The Benefits of Eating Pumpkin this Fall

Now that the Fall is in full force, pumpkin has made its long awaited comeback, and while you may only be familiar with delectable pumpkin treats such as pumpkin pies and pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin has far more to offer that just its sweet desserts. Its vitamin-rich flesh also has an abundance of health benefits, including better quality sleep, weight loss, and increased vision.

If cooked correctly, pumpkin is actually one of the healthier foods of the season, which is why we’ve noted some amazing health benefits of pumpkin to kick start your obsession this fall.

 

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Weight Loss

Mashed pumpkin has only 50 calories per cup and 3 grams of fiber, whilst pumpkin seeds have about 1.7 grams of fiber per ounce. Fibre helps you to feel fuller for longer which will assist in the prevention of over eating.

 

Increased Vision

Just one cup of pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Vitamin A improves your vision and has also been found to slow the decline of retinal function in those with retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that can eventually lead to blindness. Vitamin A has also been proven to help maintain healthy skin, teeth and bones.

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Better Sleep Quality

Have you ever wondered why you feel so sleepy after a big slice of pumpkin pie at thanksgiving dinner? Well, pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, which is the amino acid that contributes to sleepiness. It also helps the body make serotonin, which assists in feeling a sense of relaxation. So not only will you be sleeping better, you will also experience and improvement in mood.

 

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With pumpkin’s high fibre content, it also helps to protect your heart. A recent Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals found that those who ate a diet high in fibre had a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who ate less fibre.

 

                                                      Boosts your Immune System

boost-immune-systemPumpkin can help you fight off that pesky cold or flu that often comes hand in hand with fall. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 11 milligrams, or nearly 20% of the 60 milligrams the IOM recommends women need daily, whilst men should aim for around 75 milligrams.

 

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Trista Chan is a Client Services Associate at Optimity.  She leverages her education in nutrition and experience in corpoate health to guide organizations in building healthy, engaged employees.  Her “me-time” activities include yoga, reading health blogs, cooking….did she mention she likes wellness?  Her passion for all things health-related shines through in both her work and personal life.  

Leveraging Opportunities During Open Enrolment

Posted by Laura Carter

TIME STAMP: 2 MINUTE READ

Open enrollment season does not traditionally elicit much excitement among HR professionals or the employee population they serve. There is a lot of administrative work involved and employees are usually inundated with an overload of dry communications materials.

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But are we missing a great chance to get employees thinking about their personal health, their lifestyle goals or even their contribution to building a great workplace culture? In my 10 years of implementing employee wellness programs, I have always been surprised at this lost opportunity to engage employees in a discussion on their personal health goals and needs. If anything, open enrolment season is the one time that you have the ear of your entire employee base, because everyone is invested on some level, in knowing how they are impacted by the company health and benefits plan. Therefore, it makes complete sense that this is the optimal time to get a company-wide conversation started on health and wellness, and ignite some excitement to build a stronger, more energetic company culture.

 

At Optimity, we know that an important piece of a well-utilized wellness program is an engaging communication plan. It’s important to know your audience. We see from experience, that rolling out an ‘employee success’ program, instead of ‘wellness’, garners a lot more support from those who traditionally don’t get too excited about health and wellness. Which is important because those are the folks who stand to benefit the most from these offerings.

 

Just as important, is recognizing the personal needs and starting points of each individual. The cookie-cutter approach just doesn’t work! Incorporating all facets of wellness and personal development in a meaningful way that is based on behavioural science is most likely to create real, measurable results. Add rewards and some fun challenges into the mix, and there is a great opportunity to build a happier, more dynamic work culture on top of everything else!

 

Above all, it makes sense to start the wellness conversation at renewal time, because there is no denying that the two have an interdependent relationship. For too long, wellness and benefits have sat in different silos, even though we know that the ‘wellness’ of an individual is obviously going to impact their needs, in terms of benefits utilization. In this day and age, where chronic illness dominates the top disease areas for most organizations,  we would be remiss to overlook the connection between employee health behaviours and the consequent health outcomes we see when they need to utilize the company benefits and drug plans. Investing time in a preventative approach through engaging communications and customized offerings will go a long way in catching people before they develop chronic illness. Having a little fun along the way and building a more positive corporate culture is just the cherry on top!

 

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Want to learn more about best practices in employee engagement and wellness? Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com.

At Optimity we pride ourselves on driving employee engagement and health, providing a ROI to demonstrate success, all while saving valuable time for HR teams.

