GetHealth recently surveyed 72 HR and wellness professionals in companies based in either US, UK or Ireland asking them one simple question, 'What is the biggest challenge for your company's wellness programs?'

The responses came from managers in wide distribution of companies both in terms of size (some with 1000’s of employees and others with 10’s of employees) and also in terms of industry. The results showed that the word ‘engagement’ was quoted as the biggest challenge in 28% of responses. While ‘participation’ and ‘motivation’ were next in line with 17% and 10% of responses respectively.

The full list of responses were as follows:

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The key insights from these responses are as follows:

1.) Similarities in most popular responses- while there is undoubtedly an overlap in the meanings of the most popular terms (‘engagement’, ‘participation’ and ‘motivation’ all fall within a category of responses) this was a useful exercise in terms of understanding how HR and wellness manager characterize and articulate their greatest problem.

2.) Practical challenges - Other responses show that ‘management buy-in’, ‘dispersion of staff’ and ‘budgets’ represent a more practical characterization of the internal problems for wellness managers.

3.) Specific health areas - there were more specific health areas cited by the group as being their biggest problem. These included ‘diet’, ‘stress’, ‘back pain’ and ‘weight loss’. This shows that certain organizations may have a specific area which is prevalent within their workforce which they are tasked with solving.

To conclude, firstly, for HR and wellness managers reading this, this will hopefully give you a perspective of the nature and frequency of the range of challenges faced by professionals in similar positions. Secondly, for wellness vendors, this research gives a clearer understanding of the full range of challenges organizations face and also the terminology they use to express them.

This information aims to help ensure all those working on wellness programs for companies are aware of the internal barriers to success so that each individual can take the steps needed to mitigate against them.

Is there anything you think is missing from this list? If you have any comments or feedback please comment below or get in touch with us.

A lot of the work we do here at GetHealth is understanding behaviour change in health habits and what motivates us to take action. This is a short TED talk by our CEO Liam Ryan, on how we are approaching the problem and challenging the industry.

Something past us by that we never had a chance to write about yet, but GetHealth was recently selected as the Runner Up in the Irish Times FUSION Program. Over 100 start-ups applied, yet only two were selected to be Start-ups in Residence at the Irish Times: Irelands leading national newspaper.

With this prestigious title came a unique opportunity: to gain direct access to the expertise and innovative culture and research capabilities of this prestigious institution.

One of the most beneficial ways in which GetHealth took advantage of this opportunity was by working closely with the marketing department to gain access to the 200,000 readers who access the newspaper online or through smart phones. This is our target audience.

Working closely together, we designed a series of survey questions to analyse the market landscape for GetHealth.

This is what we found.

Firstly, people answered that the biggest barrier to improving health was “not enough time” (35% of respondents). This may seem surprising, but in fact is symptomatic of our modern culture. It is too easy and convenient to live an unhealthy lifestyle.

Acknowledging this very fact has played a large part in the development process of our wellness program. Our mobile application along with other campaign materials are designed to make the process of getting healthy as simple and fun as possible.

Secondly, we found that the majority of people wanted to improve their health in order to decrease the risks of chronic lifestyle disease. However, there was a generational gap here where those between the ages of 16-30 wanted to improve their health in order to improve their physical appearance. Nothing new there!

Finally, there was a significant percentage of readers (89%!) who felt that there should be a greater national focus on initiatives aimed at promoting health in Ireland.

We take this a calling. It is time for the country, as a whole, to get serious about health. Whether through online and mobile campaigns, or policy decisions from the top, we need to reverse the trends of the unhealthy and at risk.

Please get in touch if you wish to take part in our most recent campaign: The Pursuit of Healthiness.

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It’s early Monday morning. I’ve had about 2 hours sleep having traveled in from New York the night before and then posting our most poignant blog post ever "Why The Digital Health Industry Is About To Fail" from the hotel room.

The Summit starts with a bang. Gary Fingerhut (Acting Executive Director and General Manager, IT Commercialization, Cleveland Clinic Innovations) openings the proceedings to 1,100 senior executives, investors, entrepreneurs and clinicians who gathered in Cleveland to discuss investable innovations that will lead to more effective treatments for obesity and diabetes.

