthcare costs, health, quality of life, or job performance. This, based on data from a cluster-randomized study of employee wellness at BJ’s Wholesale stores. (Clusterrandomization means the worksites, not the individual participants, were randomized.) Get the lowdown in my article,The 4 Factiest Facts Overlooked in the Latest Wellness Study Kerfuffle.
But rumors of wellbeing’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. A cluster-randomizedstudyof Gap stores showed thatstabilizing worker schedules led to increased sales and — while it’s no panacea — enhanced employee wellbeing, especially sleep. (Aseparate major studyconfirmed that unstable schedules are strongly linked — more strongly even than low wages — to workers’ psychological distress, sleep disruption, and unhappiness.) The contrasting results from these studies, building on previous research, surely will persuade business leaders to prioritize organizational strategies over health behavior modification products.
Japan’s #KuToo movement — from the words “kutsu” (shoes) and “kutsuu” (pain) — arose in response to dress codes requiring female workers to wear high heels, a workplace policy the Health and Labor Minister declared “occupationally necessary and appropriate.”
Similar requirements have ignited protests elsewhere.
Aside from the unabashed sexism these policies represent, even less woke old-school health promoters will be concerned about health risks linked to high heels. According to a report conducted for the UK Parliament, these include:
long-term changes to gait, which cause knee, hip and spine problems and osteoarthritis;
stress fractures in foot bones;
ankle sprains, fractures and breakages due to trips and accidents;
hallux valgus (bunions);
blisters and skin lesions;
enduring balance problems which persist into old age;
The report also cited psychological distress reported by female workers who were required to wear high heels against their will.
Meanwhile, in the US, HuffPostexposeda prominent professional services firm that set us all back with one of its women’s leadership trainings. The training’s handbook insisted that“the most important thing women can do is ‘signal fitness and wellness.’”?
It advised trainees to have a “good haircut, manicured nails, well-cut attire that complements your body type.” Then it warns:
“Don’t flaunt your body ― sexuality scrambles the mind (for men and women).”
Read the full HuffPo article and to view the employer’s “leaked” video response:
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 20% of people live with a mental illness.
Mental and behavioral disorders are the 3rd-leading cause of disability in the U.S. That’s a lot and warrants special attention.
Not everyone recovers from mental illness. Many (here, I don’t have stats, but the 20% figure — and my own observations — suggests this is true), suffer their entire lives with mental illness, and an increasing number of people end their lives as a result. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. We need to help these people.
Mental health and emotional wellbeing, unquestionably, are important for everyone. But in the wellness industry’s well-meaning enthusiasm for covering everyone under the mental health umbrella, we must be sure not to marginalize the large portion of people experiencing mental illness.
If we do communicate that there’s no difference between someone with a common disabling mental illness — like PTSD, bipolar disorder, and anorexia nervosa, as well as severe depression and anxiety — compared to anyone else who may be going through a tough stretch in an otherwise smooth-sailing life, we risk perpetuating mental health stigma rather than alleviating it.
“Maybe you just want to keep your personal data private without having to pay higher premiums for the privilege.”
The article “Everyone Cheats On Fitness Trackers“ makes some odd assertions, like, “This is seen as a win-win for insurers who want you to live longer, so you earn them more money.” But once the article gets going, it raises valid points and describes some amusing scenarios, like
“Making health a game of points means employees game the system right back, though they don’t all have hedgehogs.”
People ask me, “Yeah, but how small is the proportion of employees who cheat in step-tracking programs, and why should the majority of participants, who are honest, have to suffer the consequences?”
Experience suggests that the proportion of cheaters is not at all small (the headline of this article says “everyone”), though the construct of “cheating” is not always straightforward.
Employers are getting serious about HR Analytics (aka People Analytics). At the same time, many of our wellness industry colleagues demonize data, often cloaking their anxieties behind advocacy ofhumanization.
We’ll hear wellness leaders denigrate data because, for example, “it reduces people to numbers” (which could be the slogan for the International Society of Dataphobes).
But if we let our fears, insecurities, or aversions get the better of us, resisting data as a primary language of business, we’ll get left behind in a world where employers, even their HR departments, increasingly see the promise of analytics. Continue reading »
Wellness thought leaders, under the guise of “wellness isn’t just about physical health,” brush physical health aside as if it’s no longer our concern. We’re all about connection, humanization, and collaboration.
You know those organizational inventories we recommend for other dimensions of wellbeing? Before launching a physical wellness program, for example, we conduct audits of workplace factors that influence physical health, like pretty stairwells, healthy food in vending machines, and so forth. Before launching a culture-of-health strategy, we assess the current state of the organization’s culture, using criteria like “Is wellness mentioned in the company’s mission statement?” and “Does the CEO visibly model wellness behaviors?”