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The Corporate Benefits of Employees Who Sleep

Posted by Abena Osei-Kwabena 

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According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted in the U.S., less than 40% of adults are getting enough sleep. To be productive, adults are recommended to sleep for a minimum of 7 hours on average per night. Being deficient in sleep is costing companies $63 million in lost efficiency.

 

Sleep deprivation can also lead to major health issues that affect your on-job performance and productivity. So it’s no surprise that many organisations are now paying their employees to take a nap on the job to get them refreshed and productive. Google, which has been ranked as one of the best companies to work for, gives their employees a number of wellness benefits including access an on-site gym, a spa and massage centre, and a unique nap station where they can take 40-minute naps on recliner chairs, while listening to music to help alleviate their stress. This has proven to boost their employees’ performance and aid them in producing a better quality of work.

Based on a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, not getting enough sleep can decrease your alertness and efficiency, and long-term sleep deprivation can increase your risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, obesity and elevated stress levels.

 

To prevent the onset of these issues, a rising number of organisations have been introducing Sleep Management Programmes to educate employees on the importance of sleep and its impact on wellbeing and job performance. These programmes also educate employees on the issues associated with excessive use of their phone before bed, the benefits of having at least 7 hours of sleep, how impactful sleep is on their performance and behaviour, and the benefits of a nap room in the office.

 

Here are some tips on how to make your office more nap friendly:

 

Have a dedicated nap area

Creating a comfortable and welcoming space for napping with couches and relaxing music (or peace and quiet) will encourage employees to de-stress in the middle of the work day. Afterwards, they’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle their workloads.

 

Make napping a part of the business culture

Introducing a culture of napping to your company will normalize it and lessen the guilt that your employees may experience over having a quick nap during the workday. They need to be encouraged to take a small break from their desk.

 

Schedule nap times

Scheduling a 20-minute nap before making an important business decision can actually help in making the best decision. Studies show that making decisions when you haven’t had enough sleep often don’t turn out to be the best decision for the company.

So, nappers rejoice! By leaving a little room in their schedule for a nap, employees become healthier, more productive and less stressed!

 


Follow us on Twitter to stay current on the top cost-containment wellness strategies.  To learn more about cessation programs for smoking and their impact on your ROI, check out this link: Corporate smoking cessation programs and ROI.

 

Abena is a Client Services Associate at Optimity. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a BSc in Global Health. She is passionate about human rights and health education, and hopes to develop tailored interventions to combat health inequities around the globe. Her interests include story writing, camping and exploring different cultures on her travels.

 

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Get the Most from Your Corporate HRA Programs

If you need to maximise the ROI from your corporate healthcare program, then it’s wise to adopt a step by step approach. Before anything else, an extensive and complete Health Risk Appraisal/ Assessment of your organization is an absolute must for any such program to be successful.

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 What an HRA must include?

 If you need to maximise the ROI from your corporate healthcare program, then it’s wise to adopt a step by step approach. Before anything else, an extensive and complete Health Risk Appraisal/ Assessment of your organization is an absolute must for any such program to be successful.

What an HRA must include?

Typically a HRA gives you a complete rundown about demographic characteristics, lifestyle information, personal and family medical history, height and weight, body composition analysis and blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels of your workforce. Specific and individual chronic conditions need to be elaborative.

 

What you must consider before designing and implementing an HRA program?

An effective HRA is one which maintains ethics, is technically sound and able to provide feedback and give space for follow ups. Providing incentives for participation and healthy mode of administration keeps the enthusiasm and eases the task. In every way, ROIs need to be calculated accurately before designing the final blueprint of the program.

What are the benefits of HRA?

HRAs give you comprehensive information about your workforce’s real age. For example, if your company have 60% of employees as obese and only 5% of are smokers, then fitness and diet programs need to have a larger focus. It also gives indications about what work or psychological conditions may be contributing to the problem.

 

How can HRAs go wrong?

If HRAs are not analysed properly, it can give you low or absolutely no ROI. HRAs can go wrong when you haven’t prepared your questionnaire properly (especially when assessing mental health related problems), by not maintaining ethics and secrecy, by making it a lengthy and time consuming process and by not explaining the process well or being unable to provide immediate, true and technical feedbacks.

 

Why you should create a momentum?

Studies show that 90% of employees say yes to the conduction of HRAs, but only 62% of them actually turn up. Most of them are disinterested and take corporate healthcare programs as an irrelevant process. Unless you are making it compulsory, corporate HRA programs need to be promoted, well explained and encouraged. You must explain how these programs can actually help each individual in maximizing their performance in both the workplace and in their personal life.

