Success of Habits
The importance of establishing healthy and productive habits has always been essential. Whether it be at an individual or organizational level, habits can play a key role in quality of work, productivity, and overall satisfaction.
What is a habit?
A habit is a routine of behaviour that is repeated and tends to occur subconsciously (Definition of Habit. Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved on August 29, 2008). Developing a good habit and breaking a bad habit can be hard to do, but understanding how habits work, as well as their effects, can make a big impact.
The Habit Loop
One of the most popular recent mentions of habits and habit training is in the bestselling book, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. The book popularized the applications of habits and how to harness them to your advantage. Duhigg describes the Habit Loop as a three-step process, a uniform formula for any habit:
- The Cue
- The Routine
- The Reward
The first step, the cue, is the trigger that initiates the Habit Loop.
Here’s an example of a Habit Loop. Every time you are bored at work, you walk to the kitchen and grab a cookie. The cue, or trigger, is being bored. The routine is walking to the kitchen and grabbing a cookie. And the reward is a sweet crunchy cookie and more importantly, relief from boredom for a few minutes.
Over the course of a few months, you may find yourself gaining weight from the frequent cookies. It develops into a bad habit that you’re struggling to break.
So how do we overcome this habit loop? Studies described in The Power of Habit suggest that the easiest way to break a habit is to change the routine. By only replacing a single step of the Habit Loop, it makes changing a bad habit into a good one much easier. Going back to the snacking example:
Previously the Habit Loop was:
- Cue: boredom
- Routine: getting a cookie
- Reward: relief from boredom
But you can change it to:
- Cue: boredom
- Routine: chatting with a coworker
- Reward: relief from boredom
The cue and the reward are the same, making the habit much easier to change. However, the habit routine has now changed from a calorie-intensive one to a social, guilt-free solution.
So why are habits important?
Habits can be incredibly powerful. A single habit’s effect can trickle into every aspect of your lifestyle—even in ways that you would not expect. These habits are called keystone habits. For example, starting to go for a 20 minute jog every morning can improve job performance and help develop positive relationships. There is no obvious relationship between going for a job and getting a promotion at work. However, keystone habits have a subtle way of impacting a lifestyle change.
When people aim for small and manageable behaviour changes, they can set off a ripple effect and stimulate further changes. Forming one small positive habit can increase self-confidence for working towards other health-promoting habits. In the workplace, habits can affect employee behaviour, productivity, and workplace culture. Making sure that the habits that are formed in the workplace are positive and healthy is vital.
Employee wellness has been climbing peoples’ lists of priorities for the past few years. From yoga classes to snack programs and even smoking cessation courses, the variety of wellness initiatives has substantially grown as the positive correlation between employee health and productivity has become irrefutable.
However, such programs have been around for years––they are categorized as Wellness 1.0. These methods are time consuming, often rely on external expertise, and require groups of people to be physically present and the same place and time during a workday. Since then, new data has emerged to develop the modern-day wellness program: Wellness 2.0.
What is Wellness 2.0?
Today’s most effective wellness programs use digital tools and artificial intelligence to not only provide employees with holistic health solutions at any place and time, but also a centralized platform to track program data and employee progress. These programs shift employees’ notion of health from something that requires additional time to perform to something that is practiced every day through small habits.
Why does wellness matter for employees?
Let’s talk about why employee wellness is imperative to everyone. Here are the top few reasons employees and employers should care:
For businesses to thrive, their employees must perform efficiently with their best capabilities. A survey conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that among employers offering and measuring wellness efforts, over half saw a decrease in absenteeism, while 66% saw increased productivity.
Furthermore, 31% of respondents have rated mental illness as the number one reason for loss of productivity. Holistic health and productivity come hand in hand: Programs that use Wellness 2.0 concepts can effectively improve and maintain employee productivity without excessively cutting into excess work hours.
A study from the University of Sheffield found that happier employees are higher performing. Mental health, stress relief, and physical activity are components of a well rounded wellness program that can lead to happier employees, and therefore better employees.
