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.

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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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Top 10 Scary Health Cost Stats that Employers Must Know for 2017

Posted by Abena Osei-Kwabena

 

From insurance coverage to increasing the productivity, good health of employees gives good returns to you in the long run. In order to get a high ROI here are the top 10 health cost stats that every employer must know in 2017…

 

1. Rising cost of biologics

Biological pharmaceuticals currently account for less than 3.5% of a corporation’s total healthcare expenditure. However, many new biologics are entering the marketplace and will soon represent 70% of the total medications. With it, the therapy costs can be $25,000 to $75,000, making the average cost of a biologic in the US about $45 compared to just $2 for chemical or molecule-based medicines.

 

2. Oral medication cost vs. injectable costs

Oral medication costs are generally charged to corporate benefits plans, whereas injectable medications and infused drugs are often covered by provincial health plans in Canada.

 

3. Smoking and lifestyle habits

There has been a considerable rise in chronic illness and obesity in the past decade. Smoking habits cost employers $570 million, whereas employees combating obesity cost about $73.1 billion per year.

 

4. Specialty Drugs vs. Transplantation costs

Spending on specialty medicines (medication for cancer, Hepatitis C, etc.) is expected to rise from $187 billion in 2016 to about $402 billion by 2020. Regular spending on specialty drugs can sometimes be higher than even transplant costs. For example, a person with mild liver disease can incur an average annual cost of $17,000 with specialty drugs—which will continue for 10 years, at least! However, compared to liver transplantation costs, the latter can be ten times cheaper.

 

5. The excessive rise in usage of prescription drugs in developed countries

Seventy percent of North Americans are on at least one prescription drug, while 5% of the world’s total population consumes 95% of the world’s prescription drugs. Lack of cost transparency and inaccurate information can result in unnecessarily costly medical bills.

 

6. Inappropriate usage of specialty drugs

There is a significant premature and overuse of specialty drugs. On an average, there is an annual waste of about $3,000 per patient due to inappropriate and unrequired usage of drugs.

 

7. Increase in cost of health insurance premiums

A recent study by National Group on Health, Washington, showed that there will be about a 6% rise in health insurance premiums in the year 2017. The major contributors to it will be specialty pharmacy (31%), high cost claimants (32%) and specific disease on conditions (17%). There will be an overall inflation of 11%.

 

8. Employers Shifting Costs to Workers

Currently, 36% of employers are considering a shared contribution strategy. About 12% of them have already adopted such strategy and this has helped them save over 4% of their expenditure on healthcare programs.

 

9. Medical cost trends needs to be recalibrated

With an 11.9% growth rate in 2007, the numbers for medical costs have steadily declined from from 6.8% in 2015 to 6.5% in 2017. While 50% is spent on outpatient and inpatient costs, there has been a considerable rise in share of pharmaceuticals from 17% to 20%, this year. Offering high deductible health insurance plans can be a savior for employers, yet a burden on employees if not utilized properly.

 

10. Hospitals demand higher prices

According to KHN, hospitals can directly employ physicians and create large and costly medical systems. Additionally, malpractices of premiums and unnecessary tests can cost employers more than $1,400 per person.
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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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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Why Participation Matters

By Trista Chan

Many employers have recognized that they can play a vital and influential role in assisting employees live a healthier lifestyle that can prevent costly chronic conditions. Each year employers spend a fortune subsidizing employee healthcare cost and see a lot fewer sick days from employee’s with a higher well-being and healthier lifestyle. Dollarphotoclub_73498966.jpg

While implementing a wellness program is a no brainer, the most difficult factor is participation. Wellness programs should be carefully designed for the average employee and should be created to ensure that anyone that participates feels welcomed and motivated to make a change. Participation of these programs is a win-win situation for both the employer and employee.

 

It is imperative that the wellness program targets the right group of employee’s. Anti-selection and adverse risk selection occurs when perfectly healthy employees decide to participate in the wellness program. The claim costs for the less healthy employees are not offset by healthy employees, who usually have no claims. This pushes the average claim higher, which means higher premiums and possibly even lower participation as the affordability of the plan declines.

While it’s great to have your already healthy employee’s participating in the wellness program, most of the company costs actually come from “average” employees, who use 9.3 days of absenteeism each year! They also cost the company 10% more on RX drug claims per year and 6.5% more on health insurance and benefits utilization.

 

Disease Management programs need to be tailored and cannot be scaled to all employees. Employee’s with the risk of becoming chronically ill should have a wellness program created for them that includes regular physician visits and preventative care check-ups to monitor their health status. The Wellness program administrators should record and analyse results in house and through a third party to ensure that the management program is working and also give the employee a sense of achievement.

 

The company wellness program must be designed for the “average” employee and achieve at least a 60% participation rate in order to change health and cost outcomes. Employer’s need to know that they are getting value for their investment.

Participation in a wellness program is vital, as it is proven that the more employees you get performing at a better level, the higher their job productivity will be. They also visit the doctor less, have less sick days and also have improved mental state, which can also benefit their colleagues and clients.