We should do the same with our ever-popular financial wellbeing strategies. Before launching strategies to promote savings, budgeting, debt management, and retirement planning, let’s assess Continue reading »
Podcast interviewers and conference organizers often ask me to talk about my mistakes and failures. Thank you very much.
It’s okay; I get it. Others can learn from our mistakes and also take solace in the fact that we all make them. Listening to some presenter prattle on about how perfect their programs are—especially when they’re from companies with nearly unlimited resources—can be discouraging rather than inspiring. (Besides, if our professional social media is pervaded exclusively by self-promotion and ungrounded thought leadership, it’s hard to grow in a way that’s relevant to the real-life work environment.)
For some reason, two of my professional flops fell in the realms of mental health and emotional well-being. Continue reading »
Gruesome. A worst case scenario that exemplifies why it’s not enough to view psychological safety as encouraging risk-taking and authenticity. We have to use what we know about workplace psychosocial risk factors — like organizational injustice, job insecurity, and social isolation — to prevent psychological injury.
Click on image or here to read the New York Times article, “35 Employees Committed Suicide. Will Their Bosses Go to Jail?“
This week, CBS News, CNN, and other major outlets blared headlines and articles — most accompanied by photos of office workers collapsed face-down on their desks — claiming that burnout had officially been recognized as a disease. The news spread like wildfire but was almost completely unfounded. Continue reading »
This is based on a response I wrote to an astute new leader of a wellness industry organization who was asking, “What should be next for the organization to move wellness forward?”
Broaden the base. Reach out to professionals trained in fields other than exercise, nutrition, and HR. Especially, bring in folks trained in the relatively fast-growing field of I/O Psychology, who have a deeper, evidence-based understanding of wellbeing and also tend to be well trained in analytics. Speaking of which…
Train wellness professionals in analytics. HR finally seems to be getting serious about data, and wellness will be left behind if we don’t have stronger competency in this area. We don’t need to be data scientists, but we should be able to direct analytical work and speak the language. I’ve been studying statistics, business analytics, and advanced Excel, and it’s already added value for my clients.
Help us understand the wellness needs of employees. Because wellness in the US has been market driven, we give most of our attention to what purchasers (employers) will buy, rather than what employees want. Unfortunately, these are rarely the same thing.
Help identify and then advocate for where wellness fits in an organization. As long as we’re tucked away in benefits departments, we’ll be undervalued and weighed-down by healthcare cost-reduction fantasies.
The BJ’s Wholesale Club study wasn’t the most important employee wellness research published last month. Let’s look at the Workplace Health in America Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC asked about companies’ employee health promotion programs. 2,843 respondents completed surveys — targeting whoever in the company was most knowledgeable about its wellness offerings — from a variety of employers.
Health Circles is a structured process in which employees hold facilitated meetings over a course of time to identify what’s holding their health back and what can be done to improve it – with an emphasis on job design and the psychosocial health risks at the workplace.
This excerpt from a webinar (hosted by Lumity) describes a multi-year, controlled study of hospital nurses and aides at a hospital Continue reading »
Not to be missed: Bruce Daisley’s brilliant interview with William Kahn, widely credited with coining the concepts of psychological safety and personal engagement at work. To whet your appetite for the entire interview, here’s a taste: Continue reading »
There’s no need to be either frustrated or complacent with low engagement in whatever you offer employees. Download the free ebook, Now We’re Talking!, written by Jozito’s Bob Merberg and published by HES, to learn how it’s done.
It’s not just for walking clubs and smoking cessation programs. For example: Everyone’s talking about mental health, and lots of employers name EAP as their main mental health at work intervention. But EAP utilization is typically 4% or less (sadly, 7% is often considered good). When I oversaw EAP for an employer, utilization averaged between 14% and 18%… because, once we had excellent program pieces in place (integrating it with wellness, absence management, and other functions; implementing proactive EAP outreach to at-risk employees rather than just passively waiting to be contacted by those in crisis), we communicated about it: All the time. Everywhere.
Download the ebook and get started achieving the participation, engagement, and results you’ve always wanted.
When job burnout was first described by Christina Maslach et al, it was specific to caring professionals. Eventually, it was found that it can occur in all occupations and across all demographics. Physician and nurse burnout has been the hot topic the last few years, though a recent meta-analysis pointed out that there’s little that can be concluded about physician burnout because of the level of variation in definition and measurement (a lot of people disagree with this).
