Wednesday, January 18, 2017

5 Worksite Wellness Predictions from the Experts

There continues to be a tremendous amount of innovation and advancements in what companies worldwide are offering employees through workplace wellness programs. The Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board, a group of international scholars and researchers in the fields of behavior change and workplace health, have made some predictions for 2017.

Dr. Eric Finkelstein, PhD, Executive Center Director, Lien Centre of Palliative Care; Professor at Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical Center
“In 2017, there will be an increased emphasis on personal responsibility, such that employers and insurers will incentivize individuals for meeting healthy behaviors, partly through the increasing use of wearables and other measurement devices.”  
Finkelstein’s prediction speaks to a growing body of research that is evaluating the effect of wearable devices on long-term behavior change. Wearables are no passing fad in the workplace. Devices that help employees track their behavior are helping them stay mindful of their decisions, challenges and progress toward their goals.

Ron Goetzel, PhD, Senior Scientist and Director of the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University
“In the months and years ahead, employees will have a greater say in the design, implementation, and fine-tuning of programs.”
In the past decade, workplace well-being focused on more than just physical health and fitness. Programs have dramatically expanded to address stress, sleep, nutrition, finances, social relationships, mindfulness and even spirituality. Employers now understand that the journey to well-being is a deeply personal one, defined uniquely by the needs and desires of each individual employee.

Dr. Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, Director, Human Nature Lab, Yale University; Co-Director, Yale Institute for Network Science
“There will be an increasing awareness of the power that relationships at work have to shape our wellness. The focus on online interactions will shift back to face-to-face interactions at work, which are powerful forces on human behavior.” 
Dr. Christakis stresses social dynamics and their impact on both individual and population health. Health and healthy behavior, such as smoking cessation or weight loss, can spread through social groups. Because most of our waking hours are spent at work, the workplace social network is perhaps the most powerful environment for developing healthy habits.

David Batman, MBChB, Specialist Consultant, Occupational Medicine; Former Head of Occupational Health, Safety, and Employee Well-being for Nestle
“In 2017, there will be a move from ROI to a VOI evaluation, which will necessitate a new business dashboard including metrics such as engagement, resilience, concentration, fatigue, sleep, stress etc.”
As the wellness industry evolves, there is a need for new data points to understand how employee well-being affects businesses. Medical and pharmaceutical claims have been a traditional method for evaluating wellness ROI, but that doesn’t fully capture the VOI of the complex, holistic nature of strategic well-being programs. Measuring VOI attempts to understand and explore all of the different areas in an organization where value is created through the enhancement of employee wellbeing.

I-Min Lee, MBBS, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health 
“Large increases in prescription drug costs to employers will increase the emphasis on worksite well-being programs that work to reduce the need for such drugs. There will be more evidence-based evaluation of what programs truly work.”
The dramatic price increases for many prescription drugs, including those used to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes diabetes will lead employers to demand proven outcomes from their investments. Data-light, feel-good programs without any real measurement of outcomes are on their way out. In 2017, well-being programs will become central, critical business imperatives that are necessary for optimizing not just the productivity and performance of employees but also for managing the bottom line.


Visit Wellness Workdays for more information about our worksite wellness programs.

6 Worksite Wellness Trends to Watch in 2017

Worksite wellness programs continued to gain in popularity and to evolve in organizations throughout the country last year. So what trends can you expect to see in 2017?

Greater emphasis placed on sleep
The CDC recommends adults get seven to eight hours of sleep per day, however, over 40 million American adults sleep six or fewer hours a day. To prevent diseases and improve health, employers are becoming aware of the value sleep has on their business. Sleep loss in the short-term is damaging to productivity and can impact mood, memory retention and decision-making, and can increase the risk of occupational injuries. Long-term sleep deprivation can exacerbate health problems such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Workplace health programs can encourage employees to adopt better sleep habits and healthy sleep routines.

Keep up with wellness regulations
Employers that offer wellness programs that collect employee health information will now be required to inform employees of what information will be collected, how it will be used, who will receive it and what will be done to keep it confidential. EEOC regulations go into effect for employers on the first day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2017. Additionally, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is crucial.