Did you know that Americans spent an average of $714 on out of pocket healthcare in 2016? With these numbers increasing each year, employers are beginning to spend more money on their employees’ health as well. Wellness programs help cut annual increases in medical care costs. A meta-analysis shows that medical costs fall by $3.27 for ever $1 spent on wellness programs, and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every $1 spent. The negative correlation between an effective wellness program and medical costs is clear and crucial to address.
A study by Leadership IQ showed that almost half of new employees left a company within 18 months, with 89% of these failures resulting from poor culture fit. Implementing an effective wellness program not only helps employees feel happier at work, but also creates a sense of community and care in the workplace.
Employee wellness should be a top priority for everybody. Prioritizing health by implementing Wellness 2.0 strategies in the workplace not only benefits employees, but also the company by decreasing healthcare costs and turnover while increasing productivity. Investing in employee wellness means investing in the future of your company.
“Treatment without prevention is simply unsustainable.” – Bill Gates
What is preventive medicine?
Preventive medicine’s goal is to protect and promote health to people before they become sick. It’s about preventing disease and illness rather than treating it after people get sick.
Why is preventive medicine important?
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans use half of the preventive services offered to them by employers.
Preventive medicine is critical to human health. In and out of the workplace, preventive medicine has been transforming healthcare. The first and most obvious reason is that employees deserve to maintain their health and be healthy. They are the most important resource of a company, and human capital can make or break an organization.
The second is that from an organizational perspective, it makes fiscal sense to invest in preventive medicine. By taking the necessary steps to prevent illness, this translates to reduced absenteeism, reduced health care costs, and increased productivity. A survey reported that employer health care costs have increased 36% in the last five years. Now is the time to invest in preventive healthcare for employees.
Effective and meaningful investments in health and wellness can be done through investigating health risk factors, including disease, disorders, and chronic pains associated with a group of employees.
Furthermore, preventive health also applies to leadership. A study shows that when leadership within an organization is participating and engaged, it gets the best engagement and returns with preventive health within the other employee groups (Goetzel et al, 2010).
Sometimes a certain subgroup of employees can be at high risk for certain diseases, including but not limited to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Using personalized and customizable preventive wellness programs can target and provide the appropriate programs for those subgroups. Common risk factors associated with chronic disease are: tobacco use, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and unhealthy eating. Read Optimity’s blog for an example of focusing on a subgroup: https://blog.myoptimity.com/2018/02/20/how-to-promote-healthy-heart-lifestyle-choices-at-your-company-webinar-recap/.
Healthy Habits in Group Settings
Jim Rohn, motivational speaker and development coach, said that any person is the average of the five people they spend the most time with. Our thinking process, self esteem, and decision-making are all affected by our close peers. Most importantly, those around us influence our habits, which are the regular tendencies that we perform as directed by the subconscious mind.
How does this rule apply in the context of workplace wellness?
We tend to adopt the characteristics of groups that we are part of, associating ourselves with the group and its characteristics. Promoting a culture of wellness and implementing health initiatives will directly impact many employees, leading them to make lifestyle changes and increase productivity. However, these employees will also positively influence others, creating an environmental norm of healthy habits. Spending time with people who value and model healthy lifestyles changes a person’s definition of “normal”, leading to cognitive and behavioural shifts.
How can I use my wellness programming to optimize this rule?
To truly benefit from this rule of averages in the workplace, employers must establish above-average habits in their employees. Wellness is no longer simply fostered through lunch-and-learns or healthy snack programs; it is a continuous, social aspect of the workplace that should be as habitual as other regular work duties. Today’s digital wellness platforms provide accessible, enjoyable health solutions that are easily integrated into anyone’s life. Employees see their coworkers immerse in community-oriented programs and look to do the same, leading to higher engagement, better health, and increased productivity.
Habits and Employee Engagement
Employee performance is often related to employee health, happiness, and financial security. With high employee engagement, employers can channel the positive attitudes so that employees are more loyal, productive, and healthy. Employee engagement is important because when employees are engaged, they are more efficient, creative, and motivated to produce good work.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is about getting employees excited, loyal, and motivated. The two-way commitment between the organization and its employees is vital to the culture and livelihood of the organizational community. Employee engagement is about “how we create the conditions in which employees offer more of their capability and potential.”
