How Can Holistic Wellness Apps Lead to Habit Changes?

Posted by Jane Wang

We all know that mobile applications (apps) have the potential to help people increase their physical activity, but little is known about the action change techniques marketed in these apps.

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The most common techniques involve providing instruction on how to perform exercises, providing feedback on performance and goal-setting for physical activity. A class analysis revealed the existence of two types of apps, educational and motivational, depending on their habit change techniques.

Mental health and habit change techniques tend not to be widely marketed in physical activity apps. Based on the available descriptions of the observed techniques in health behavioral theories, people may need multiple apps to maintain a healthy habit change.

Mental health and habit change technology have fallen behind and the unique nature of mental health services can make it difficult to develop a technology that successfully intervenes in human behavior. However, with advanced research geared towards habit change and mental health, an increasing number of organizations are innovating in this space.

Many symptoms of poor mental health are generally behavioral, and seeing as though most people now have smart phones at their disposal, access to technology that can monitor habitual patterns seems like an obvious next step. This technology can be used to assess patterns that are typical of a person who may suffer from mental health issues.

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Dr Uri Nivo explains how this new technology could benefit people wanting to change or monitor their behavior.

“Bipolar disorder, for example, starts with a manic episode. A patient who usually makes five or ten calls a day might suddenly start making dozens of calls a day. How much they talk, text, how many places they visit, when they go to bed and for how long — these are all indicators of mental health and provide important insights to clinicians who want to catch a disorder before it is full blown.”

With fitness wearables and other popular smart devices that help people track their physical activity and well-being, it only makes sense that there would be a specialized app to support habit change and mental health.

 

 

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Wellbeing in the Workplace: Why Employee Engagement Matters (Optimity Webinar Recap)

Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya 


We had a great webinar in May, in honour of Global Employee Health and Fitness month. I sat down with Optimity’s CEO, Jane Wang, to talk about how to promote best practice tips in the workplace to promote employee engagement. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar:  

Employee engagement is the number one problem to solve; with absenteeism and productivity as the second top concern for HR leaders.

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We took a quick poll at the start of the webinar to see what some of the leading issues were in the workplace, and it turns out employee engagement was a huge concern for 77% of our attendees, so our webinar topic clearly hit home with a lot of people.

With growing focus on employee health, corporate wellness programs are increasingly becoming the order of the day. Research shows, that those individuals who exercise frequently, stayed home from work on an average 2.11 days fewer annually and had 31% lower health care costs than individuals who didn’t exercise regularly. These numbers alone stress the importance of setting up corporate wellness programs.

Almost 50% of medical costs are incurred due to illnesses that can be avoided with small lifestyle changes. Corporations have begun to realize the importance of healthy employees and are working to encourage employees to lead increasingly healthier lifestyles.

One of the studies we discussed in the webinar by Aon Hewitt, established that successful employers make employee engagement a business priority. When employers care about their employees, the employees respond with a better rational and motivation. This leads to 20% increase in engaged employees. When putting this number into context, it means if an organization has 30,000 employees, then there are 6000 employees who are going above and beyond with their jobs to serve their customers and drive efficiency. The graph below reflects these stats, where there is roughly a 20% gap between “best employers” and others (employers who don’t prioritize employee engagement), and we can see the difference in how much more successful the organization is when employee engagement is at the top of the employers agenda.  

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Organizations know that wellness programs are key to addressing employee issues, which is why more than half the organizations already have wellness programs.

wb chart-2With the second poll that we took, it clearly supported the new industry norm of wellness programs being a prominent addition in majority of workplaces, with 77% stating they already incorporate a wellness program in their organization.

 

Wellness programs don’t just benefit employers, it also supports the needs of the employees, some of which are:

●  Improving their physical strength, stamina, and general well being
●  Improving their focus at work
●  Increasing job satisfaction and fostering a positive outlook on life
●  Bettering relations with co-workers and supervisors  

An effective workplace wellness programs is the backbone to improving engagement in the workplace. Gallup’s most recent global research finds only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, and according to the latest State of the American Workplace report, just 33% of employed residents in the United States are engaged at work.

Here are two important facts that came about a study done by The Corporate Leadership Council on employees performance and retention:

  • Engaged companies grow profits as much as 3X faster than their competitors.
  • Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the organization.

Other key findings were that:

  • A disengaged employee costs an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary.
  • Disengaged employees cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year due to lost productivity.

All these key findings suggest that if companies want to boost productivity and profitability, customer loyalty, and bring down attrition and disengagement losses, they need to start engaging employees.

So you may be wondering, what’s the solution, especially if more than half of organizations have already incorporated a wellness program, why is engagement so low? Well the problem and the solution lie in the approach to wellness. A lot of the organizations are still relying on traditional approach to wellness programs, and that’s not to say they’re not good, they’re just not as effective in getting high participation and and sustainability. What successful organizations are doing is going digital.