Studies have found that pervasiveness of Electronic Medical Records plays a big role in physician burnout. This makes sense, as it can be connected to several of the known burnout antecedents, especially autonomy/control, but also unsatisfactory social interaction and values conflict.
What wellness vendors sell, and what employers buy, often contrasts with what employees want. Over the course of my career, I’ve heard directly from more than 100,000 employees via surveys and face-to-face interactions, and this is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned.
Using an unscientific approach, I’ve summarized some of the differences below. Continue reading »
When skillfully incorporated into a broader strategy, external recognition for wellness programs has the potential to be a win-win, serving both the employer and the employees.
In keeping with my recent theme of providing practical tools and tips for wellness managers who do the hard work of creating and operating employee wellness programs in complex corporate environments, I’m pleased to share this post I wrote for one of my clients.
I’m pleased to provide these practical tips for wellness vendor management, one of the most demanding roles of employee wellness managers. Some of these — six tips for implementation and oversight, eight for selection and contracting — may be more relevant to larger corporations, but many are applicable to a spectrum of organizations and a variety of non-wellness vendors. They can help make a manager’s job easier, while eliciting higher levels of performance from vendors. Continue reading »
I agree with the position paper, Behaviour-Based Safety Programs, recently published by The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). An employer’s primary role in employee wellbeing is to protect employees from Continue reading »
A new year, a new opportunity for an employee benefits trade publication to randomly drop into an article a chart that makes less sense than a child’s finger-painting. (For legit. A finger-painting can’t be wrong. The chart is blatantly wrong.) Continue reading »
Science For Work summarizes research-based evidence that can guide business management decisions, with emphasis on industrial and organizational psychology. Their recent post, Why You Should Consider Fairness When Designing Your Change Management Process, exemplifies the well-researched, practical, and engaging content this non-profit organization provides. The topic, organizational justice, can be difficult to comprehend by well-being professionals for whom organizational behavior is uncharted territory. But Science for Work does a fine job breaking it down. See their infographic (below) followed by my two cents, then head on over to ScienceForWork.com to learn more.Continue reading »
California mandates that publicly traded companies based in the state have a minimum of one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019. If the new regulation survives anticipated legal challenges, representation will increase: By the end of July 2021, companies have to have at least 2 women on boards of 5 members; at least 3 women on larger boards.
If states can require corporations to place women on their boards, how far are we from Continue reading »
In 2018 aHuffington Post article,Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong, went viral, debunking myths about obesity and weight loss. It argued that the “war against obesity” has really been a war against obese people, fostering a culture that encourages fat shaming and alienates overweight people.
2 Slices of Bacon Daily Shortens Life by a Decade?
Ioannidis illustrates his point by describing the real-life implications were we to assume studies of individual foods are legit:
…eating 12 hazelnuts daily would prolong life by 12 years (ie, 1 year per hazelnut), drinking 3 cups of coffee daily would achieve a gain of 12 years, and eating a single mandarin orange daily would add 5 years of life. Conversely, consuming 1 egg daily would reduce life expectancy by 6 years, and eating 2 slices of bacon daily would shorten life by a decade, an effect worse than smoking. Could these results possibly be true?
Ioannidis blames researchers’ failure to properly account for confounding factors:
Relatively uncommon chemicals within food…may be influential. Risk-conferring nutritional combinations may vary by an individual’s genetic background, metabolic profile, age, or environmental exposures. Disentangling the potential influence on health outcomes of a single dietary component from these other variables is challenging, if not impossible.
He also blames selective publication of studies that proclaim a correlation between a food and a health outcome over studies that show no correlation. And he throws shade on nutrition advocates…
Expert-driven guidelines shaped by advocates dictate what primary studiesshouldreport.
Ioannidis didn’t even dig into the type of academic misconduct described in the first story on my Top 10 list, Mindless Cheating.
The Good News
But there’s a valuable learning — making this Number 9 on my list of Top 10 Wellness Stories of the year — we can take from all these stories. The lessons from Ioannidis’ article and Huffpo’s obesity article are essentially the same.
Pursuit of continuous improvement in the promotion of employee well-being demands skepticism.
We have to maintain idealism to believe we can do better. My New Year’s resolution is to cultivate even more optimism in the pursuit of measurable progress, knowledge, and improvement.
No amount of exercise will make a difference if you sit 8 hours a day.
The risks of trying to get all your exercise into one day per week outweigh the potential benefits.
Benefits of physical activity like better sleep, reduced anxiety, improved cognition, reduced blood pressure, and improved insulin sensitivity take weeks or even months to appear. You can’t expect immediate results.