How do habits affect engagement?
Developing positive workplace habits can build up on employee engagement. Some examples of good company habits are daily huddles, weekly messages, forums, and holistic training. At an individual level, effective workplace habits include looking for leadership opportunities, being punctual, and listening to feedback. These measures are great for individual and company success, but there are habits that are even more important than these.
Possibly the most important habits in the workplace are habits related to health and wellness. When employees are healthy—physically, mentally, and financially––they perform better. They also have the energy and ability to perform other positive workplace habits.
Habit development is gradual and sustainable. This means that when organizations invest in habit training, the results are long-term. Using habit-science, we can identify keystone habits that correlate to other good habits. Furthermore, by focusing on the process of habit training, we can improve engagement and create consistency. Continuous improvement of workplace habits can lead to breakthroughs in engagement and productivity.
Microlearning: Another temporary health trend? Just bite-sized training?
Employers may be hesitant to shift from traditional training methods to microlearning; however, using this convenient, focused, and adaptable form of learning can be beneficial for various functions within the workplace.
So, what exactly is Microlearning?
Microlearning is a focused form of training that provides information in the appropriate amount at the appropriate amount to help a learner achieve specific business outcomes. It easily fits into the natural flow of a workday and is based on voluntary participation, thereby giving employees freedom to learn when it is convenient, rather than at a set period in the day such as with seminars. Furthermore, content must be science-based to be considered as microlearning. For example, nutrition facts are based on scientific data rather than the latest celebrity trends. Additionally, microlearning is continually adapted to drive behaviours for specific business results. An organization’s goals are constantly changing with its environment and target market’s needs. With microlearning, employees can be taught new functions and habits that are required to meet these needs without investing in a full-blown training intervention.
How can I create a microlearning strategy?
There are four general steps to creating an effective microlearning strategy. Each strategy will be different depending on your business and goals; however, these steps are a great place to start.
1. Identify End Goals
What is the problem you are solving? How will you measure success? These are questions that you and your peers will have to answer as quantitatively and specifically as possible. Target the aspects of the business or past incidents that led to these conversations and needs.
2. Required Behaviours
What steps are required by employees to solve this problem? Again, the more specifically these steps are broken down, the more efficient the process will be. Avoiding ambiguity is key to any microlearning strategy.
3. Separate Foundational Knowledge
It is crucial to distinguish knowledge that is necessary for the behaviours and knowledge that is simply nice to know. Microlearning should focus on the crucial information required to execute the behaviours, while knowledge that is nice to know can always be added on-demand. For example, to execute a manufacturing step, it is crucial to understand how to use a particular machine and safety precautions in performing the step.
4. Build Content
With all these steps above in place, you and the key stakeholders in the organization can consider what kind of content to implement. Short videos? Reminders? Reinforcement questions? There is a large variety of content type; however, it is important that the content is suited to both your organization and its needs.
Health does not simply come in the form of a lunch-and-learn or an hour-long workout session; it is a lifestyle consisting of habits that address health from a holistic perspective. These habits are trained through practicing a routine that is started by a cue and leads to a reward. Such habits are gradual and long-term, leading organizations to healthier employees, higher engagement, and more efficient operations. Furthermore, habit training does not require a comprehensive training intervention. Rather, organizations can incorporate micro-learning so that employees are constantly adapting their habits as the organization’s goals evolve. Healthy employees not only improve a company’s bottom line, but also help individuals lead a more fulfilled life in and out of the workplace.
Optimity can help make the wellness needs for your employees easier to manage. Optimity’s platform is scientifically supported to provide health content and micro activities that are 30 seconds to 2 minute long in order to prevent chronic health outcomes. The proactive approach will produce better workers, who are more healthier, happier and more productive, while bringing down health care costs for the employer. If you want to learn more about how Optimity can help your employees and your organization, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
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