 

How you can ease the process of HRAs?

A recent study shows that more than 23% of respondents feel hesitant to open up to a corporate associated healthcare professional. However, if they are provided an online platform, they feel much more comfortable. Online HRA is also faster and the employer gets easy and immediate access to the contents and functionality. The more employees participate in the process, the better your data analysis and hence the more accurate your ROI calculations are.

 

What you must consider before designing and implementing an HRA program?

An effective HRA is one which maintains ethics, is technically sound and able to provide feedback and give space for follow ups. Providing incentives for participation and healthy mode of administration keeps the enthusiasm and eases the task. In every way, ROIs need to be calculated accurately before designing the final blueprint of the program.

 

What are the benefits of HRA?

HRAs give you comprehensive information about your workforce’s real age. For example, if your company have 60% of employees as obese and only 5% of are smokers, then fitness and diet programs need to have a larger focus. It also gives indications about what work or psychological conditions may be contributing to the problem.

 

How can HRAs go wrong?

If HRAs are not analysed properly, it can give you low or absolutely no ROI. HRAs can go wrong when you haven’t prepared your questionnaire properly (especially when assessing mental health related problems), by not maintaining ethics and secrecy, by making it a lengthy and time consuming process and by not explaining the process well or being unable to provide immediate, true and technical feedbacks.

 

Why you should create a momentum?

Studies show that 90% of employees say yes to the conduction of HRAs, but only 62% of them actually turn up. Most of them are disinterested and take corporate healthcare programs as an irrelevant process. Unless you are making it compulsory, corporate HRA programs need to be promoted, well explained and encouraged. You must explain how these programs can actually help each individual in maximizing their performance in both the workplace and in their personal life.

 

How you can ease the process of HRAs?

A recent study shows that more than 23% of respondents feel hesitant to open up to a corporate associated healthcare professional. However, if they are provided an online platform, they feel much more comfortable. Online HRA is also faster and the employer gets easy and immediate access to the contents and functionality. The more employees participate in the process, the better your data analysis and hence the more accurate your ROI calculations are.

 

 

Hilary is a Wellness Advisor at Optimity. She graduated from the University of Guelph with a B.Sc. in Human Kinetics. She aims to empower others to live their healthiest and happiest lives. Her interests are swimming, hiking and hanging out with friends and family. Wellness is a big part of her life and she hopes to make it a part of others.

 

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How Moving Helps You Avoid Downtime and Feeling Exhausted

Do you feel that despite sitting all day, you are left feeling exhausted and tired before the clock strikes 7?  Most of us are guilty of a sedentary lifestyle. A lifestyle where we wake up, drive to work, sit for 8 hours in front of our computer screens, go home and doze off to sleep while watching TV or reading a book.

One might wonder how all the energy burns out without consciously doing any physically challenging activity.  Well apparently, less physical activity is the reason behind being unusually tired and exhausted.  It may sound counter-intuitive, but over the past years, numerous research has proven that physical activity is vital for us to stay healthy. Moving is important to stay active and energetic all day long.

Here are a few reasons why staying active is important:

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Stimulate your mind

Researchers suggest that there are unexpected links between our mental and physical fitness. When we are mentally stressed, we automatically feel dull and exhausted. Taking a break from work and moving around for a bit can help your brain function better. You will be surprised how a few minutes of physical activity like a walk in the park or Yoga can have a positive effect on your mood.

 

Get rid of sleepiness

We all go through that 3 P.M slump every day where no amount of caffeine can help us stay awake. Try switching your coffee with a walk around your office building and you will instantly get an energy boost. Moving around helps take the edge off sleepiness and avoid down time.

 

Give your eyes a break

While we’re hard at work our eyes are constantly glued to our computer screen, which causes eye strain and fatigue. As most of us tend to work for long hours in front of computers, it is bound to result in exhaustion at the end of the day. Moving around gives your eyes some time to relax and help reduce tiredness.

Periodically taking a break from your work and computer screen by being up on your feet has a lot of benefits for our physical as well as mental health.

 

 

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Trista Chan is a Wellness Strategy Advisor at Optimity.  She leverages her education in nutrition and experience in corpoate health to guide organizations in building healthy, engaged employees.  Her “me-time” activities include yoga, reading health blogs, cooking….did she mention she likes wellness?  Her passion for all things health-related shines through in both her work and personal life.  

