What Cheating on Workplace Wellness Contests Says About the Cheater

David Rook

Wellness programs have been around for decades, and their benefits are well-documented. Research shows they are responsible for a 28 percent reduction in sick days, a 26 percent reduction in health costs, and a 30 percent decrease in workers' compensation and disability management claims. If designed well (e.g. based on population health analytics, etc.), companies can potentially save $5.93 for every dollar invested.

Wellness initiatives and contests have been taken to a new level in recent years, with the emergence of wearable fitness trackers. On the surface, it seems that these trackers would eliminate any tendency to exaggerate activity performance, compared to using manual logs. However, where there's a will, there's a way. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently reported on wellness cheaters. What does cheating on workplace wellness contests say about the cheater?

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Topics: Company Culture, Employee Engagement, wellness

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Getting a Good Night's Sleep is All the Rage

David Rook

Companies are always looking to improve the quality of life of their employees by using a variety of incentives. To this end, employers are increasingly open to making a number of quality of life allowances, from dogs in the workplace to catering healthier lunchtime meals.

This isn't solely done for the purpose of improving morale and well-being. Employers have noted a strong correlation between employee health and their productivity at work. But can employers start encouraging healthy employee habits outside of their 9-5 purview?

One area of focus for company wellness has been the sleep habits of their employees and how subtle tweaks can have a profound impact on employee productivity.

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Topics: Company Culture, wellness

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Should Vaping be Encouraged as a Smoking Cessation Tool?

David Rook

Should Vaping be Encouraged as a Smoking Cessation Tool?

A reader of last week’s blog post on vaping asked us if employers should actively promote e-cigarettes in their wellness programs as a smoking cessation tool. This is an excellent question. It’s admittedly tough to ascertain if e-cigarettes are going to be the next major health hazard or the most effective smoking cessation technique ever created. Unfortunately, there’s not a straightforward answer to this question, but we will attempt to answer it as best we can.

What is Vaping?

For the uninitiated, vaping is the act of inhaling atomized liquid, usually nicotine dissolved in propylene glycol plus flavoring and colors. The device used for this activity is called an e-cigarette; a battery-operated device, often shaped like a cigarette, which is designed to deliver nicotine in the form of an inhalable vapor rather than tobacco smoke.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance, wellness, Legislation

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E-cigarettes Remain a Dilemma for Employers

David Rook

E-cigarettes Remain a Dilemma for Employers

Electronic cigarettes, or vape pens, don’t contain tobacco and they don’t produce smoke, yet they do contain nicotine, and this has left insurers and employers in a quandary. Should “vapers”, as these people are commonly called, be categorized as smokers, and therefore be penalized with higher insurance rates?

The Categorization Quandary

Despite the growing popularity of vapers (they’ve gotten so popular that even icons like Leonardo DiCaprio are comfortable “vaping” in public), they present a somewhat troublesome gray area to insurance companies. This has left employers wondering if their employees who vape are considered smokers and if so, by whom.

Some businesses have weighed-in on the matter. According to the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart and UPS, for example, categorize vapers as smokers, and accordingly charge them higher insurance premiums. Cleveland Clinic, which refuses to hire smokers, similarly won't hire e-smokers, while CVS Caremark doesn't allow employees to use e-cigarettes at its corporate campuses. Starbucks bans e-cigarettes for employees and customers; and almost every state has enacted disparate legislation to regulate where e-cigarettes may and may not be used.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance, wellness, Legislation

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Participatory vs. Health-Contingent Wellness Programs

David Rook

Participatory vs. Health-Contingent Wellness Programs

If you’re considering implementing a new wellness program, it is important to decide which type of program you wish to offer to your employees. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) divides workplace wellness programs into two categories: participatory workplace wellness programs and health-contingent programs. What are the differences between these two types of programs? And what are the standards employers must meet when designing a wellness program as part of its benefit package for employees?

Participatory Wellness Programs

A participatory wellness program is, by definition, open to any employee who wishes to participate. Some easily recognizable types of participatory programs include employee participation in diagnostic testing and screening; smoking cessation classes and education; reimbursement for gym or wellness center memberships; and programs for health education classes or seminars.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, wellness

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The Upside of Regular Vision and Dental Exams: Early Warning Signs of Other Health Problems

David Rook

The Upside of Regular Vision and Dental Exams:

Early Warning Signs of Other Health Problems

Can your eye doctor or dentist save your life? It turns out the answer is yes. Taking advantage of employer-offered vision and dental benefits may have unexpected advantages. While the more obvious benefits of eye and dental exams are better vision and good oral health, routine vision and dental exams can also spotlight early warning signs of other health problems. What are some of these health issues, and how are they discovered by your ophthalmologist or dentist?

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Topics: Cost Containment, wellness, Preventative Care

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Five Key Factors to Measuring Wellness ROI

David Rook

Five Key Factors to Measuring Wellness ROI

As we discussed in our last post, those tasked with the job of overseeing company wellness programs often find it difficult to quantify the success of those programs in a definable way. The problems facing HR departments when tasked with establishing the ROI on wellness are many, from program structures that don’t provide enough trackable data, to the difficulties of measuring intangible successes in terms of money, to the simple fact of limited time, resources, and manpower. These issues are often compounded by unrealistic expectations and a desire for quick results.

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Topics: Cost Containment, wellness

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Why Is Wellness ROI So Difficult To Measure?

David Rook

Why Is Wellness ROI So Difficult To Measure? 

When making policy decisions around wellness initiatives, companies often find it difficult to quantify the success of these programs in a definable way. There are many reasons wellness ROI is difficult to measure. Because of the sheer number of variables to be considered, there is no simple, standard formula into which HR departments can plug a set of numbers to get an answer to the ROI question. Any calculations in this area require considerable critical thought.

Pitfalls of Program Design and Company Culture

One of the problems facing HR departments is the inaccessibility of several baseline elements that must be tracked accurately in order to calculate their programs' ROI. Poor original structuring of wellness initiatives compounds the problem. If the wellness program is not structured in such a way that there is accountability for employees involving concrete, measurable tracking of progress, it will be virtually impossible to calculate ROI with any degree of success.

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Topics: Cost Containment, wellness

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Effective Wellness Programs Focus on Screenings and Immunizations Over Behavior Modification

David Rook

Effective Wellness Programs Focus on Screenings and Immunizatons Over Behavior Modification 

Many workplace wellness programs focus, rather unwisely, on altering unhealthy employee lifestyles. Examples of such programs include weight-loss contests and smoking cessation campaigns, just to name a few.

While these efforts are certainly admirable, anyone who has tried to lose weight or quit smoking will tell you that changing ingrained behaviors and habits is extremely difficult – even when there are significant incentives involved. To us, it seems that the focus on lifestyle and behavioral changes as a starting point misses the mark.

Rather, we recommend that employers almost always start with age appropriate screenings and immunizations. This approach is a simple and effective way to care for employees and prevent and/or treat developing conditions. And because most of the recommended screenings and immunizations are covered at 100% by most health plans, there’s less pushback from a participation standpoint.

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Topics: Cost Containment, wellness

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