If you answered “True” to any of these statements, and they are typical of the kind of advice your wellness program participants receive, it’s probably time to update your knowledge. Check out the 2nd edition of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Its release is 8th on my list of Top 10 Wellness Stories of 2018.
Did you miss the full list of Top 10 Wellness Stories? They are:
We’re often advised not to compare our lives to what we see from our friends on Facebook and Instagram. The theory goes: People tend to expose on social media only the best, happiest facets of their lives, and comparing our own ordinary existence to the world-traveling, fancy-food-eating filtered glimpses we get of Continue reading »
This is the 5th in my Top 10 Wellness Stories of 2018.
Not long ago, I attended a panel discussion in which an audience member asked the panelists what their organizations were doing to address mental health. No one had anything to say other than, “We offer an EAP.” A wave of ick swept over the room as the tragedy of this truth dawned upon us — the panelists and the audience.
These readily make clear that countries like Canada, European Union members, and Australia are far ahead of the US in their action planning, and I’ve previously written about Japan’s aggressive approach.
Will the US learn from other countries and develop an evidence-based agenda to address mental health in the workplace (and beyond)?
I’m optimistic and predict that evidence-based solutions prevail.
Worldwide, a yearning for civility blossomed in 2018, and workplaces were no exception.
In addition toChristine Porath’spresentation at SHRM, civility surfaced on the agenda of major wellness conferences, and a prominent midwest health care system launched, withsome fanfare, an introductory “Choose Civility” e-course. Continue reading »
I’ve writtenad nauseamabout the University of Illinois Workplace Wellness Study, so allow me to just explain why I’m optimistic about where it’s heading.
This evaluation of an employer’s fledgling wellness program gave wellness critics a rationale to declare employee wellness a failure. The evaluation data, which showed almost no positive outcomes during the program’s startup, is only preliminary anddoesn’t say what critics say it says.
Even if you’ve never heard of Brian Wansink, you’ve probably been affected by his research.His studies,cited more than 20,000 times, are about how our environment shapes how we think about food, and what we end up consuming. He’s one of the reasons Big Food companies started offering smaller snack packaging, in 100 calorie portions. —Vox
Wansink led many headline-grabbing studies of eating behavior, showing, for example, that people eat less when food is served on smaller plates and that pre-ordering lunch leads to healthier choices. His work unleashed many employers’ nutritional wellness strategies, especially “making the healthy choice the easy choice.” Continue reading »
If a job has high Motivating Potential, the jobholders are more likely to feel their work is meaningful, to exhibit high levels of motivation, performance, and job satisfaction. If a job has low Motivating Potential, jobholders are more likely to exhibit negative outcomes, like absenteeism, turnover, and sluggish performance.
A New York Timesarticle recently revealed that the company has protected, arguably even rewarded, executives accused of sexual misconduct. It described one exec who “often berated subordinates as stupid or incompetent.” The company “did little to curb that behavior.”
A screenshot the exec’s ex-wife included in a lawsuit, according to the Times, showed an email he sent to another woman: “You will be happy being taken care of,” he wrote. “Being owned is kinda like you are my property, and I can loan you to other people.”
In our quest for a psychological-safety poster child, we may need to conduct a better search.
Pay attention to the science-backed workplace mental health frameworks that are taking shape outside the US, like those in Canada, Europe, and Australia.
In the US, the messaging of vendors and consultants tends to drown out science. Last year, for example, data from a meta-analysis — which included more than 120,000 research subjects — showed that job strain (the combination of high demands and low control at work) may lead to clinically diagnosed depression. This is consistent with a lot of other research that points us toward employer strategies for the primary prevention of mental health problems. But psychosocial risk and primary prevention are missing-in-action when we look at mental health resources made available by US employee wellness professional organizations and their vendors/consultant partners, .
Mental health crises — just like physical health crises — are mission critical, but this doesn’t mean we can’t prevent them before they happen and, what’s more, aspire to create workplace environments in which employee well-being flourishes.
Canada’s “Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace” is a compelling example of a social strategy to promote mental health in all its stages — emphasizing primary prevention. Find out more about Canada’s Standard and other science-backed workplace mental health strategies on the Jozito mental health resources hub.
Does your Employee Assistance Program proactively address workplace mental health? Are they reaching out and screening employees — like those out on disability, or who have recently given birth, or are dealing with grief, or who have a chronic disease — who are at risk for mental health problems?
In 2013, Carol Harnett and Fran Melmed interviewed Bob Merberg for their CoHealth CheckUp podcast (which is no longer in production). They asked him to discuss a “great idea that didn’t work out.” In this 2-minute answer, he talks about a positive psychology intervention designed to help employees cultivate happiness.
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