Embrace new technologies
There is a unique opportunity for wellness programs to serve as a sort of “hub” in terms of coordinating health care and access to resources for all employees. Additionally, staying on top of trends such as wearables and video conferencing can help keep engagement levels high as more employees start to work remotely.

Mind-body well-being is as important as physical health
By treating both physical and emotional health, employers can increase productivity and lower health care costs through improved health outcomes. Emotional health accounts for $135 billion spent on health care every year – nearly as much as is spent on heart disease and cancer treatment combined. Well-designed programs, can help employees achieve total well-being.

Give back to the community
Offering company-supported wellness programs with activities that serve the community can create an added incentive for your employees, and their families, to adopt healthy behaviors because the activities benefit more than just the individual. Some activities include local cancer and heart charity walks or building community gardens in impoverished areas.

Create a healthy work environment
Improving the worksite and design of the workplace can lead to higher rates of employee engagement and healthier behaviors in the office. Some of these efforts can be as simple as eliminating high fat or sugar choices for meetings, or as complex as redesigning your office space. Healthy activity can be incorporated into your workplace by initiating walking meetings and providing motivational signs directing employees to staircases.


Visit Wellness Workdays for more information about our worksite wellness programs.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Vitamin D: A Common Deficiency

Vitamin D is often referred to as the “Sunshine Vitamin” because our skin can synthesize vitamin D when it comes into contact with the sunshine, specifically, UVB radiation. But what about the cold winter months when you are inside more and under layers of clothes? The importance of vitamin D isn’t lessened just because the temperatures have fallen. Keep reading to find out how to get adequate amounts of the “Sunshine Vitamin” during the cold season.

Vitamin D has many crucial roles in the body including promoting calcium absorption, reducing inflammation and aiding muscle and nerve functions. Vitamin D is only found naturally in a few foods, added to some, or available in a supplement.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) for men and women aged 19 to 70 and 800 IUs for men and women over the age of 71. Many experts believe that the RDA is not high enough to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D. The upper limit (the most you can take safely) for vitamin D is 4,000 IUs every day for men and women over the age of 19. The best measure of vitamin D status is by blood levels known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. A level of 50nmol/L or above is adequate for most people. The best time to take this blood test to determine your vitamin D status is during the winter months.

The amount of sun exposure you need in order to produce your recommended amount of vitamin D varies depending on your skin color, how much skin you expose, the time of day, and where you live in relation to the equator. For some, just 15 minutes of exposed skin in the sun produces 10,000 IU of vitamin D. For those who do not get enough sun exposure, whether for religious reasons, personal preference, or weather dependent, below is a list of foods that are higher in vitamin D. 

The Bottom Line: Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for the body. Talk to your doctor and find out if you are getting sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Many people in New England will need to take a vitamin D supplement to maintain adequate levels. Ask your doctor if supplementation is needed.

Visit Wellness Workdays for more information about our worksite wellness programs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Are You Drinking Enough Water this Winter?

Drinking adequate water is always important, and while most tend to ramp up their intake in the hot summer months of the year, the winter months are just as crucial. 

Our bodies are made up of about 70 percent water, which doesn’t fluctuate with the season. Feeling hot or sweaty is not the only indicator that we need to hydrate. Our bodies need water to function properly; water helps regulate body temperature and is essential to proper functioning of cells, tissues and organs. When the body is dehydrated, it inhibits the immune system and makes us less able to ward off colds and the flu. 

Signs of winter dehydration:
-Chapped lips
-Dry skin
-Dry cough

Water intake guidelines:
Guidelines for water intake vary on weight and physical activity level. The Institute of Medicine recommends, in general, about 13 to 15 cups a day for men and 9 to 11 cups a day for women.

How can I increase my water intake?

-Carry a reusable water bottle with you.
-Eat foods high with water content such as celery, broccoli, grapefruit and apples.
-Enjoy a warm beverage such as decaffeinated tea with lemon.
-Add natural flavors to your water such as mint or citrus fruits.