Non-traditional approaches to wellness are still the most common route used by many organizations. 

wb chart-3The last poll we did during this webinar was to see how our attendees faired with using a digital wellness tool. Although a few have had the chance to implement it, more than half do not, and this just shows why only a handful of organizations have such great engagement rates, they’re implementing wellness programs the right way, the digital way.

One of the main reason’s why a digital wellness program is so effective is with their use of a dynamic and innovative health risk assessment (HRA).

An effective HRA allows the wellness program to understand the nuances of an individual’s statistical situation by collecting their key biometric data and health information. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) we’ve now been able to integrate a wellness system to take information from the HRA and use it to automatically create a tailored program for the individual. This approach customizes, and tailors the program to the individuals needs which is a huge leap forward from traditional approaches that focuses solely on fitness and nutrition, and requires on site attendance for wellness programs. The digital approach gives the individual the power to create true and meaningful change. 

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To learn more about implementing a successful wellness program that increases engagement, be sure to check out our webinar, where we also go over our top 3 best practice tips that you can implement in your workplace, even if you don’t (yet) have Optimity.  

A comprehensive corporate wellness programs have proven to be beneficial and cost effective to the employer as well as the employee in the long run. If you’d like more information on implementing a successful wellness program, please reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com.  

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One-size fits all wellness programs are a thing of the past!

160901_Ladder_Ramo_healthcare_wellness_program_scam.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2.jpgWe know that everyone is unique, so why do we still think that a one-size fits all wellness program can succeed in our workplaces? Employees are individuals with different needs and wants and a single approach to wellness can only benefit a small number of employees, which means that it is more likely to fail.

With research showing that an effective employee wellness program can provide a 300 – 600% ROI, it is worth the time and money to invest in a successful wellness program.

Health is a personal issue and an employee that feels obligated to join a one-size fits all wellness program is doomed to fail. Not only will they not feel personally supported, but there is a high chance that it simply will not work for them. As an Employer, you need to get to know your employees and customize your wellness program to suit.

 

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Here are our top tips on creating a successful wellness program in your workplace.

Avoid a one size fits all program

When implementing your wellness program, think of two people from completely different ends of the spectrum. If your wellness program will not meet the needs of both people, then it probably won’t succeed in your company. One size fits all approaches to wellness programs decrease the motivation levels of your workforce. If your employees are not feeling important or valued, then they are less likely to participate.


Adapt to the workforce

According to a recent study, 76% of employers now taking on an innovative approach to wellness programs that address physical, mental, and financial health.  Modern companies are turning to their employees to understand what they value and to create a good company culture. Speak to your employees to figure out what they will appreciate in a corporate wellness program. A 55-year-old female and 26-year-old male are bound to have completely different needs and wants in a wellness program, and it’s important to adapt your program to suit both.


Get professional help

It can be difficult to implement an employee wellness program alone. Without the most up to date data and tools it can open your wellness program up to flaws and decrease the chances of success. Employee wellness programs not only benefit employees, but provide increasingly high ROI’s to company’s as well, so it is worth investing in some help to set up your customized employee wellness program.

 

Here at Optimity we specialize in providing a customized solution to wellness programs, while monitoring your ROI. Optimity’s technology platform is scientifically supported. We help the average worker take productive 30 second to 2-minute micro-breaks that have long last beneficial impact. These micro-habits boosts their mood, helps them focus and encourage social connectedness to their culture. Our pocket coach is also customized to each employee and provides your company with historical and ongoing claims analysis to help you understand your highest costs.

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The Future of Health and Wellness Today

trends-header1.jpgDid you know that Americans spent an average of $714 on out of pocket health care in 2016? This number continues to increase year on year. The rising costs of healthcare in North America makes it crucial for companies to start putting a larger focus on corporate wellness programs. The growing industry of corporate wellness programs shows that new technology, data and increased insights can really help to encourage employees to stay fit and healthy. As a result these outcomes not only benefit the employee but also the company.

The healthcare cost crisis has become so important, that major corporations like Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan are teaming up to create a new business that is designed to lower health care costs for their employees and provide increased employee satisfaction while reducing costs.

To provide a beneficial corporate wellness program we first need to talk about our current workforce. With Millennials becoming the largest generation in the US workforce (35%) they have a great impact on the wellness market. This generation has a new outlook on wellness and are said to spend the most amount of money on health programs, even though they earn less than any other generation. They also have a greater knowledge and interest in technology, which gives them easy access to wellness information and programs. Working remotely has also become a trend throughout the past few years, and as these current workforce trends change we realize that work-life balance is a thing of the past. Our digital world has us constantly connected, which means we are checking emails at any time of the night and chatting to friends and colleagues during dinner. Life and work have integrated together, and our wellness programs need to change to reflect this. New trends need new solutions.