That’s the core focus of Cleveland Clinic’s Medical Innovation Summit 2013: "Finding Balance through Innovation. Obesity, Diabetes & the Metabolic Crisis". And as you can imagine, here at GetHealth, we’ve been aiming to solve some of healthcare’s biggest challenges that hang around that very topic.

Of course I was excited - not just for me, but for the whole team. It was an opportunity noted as only a dream for digital healthcare entrepreneurs. 

I took part in the "New Venture Healthcare Challenge" that was presented by Cleveland Clinic and StartUp Health. Martin Harris (CIO, Cleveland Clinic) and Steve Krein (Founder and CEO, StartUp Health) were the moderators of the event that saw 10 startup companies pitch to an experienced panel of healthcare pioneers and the gathered audience.

Introductions from Esther Dyson (Chairman, Health Intervention Coordinating Council, aka. HICCup), Brian Harrison (Senior Healthcare Advisor, Cisco Systems), Stephen McHale (CEO, Explorys), Steve Lieber, President and CEO, HIMSS) and Frank Papay (Chair, Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute) set the scene for what was going to be tough competition and even tougher judging process.

Being first up meant it was up to the Irish again to kick things off in style. I had just over 5 minutes to present GetHealth current state and vision, and highlight the real value we were creating. The judges’ questions highlighted the need for a solution to the fragmentation and interpretation of available data, and gave me the opportunity to highlight that humans are not rational agents as expected; we do not sift through data to reveal the insights into our health. We have to be told, and it has to be done in a fun and creative way that encourages action.

Boy, a dream come true indeed. A fantastic experience, and one that will be in my memory for a long time.

Some of my fellow Healthcare Transformers joined me on stage for the challenge including, AdhereTech, Aver Informatics, Care at Hand, Force Therapeutics, GetHealth, OxiTone, WalkJoy, Yingo Yango and Point of Care360. Big congratulations to Kurt Brenkus of Aver Informatics for taking home first prize.

Cleveland Clinic’s Medical Innovation Summit was an honest reminder of what is to come for the future of digital health. The discussion about the summit topic was as good as the new investable innovations that was showcased on the main stages. If the results of these innovations are showing a real measurable solution to the the very healthcare problems that plague our healthcare system today, perhaps the digital health industry is not about to fail after all.

^Liam, and the GetHealth team

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Health2.0’s Seventh Annual Fall Conference expanded to two and a half days packed with a carefully curated lineup featuring the role of consumersbig datahealth care marketplaces. It took place in the Santa Clara Convention Center during the last week of September.

GetHealth presented during the interactive session, titled “Mind & Body: Wellness Tools and Apps” that was chaired by Doug Solomon (Former CTO, IDEO). 

The session’s description focused on "Improving your physical and mental health is literally in your hands. With hundreds of trackers and monitoring tools bursting onto the health technology market, we made sure to pick the beautifully designed and effective wellness tools out there. These devices and apps cut through the excuses we have made for ourselves to not be healthier and make a better life possible with the click of a button."

Although it sounded like the perfect session GetHealth could have showcased at, GetHealth CEO, Liam Ryan challenged the audience and his fellow speakers during the panel session. "We have to stop talking about the features within our applications. We need to be talk about how our products are actually impacting on people’s lives", says Ryan. "We are on the cusp of significant change with the health IT industry, but we must remember that as rational agents, we humans are not privy to understanding and interpreting the data. We must balance data insights with creative thinking to create fun products that encourage and inspire people to change their health habits."

A big thank you to Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya for the warm acceptance into the Health2.0 community.

Some noteworthy highlights from the conference included “Health 2.0 - A Global Perspective" by our friend Maneesh Juneja (Health 2.0 Chapter Leader and TEDx speaker), an inspiringly crafted keynote from Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, and Fard Johnmar's session about their new book “ePatient 2015: 15 Digital Healthcare Trends That Define the Connected Patient of the Future.

PHOTO: The packed session room that our CEO, Liam Ryan, presented our GetHealth news!