 

Sign up for Optimity to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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7 Benefits of Technology in Wellness Programs

Posted by Jane Wang

Technology surrounds us in our everyday life – it’s always changing, and workplace wellness is soon to be revolutionized by this. Where programs that are only in-person or web-based with no mobile access, or rely on substandard self-reported tracking methods, will never be able to truly impact the work-life habits of most of their employees.

Employees these days are using smartphones, wearable devices and mobile apps and it’s fair to say that almost every one of those smartphone users has downloaded at least one health or wellness related app, so why not one that has incentives and connects them to their company culture?

Accessibility and personalization is the key to designing a highly engaging program. Technology and daily wellness practices can complement each other greatly. For a workplace wellness program to be successful, and to have a real ROI, it needs to incorporate up-to-date technology. 

With Machine Learning and advance data analytics, a next-generation digital corporate wellness program like Optimity can give ubiquitous support to your people 24 / 7, and also predictively find the high-risk population to preventively give additional support and coaching to help them on their journey.

 

Here are 7 ways that incorporating technology can improve your workplace wellness program.

  1. Increased Productivity

According to a study by Rackspace, The Human Cloud at Work, employees wearing wearables at work became 8.5 percent more productive and 3.5 percent more satisfied with their jobs. Multiple studies have proven that employees who use wearable technology, such as the Apple Watch, Fitbit or Amazfit, are more productive in the workplace and tend to live a healthier lifestyle that has a positive impact on their work life.

  1.  Gathering Data

Data gathered from the wearables mentioned above can help your company fine tune the wellness program that is already in place. Wearables can provide employers with a great amount of data to help evaluate the return on investment of the wellness program. Obviously your employees will need to consent to sharing this information first!

Because the trends for health apps and wearables are a great social wave of self-quantification, having a corporate wellness platform that accepts different wearables and their unique set of data outputs becomes increasingly important. These multiple data sets should be automatically cleaned, standardized, and aggregated so that it is ready for regular strategic analysis in your corporate platform.

Gathering data for the sake of having it isn’t enough. You must add-value to each employee’s wellness experience through insights from their data. Platforms and services like Optimity, help you with exactly that: to analyze wearable data and turn the activitiy statistics into useful insights and recommendations that is helpful for each employee.

  1.   Reduce Sick days

Using these wearable technologies and using wellness apps can help reduce employee sick days, as well as increase work-life balance. Employees can become more aware of their physical activity, sleep patterns and stress levels which, if this aggregated set of data is given to Employers, can help companies to evaluate the health risks to their employees and potentially prevent long term sick leave due to illness.

  1.  Reduced Stress Levels

Technology that helps to support employee’s mental health and physical activity levels can help to decrease employee stress through interactive mind games and get-active programs. There are also additional content categories such as financial wellness and resilience training, taking care of employee life stress holistically. This leads to a more productive employee and a healthier team!

  1.  Supportive Culture

Many companies now leverage wellness platforms, such as Optimity, to also serve as a mobile-first company content hub where news, articles and experiences are shared with employees daily. Since mobile is where most employees are interacting with news forums, it seems habitual for them to also use it for connect to your workplace culture and receive encouragement for healthy living. If all of your employees use the same program or app to track their diet and lifestyle choices, it can create a stronger bond amongs peers. It boosts team morale and assist in motivating less enthusiastic employees to be a part of the company wellness culture.

  1.  Increased Motivation

We are creatures of habit who love to collect things along the way: badges, rewards, achievements. So using wellness apps that is designed with a gamifiedexperience can motivate employees to live a healthier lifestyle. By doing micro-workouts, mind games and healthy eating recipes, they are collecting lots of digital and real-life goodies that give them that dopamine hit for making good choices. Now employees know where to go to get the motivation and formed a habit to track their overall state of health, which increases their sustained ability to continue with your program.

  1.  Company Savings

Encouraging employees to use technology to track their workplace health and fitness can decrease employer healthcare costs, especially in the face of rising premiums. Having a well-run digital program significantly reduces the admin costs that come with in person programs or ad-hoc fragmented initiatives. Optimity offers training sessions and automated programming administered by dedicated client success managers who take care of the customization, coordination, internal marketing and also continuously injects “love” into a successful program. These services save HR managers about 250 hours per year and also achieves on average 10% higher annual participation rate than those ran internally!

The ultimate goal for any employer in implementing a workplace health and wellness plan is to shift the mindset from acute care to preventative care. If employees are focused on their health and take measures to prevent illness or disease, this is a win-win situation for both employees and the employer. Encouraging employees to lead a healthier lifestyle such as incorporating exercise can assist in lowering stress levels, which can ultimately lead to a more productive team.

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