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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.  

Understanding the Numbers Game – The Real ROI Story for Engagement and Wellness Programs

Posted by Jane Wang

Unhealthy and disengaged employees are costing North American businesses a whopping $1,100,000,000 per year. Smart organizations are looking to wellness and engagement programs to change their costs, with the average corporate wellness program averaging at $700 per year. But the average participation rates for these programs are below 30%: many organization have little to no tracking of metrics or ROI. This often has people questioning whether wellness programs actually deliver returns, but the real question you should be asking is what type of wellness programs can reduce claims and lower insurance premiums.

The answer is, programs that are tailored to target “at-risk” and “high-risk” employees and also those with >70% participation from all employees to prevent them from becoming disengaged and/or chronically ill.

 

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The most difficult factor in implementing a wellness program is employee participation. Participation penalties do not have a place in the workplace and incentives, while great, can’t force employees to make their lifestyle change alone. The key to a successful program is excellent leadership from the CEO and explanations as to why the wellness program exists and rising health care costs throughout the business.

 

According to a study done by the Gallup State of the American Workplace in 2012, employees that have an overall higher “well-being” have 41% lower health related costs, compared with employees who are struggling with their health, and 62% lower costs than employees who are suffering with their health.

 

Diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and being overweight are just a few factors that at-risk employees endure that can lead to expensive health claims. There are also the employees that are chronically ill and suffer from conditions such as cancer, heart conditions and advanced diabetes. Creating a disease management program for these employees can easily and effectively prevent your insurance premiums from rising. A program that pre-empts 20 unnecessary emergency department visits can easily save a business $50,000.

 

The science of wellness programs improving health is proven, but it is imperative that these programs are targeted at the right group of employees with the right programs with the right level of support and relevant content to ensure success.

 

The key is to engage in proactive health culture to support 100% of your employees, and allow highly data-driven specialist firms (such as Optimity) to use dynamic health risk assessments algorithms and smart targeting coaching programs to find the high-risk employees by engaging your employees in actively participating in their success. It is about building a culture of awareness and self-improvement to be able to achieve ROI.

 

Really and truly, any organization can do it. It is just about committing to change and getting the right experts on-board to help train and support you in understanding your own number and succeed in launching your proactive employee success practices.

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Sources

https://hbr.org/2016/04/meet-the-wellness-programs-that-save-companies-money

Do Workplace Wellness Programs Save Employers Money?,

2012 Gallup State of the American Workplace study,

Morning Workouts

Posted by Jane Wang

Over the years I’ve grown to love exercising in the morning. It frees up my evenings, leaves me fewer excuses for skipping out on a workout, and helps me feel more alert throughout the day.The sense of accomplishment compounds throughout my day, giving me positive feelings that carry into client meetings and work sessions with my team.

Tips and tricks from Jane Wang, CEO of Optimity

Tips and tricks from Jane Wang, CEO of Optimity

Research shows morning workouts can also improve sleep, acuity, and productivity, as well as positively impact diet and exercise habits. At Optimity, we are tracking how it impacts business metrics and employee perception.

However, just because I love morning workouts doesn’t mean I leap out of bed at the sound of my alarm, eager to exercise every day. I’m not naturally a morning person, so I find it tough to head out for a run before the sun rises or attend a 6AM burpee bootcamp. I’ve skipped my fair share of early workouts, but I’ve also gotten quite good at not skipping them too, thanks to a little strategic planning, preparation and positive thinking.

If you’re wanting to become more of a morning exerciser, here are some of my top tips. Maybe they’ll help you too!

1. Ease into it. If you’ve never exercised in the morning before, don’t sign up for 6AM personal training sessions five days in a row. To start, schedule one morning workout per week.

2.  Enlist a buddy. It’s a lot harder to skip a morning sweat session if you have someone counting on you to show up. No one wants to be that person who bails!

3. Before you go to bed, decide exactly what morning workout you will do. For example, instead of saying, “I will exercise before work tomorrow,” say “I will jog 2 miles and do 30 pushups before work tomorrow.” This allows you to budget just the right amount of time you’ll need to fit in your workout. It also prevents you from dozing back off to sleep while pondering what type of exercise you’ll do.

4. Give yourself a reward. When your alarm goes off, don’t dwell on how much you’d rather fall back asleep or how tired you are. Instead, give yourself something to look forward to. It can be a delicious breakfast sandwich or smoothie after the workout, a more-indulgent lunch to treat yourselve (sushi versus salad), or even permission to get that item you have been eyeing for the last few weeks (that book, that gadget, or that shirt)!

Working out in the morning isn’t for everyone, but I’m living proof that the non-morning person can live better with a little self-actualization at the beginning of each day. Hope this helps!

Let’s build a community:

Do you prefer morning, afternoon or evening workouts? What helps you early exercisers get out of bed in the morning? Let us know down below. 

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