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Everyone Cheats? Step-Tracking and the “Privilege” of Higher Premiumsin Employee Wellness Programs, humor
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?
The 4 Steps Wellness Organizations Must Take to Move Our Industry Forwardin Employee Wellness Programs, industrial organizational psychology, Uncategorized
- 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 4 Factiest Facts Overlooked in the Latest Wellness Study Kerfufflein Employee Wellness Programs, Uncategorized, Wellbeing
A study of the BJ’s Wholesale Club employee wellness program attracted a lot of attention in the media, but the most important facts about the study were overlooked.
“The model aims to answer the question: what is the effect of offering an individual the opportunity to participate in a wellness program?”
— From the study’s supplement (eMethods 3. Statistical Analysis)
Facty Fact 1: Worksites, Not Workers, Were Randomized
The BJ’s study was not primarily an evaluation of participation outcomes: Continue reading »
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 »
Does The Illinois Workplace Wellness Study Say What Everyone Says It Says?in Employee Wellness Programs
Seems like every month, the University of Illinois workplace wellness study re-enters the limelight, and earlier this month Aaron Carroll, MD really shoved it center stage in his New York Times piece, Workplace Wellness Programs Don’t Work Well. Why Some Studies Show Otherwise.
This was a randomized controlled study of an employee wellness program. To date, the study results have shown no improvement in health behaviors, health care costs, or productivity. To date.
You can read the full study paper published on the Bureau of Economic Research website. But if you’re not one to wade through a swamp of statistics, check out the study’s very own website for info, updates, and bar charts galore.
Does Feeling Valued Count?
Rather than cherry-picking the facts, allow me to just suggest questions to consider as you learn more about this study:
What does “doesn’t work” mean, anyway? Work to do what?
The study found that the number of program participants who believed their employer was committed to their health and safety increased significantly as an effect of the intervention. Is this important?
In the study paper, how many times do the researchers make the claim that has captured the imagination of Dr. Carroll and many others in the business and health care media, that “wellness doesn’t work”? (You can cheat by using your browser’s “Find” function. Or take a guess. It’s somewhere between -1 and +1.)
Was the study published in a peer-reviewed journal?
“I heavily favor peer-reviewed work.”
— Aaron Carroll, in The Power (and Weakness) of Peer Review, 2011.
How many employers, and how many different kinds of wellness strategies, were included in this study of the University of Illinois wellness program (called iThrive)?
Let’s say you’re running a program for a global manufacturing company or a tech start-up. How comparable is your employee population to the employees at University of Illinois?
A Comprehensive Wellness Program
iThrive is said to be a “comprehensive” wellness program. In my mind, a comprehensive wellness program might include some behavioral programs, cultural strategies, environmental strategies, and, most importantly, organizational strategies that promote healthy work.
Is this a comprehensive program? You be the judge. The core activies and strategies of iThrive:
- Biometric health screenings
- Health risk assessments
- Participation incentives
- Participation in “one of several activities in the fall and then again in the spring.” Activities included classes on chronic disease management; weight management; tai chi; physical fitness; financial wellness; healthy workplace habits; a tobacco cessation hotline; and an online, self-paced wellness challenge.”
A “Post-Intervention” Time Warp?
- Screenings were conducted from August 15 to September 16, 2016.
- Health risk assessment was conducted from September 8 to October 4.
- Fall wellness activities were held October 10 to December 16.
- Spring wellness activities were held January 30 to April 25, 2017.
- “Post-intervention” healthcare utilization was measured for the period August 1, 2016 through July 31, 2017.
Thinking carefully about this timeline, what changes in healthcare utilization patterns would you expect during the first year of the program?
Keep these questions in mind. And I hope you’ll pose a lot more of your own when you read about future findings from this and other studies.
Check out Part II of this post, Studying the Study: Different Kinds of Analysis Yield Contradictory Results For Illinois Wellness Study.
The Future of Workplace Wellbeing – As Seen by the “Redesigning Wellness” Podcastin Employee Wellness Programs, Uncategorized
There’s been a lot of talk lately about how to take wellness past well-being and into the future. Specifically, how can we expand beyond physical health and, as wellness professionals, deliver maximum value to our organizations.
Check out the milestone 100th episode of Jen Arnold‘s Redesigning Wellness podcast.
As a result of all the interviews she’s conducted, combined with her own experience and insight, Jen has her finger on the pulse of employee wellness more than just about anyone.
In this solo episode, Jen — with her characteristic candor — systematically lays out a case for a new vision of wellness and previews exciting opportunities she’s creating for wellness professionals who want to make good things happen.
Listen to “Celebrating 100 Episodes” on the Redesigning Wellness podcast wherever you usually get podcasts, or stream it here…
Do Employees Pick Up the Wellness Programs You Throw Out There?in Employee Wellness Programs, humor, Uncategorized
On a snowy winter day, as I listened on a conference call with a client, I watched through the window of my cozy home office as the curbside recycling truck lurched to a halt.
A burly guy jumped off the truck, where he’d been clinging in the blasting snow and arctic wind. In his orange reflector-striped parker, snow-dusted cap, and humongo gloves, he lifted my recycling bin out of the snow bank where it’d been half-buried by the city plow and in one swift move heaved the clinking and clanking contents into the backend of the truck.
He tossed the emptied bin onto my snow-covered driveway and stepped back onto the rear of the truck as it grinded away. With its amber caution lights flashing and sparkling in the icicles that hung off its rim like a damaged chandelier, the truck — its passenger clutching the back and ducking his head out of the wind — vanished into the whiteout.
“What kind of wellbeing program would appeal to this guy?” I thought. “What would be useful to him?”
On my conference call, the client was chatting about placing fruit-infused water stations in break rooms.
Would the recycling worker want a fitness challenge to track his steps? Would he like a health coach to call that evening to “nudge” him to eat fewer carbs? A work-life balance lunch-and-learn?
In the latest iteration of employee wellbeing, where all the buzz is about purpose, authentic self, mindfulness, and gratitude, would the recycling worker pick up what we’re throwing out there?
I don’t know what this individual worker wants and I won’t make assumptions. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but, like you, I chat with blue collar employees, manual laborers, and lower-wage workers every day. Some I meet in the course of my daily business, some are friends, some are family members. And I do ask what they want and how their workplace can support their wellbeing.
The above was originally the preamble to my LinkedIn post, “How My Dad Proved Steve Jobs Wrong About Loving What You Do…”, but I cut it because of length, relevance, and tone. Still, I’d love to hear from you. How can we serve employees in job classes like this recycling worker? How can we best support their wellbeing?