Now that year-3 data is out, yielding findings just as blah as the year-1 findings (meaningful outcomes nowhere to be found), I’m re-sharing this 2019 post about the BJ’s Wholesale wellness study. Little has changed. Indeed, these facty facts have gotten no less facty. In fact, they may be factier.
Tip: If you — like many critics of this research as well as media reporters confused by the study design — think the BJ’s research was primarily a study of intervention outcomes, or that it only looked at physical health and health care costs when wellness programs these days are all about happiness-ishness, or the program was sub-par because it consisted of “modules,” you’ll find this post enlightening.
The 4 Factiest Facts Overlooked in the Latest Wellness Study Kerfuffle
There’s a lot of talk lately about discovering your why. For wellness professionals, this quest may prompt another: What’s the why of employee well-being?
Find out in Bob Merberg’s latest guest post on the HES website, leading up to the real question (and the rarely discussed answer) about employee wellbeing….
The Why of Wellness
Work-from-home, social connection, telehealth, social justice, mental health… and, of course, the COVID-19 disease itself have been the hot topics of 2020 in the employee wellbeing world.
Meanwhile, the US wellness industry — the business of employee wellbeing — grinds on, with a slew of trends and transactions that foretell its future. Here, I’ve summarized the commercial patterns and milestones that signal which doors are closing and which may open. Continue reading »
[Originally published on LinkedIn 2018-03-15]
“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 really was the 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:
198: Research on the Effectiveness of Traditional Wellness Programs with Julian Reif, Assistant Professor of Finance and Economics at the University of Illinois
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.
See the abstract/article:
8 lessons from the 2020 Iowa 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. You do want 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 training of 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.)
“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.
Cheating is especially likely when an incentive is offered. For one spectacular example, see my archived article Do Employees Cheat for Wellness Incentives?
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.