The Bottom Line: Proper hydration is key to whole body health. Adequate water intake leads to clearer skin, better hydration and higher energy. Do you need more reasons than that? Now go fill yourself a glass!

Visit Wellness Workdays for more information about our worksite wellness programs.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Foods that Fight Inflammation

Your immune system is designed to attack anything foreign that enters your body. This health protecting process produces inflammation. Inflammation can continue to persist long after your body has kicked out the pesky microbes, bacterium and chemicals.

One of the most powerful components to reduce inflammation is found in food. Be sure to include anti-inflammatory foods such as:

-Olive oil
-Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and collard greens
-Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
-Fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines
-Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges

Avoid foods that trigger inflammation:

-Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
-Fried foods
-Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
-Red meat and processed meats
-Margarine, shortening and lard

Bottom line: To reduce levels of inflammation, eat a healthy and balanced diet containing plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy oils. Consuming a diet consisting mostly of unprocessed foods is key to reducing your body’s inflammatory response.

Visit Wellness Workdays for more information about our worksite wellness programs.

Goal Setting for Success

The New Year is a time when many people make resolutions on how to have a better and healthier year. While it is easy to make a resolution, for many, it is hard to stick to it and be held accountable to maintain it. Make your goals have meaning and direction by using the SMART technique for goal-setting success. SMART stands for:

Specific - Define your goals as a specific action or event.

Measurable – Making your goals measurable is key to tracking and accomplishing your goals.

Attainable – Your goals should be achievable to have success.

Realistic – Keep your goals challenging, yet simple enough to prevent becoming overwhelmed.

Time frame – Put a time limit on your goals to help you stay motivated to achieve your ultimate goal.

SMART goal examples are:

“I will eat two cups of fruits and vegetables with lunch and dinner five out of seven days for the next week.”

“Starting next week, I will run for 30 minutes, three days each week over the next month.”

Bottom Line: Be SMART as you set your goals for the New Year to stay motivated and on the right track. Follow your defined outline and you will be on the way to accomplishing your goals.

Visit Wellness Workdays for more information about our worksite wellness programs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Healthy Skin Is Happy Skin

Your skin bears a lot of stress considering it protects your body from the outside world and everything in it. Give back to your skin by protecting it from the wear and tear of the environment. Here are five tips to healthy skin:

1. Protect Yourself

Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and apply generously. If you’re headed somewhere warm this winter, be sure to reapply after each dip in the water. Check the expiration on that old tube of sunscreen; most sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for three years. And don’t be fooled by the cold winter air; sunscreen should still be applied in the cooler months. For daily use, try a moisturizer with SPF to maintain the moisture of your skin while protecting it.

2. Go Lukewarm with Water

With the cold winter air settling in, resist the urge to turn shower water on hot. Hot water may feel relaxing, but it can remove natural oils from your skin, leaving you with dry, patchy skin. Instead, opt for lukewarm water. When drying off, gently pat your skin with a towel to leave it slightly damp; your skin will absorb the extra moisture and re-hydrate.

3. Treat Your Skin Gently

The daily routine of cleansing and shaving can take a toll on your skin. Be gentle by limiting bath time, avoiding strong soaps, shaving carefully and moisturizing daily.

4. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating nutrient-dense foods will help you look and feel your best. Stick to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins to improve your skin inside and out. Evidence suggests that diets high in Vitamin C and low in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates are associated with younger looking skin. Eating water-rich foods will help prevent dry, cracked skin.

5. Manage Your Stress
High levels of stress can irritate your skin and trigger breakouts or other skin issues. Chronic stress increases the hormone cortisol, which damages skin’s ability to hold on to water and can damage collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that keep your skin smooth. By taking small steps to manage your stress, you can keep your skin healthy and stress-free too.

Bottom Line: Skin is our largest barrier against infection, so don’t forget to take good care of it. Techniques such as managing stress, eating a balanced diet, staying moisturized and using sunscreen can help keep this important protective barrier strong and healthy.

Visit Wellness Workdays for more information about our worksite wellness programs.