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At Optimity, our dynamic and personalized approach helps this modern generation of professionals be at their best, whether they work from the office or remotely. We support their modern routines and offer a holistic approach to wellness in the forms of mental health, financial wellness, and physical health; all of which we believe contribute to a person’s overall health. Our programs also offer 24/7 support that is dedicated to the user, because we know that a wellness program should be designed to offer support, even if you are not in the office. We know that a one-size fits all approach doesn’t help anyone, so our programs are tailored to employee’s specific goals and needs. We help people manage their time and encourage them to build healthy habits, no matter what kind of profession or workforce they are in.

Workplace Wellness Programs are here to stay, and like any program, these initiatives are only ever effective if they are done correctly. Employees continue to request wellness benefits from their employers. It’s about time companies start paying attention to the holistic wellbeing of their employees and incorporate a proactive wellness program like Optimity that fits into their everyday working life.

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Want to know more about how we can help you implement a personalized coaching program in your company? Reach out to us at engage@myOptimity.com and let’s have a chat.

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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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Why Wellness Works in the Workplace

Posted by Hilary Turk

Ted DeWolf, a Sales Manager from Levitt-Safety describes his positive experience with using Optimity when it was implemented into his workplace. In the post he describes his thoughts on workplace wellness and how Optimity has helped to change his workplace habits for the better.

Read the Full Post Here

Like many workforces, Levitt-Safety employees were sedentary, the majority spending 8+ hours sitting at their desks.  Research has shown that sitting for extended periods can cause:

  • Strained neck and shoulders
  • Back problems
  • Poor digestion
  • Reduced brain function
  • Poor cirulation
  • Muscle degeneration
  • Leg disorders
  • Organ damage

Optimity platform helps you effortlessly address these issues through powerful micro-actions. These small 30 second to 1 minute activities are delivered through apps and wearables so that you can complete them during the day seamlessly. For example, Optimity app will remind you to take a walk around the office mid-afternoon to substitute that extra cup of afternoon coffee or to do a shoulder stretch to improve your posture. With these small actions, much of the preventable medication such as sleeping aids and back pain medication can be significantly reduced – producing a clear hard ROI and measurable health benefits for the employees.

What is Wellness?

At first, Ted didn’t have a good understanding of what “workplace wellness” actually meant. With doing more research he has since learnt that “wellness” is more holistic in nature. It considers all other aspects that contribute to health and not just merely the absence of disease.

“Proper work-life balance, means you can achieve a self-determined state of well-being that lets you effectively manage many responsibilities at work, at home and even in your community; it supports positive physical, emotional, family and social health without undue stress or other negative impact.”

How Optimity has Helped:

Since Levitt-Safety launched Optimity, they received strong employee feedback on how their quality of life improved. By taking little steps to encourage their employees to assume better working and coping habits, it has helped them along their personal and professional path towards a better work-life balance by injecting more focus on life into work!

Optimity provides a mobile app that serves as a pocket coach on daily habits that helps busy professionals stay healthy, cope with stress and get amazing tangible rewards ($50 Nike, Amazon, Starbucks gift cards). It syncs with 258 wearables and popular apps to pull in activity data so it can coach you smartly and according to your daily routines.

 

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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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Proactive vs. Reactive Corporate Wellness Programs

Posted by Abena Osei-Kwabena

To date, most people rely on reactive healthcare services, that is, they visit healthcare professionals only when a problem arises or a condition worsens. However, the benefits of a proactive healthcare approach can actually save more lives.

As the saying goes, “prevention is better than a cure.” A proactive approach prepares the body even before you are ill and can reduce health costs over the years. When educating employees for a proactive healthcare approach, they need to be provided with detailed information about how to minimize their health risks, prevent impending health issues, manage existing chronic conditions and prepare for work-related emergencies.

 Over 51.6% of Canadians over 20 has been diagnosed with some type of chronic disease. Lifestyle changes are one of the biggest contributors to conditions such as cancer, obesity, kidney problems, and cardiovascular and liver diseases. Stressful work conditions can cause common issues like back pain and insomnia, as well. It is roughly estimated that Canadians lose about $130 billion in productivity losses and $70 billion in direct healthcare costs due to chronic illnesses.

 The top four illnesses that can decrease an employee’s performance are headache, flu, back pain and arthritis. Such conditions are not only detrimental to the individual, but they can indirectly impact their coworkers as well. For example, if they were to go on a sick leave, their coworkers’ workloads may increase. Corporate wellness programs, however, can greatly reduce absenteeism, direct healthcare expenses and compensation claims and thus can provide an ROI of $1.40 to $4.70 for every $1 invested by the corporation. Breaking the fact sheet, the ROI for different programs for every $1 spent includes health risk assessments ($6.04), fitness programs ($4.90), wellness coaching ($4.50), smoking cessation ($3.50), flu shots ($2.10) and obesity management ($1.17).

 Employers must keep in mind that their employees are their greatest asset, and need proper care. Besides a strategic implementation of effective wellness programs, regularly conducting health fairs boosts the productivity of your employees and helps to educate them on preventing and managing health issues.

   


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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