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Dear mHealth Industry, Quantified-Self Movement, and Champions of Big Data,

As you are no doubt aware, there has been a recent proliferation of mobile apps, wearable devices, and patient services which allow us to measure and track our daily health behaviors. In a world where so many problems are caused by unhealthy behaviors, the popularity of such products has come to be seen as the future of personal health: the panacea to our chronically unhealthy and overweight society.

We now have access to seamless, reasonably affordable technology that can track how many steps we take, the quality and duration of our sleep, how many calories we burn, and even our blood pressure and mood levels. Never before have we been able to gain such detailed levels of real-time data concerning our health-habits.

This industry operates under the belief that the more aware we are of the details of our daily behaviors, the better position we are in to make the changes necessary to improve our health and lifestyle.

On this view, information is the key to change. The more data we have about how much we move, eat and sleep, the more we can control and alter these numbers to become healthier and happier individuals.

However, while these devices do mark a new and interesting direction for personal health, they fall way short of offering true value to the user as they currently stand.

Why? I’ll tell you: because the leap from gathering and documenting the details of your daily behaviors to interpreting this data in a way that encourages action, is far larger than it first appears.
Hence, blind faith in these devices as the ultimate solution to the problems of behavioral health is both misplaced and myopic.

Right now, the majority of these products (Jawbone Up, FitBit, Nike FuelBand, etc.) collect large amounts of data from users and offer feedback in the form of detailed graphs and charts that show their daily activity: how many steps taken, hours slept, and sometimes estimate how many calories are taken in.

So, once you buy-in, your health becomes a numbers game: improve your numbers, and you’ll improve your health.

Sounds simple, right?

Yet, there is an essential step missing from this equation. Nowhere do these devices tell you how to improve your numbers, or what numbers are most worth improving.

You are left with a screen full of detailed metrics with peaks and troughs, but no straight-forward, clear advice on what are the best ways to improve these magical numbers.

Thus, all the responsibility falls on the individual to laboriously sift through the data. They must analyze, interpret and contextualize an array of numbers in order to extract the answer to a simple, yet essential, question: what should I do next?

Most people are neither willing nor able to commit to this kind of work and we are left with a situation where the only people who are actually using these devices, and benefiting from them, are young males who are self-confessed data geeks, or those who are already highly motivated to improve their health (athletes and fitness fanatics).

The majority of people – the ones who are actually unhealthy and at-risk - are left feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated by long lists of numbers and detailed graphs.

These devices and applications assume that all people are perfectly rational actors; almost robot-like, waiting to crunch numbers and, as a result, enhance their performance.

Yet, well-established research from the fields of Behavioral Psychology and Behavioral Economics clearly shows that people are not so calculating and in fact often behave in ways that are seemingly irrational. Any device or application wishing to encourage behavior-change must take account of the complex and nuanced nature of human behavior.
It is time for this industry to break out of the product-development bubble they have created, and to finally acknowledge what it is that people need.
With this in mind, the future of health-technology lies not only in taking in big data, but also interpreting it for the user and feeding it back to them through meaningful insights into what actions they can and should be taking.

Simple, clear, actionable advice about specific behaviors, as opposed to abstracted metrics and lofty goals is the key to encouraging change.
I have been using the Jawbone Up for the past few weeks. At the start, I thought it was pretty cool. It is well-designed, and a great conversation piece. Also, it did make me think about my physical activity. I would try to beat my previous day’s steps and so on.

However, after about two weeks I began falling behind; I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was struggling to get through my runs. This kind of slump is inevitable.

I turned to my device for some help.

But it offered no explanation or hint at why I was having a slump. It could have been a number of factors: not eating well, stress, bad sleeping habits or maybe I was over-doing it. All I needed was some advice on what to do next.

But none was coming.

Without this actionable, understandable recommendation, the data itself is of little value to the majority of people who don’t want to do homework every night on their charts and graphs.

Keep the data in the background and reveal the insight. This is what will truly disrupt the digital health marketplace.

If the health technology industry is interested in making people healthier and changing their lives, then data driven, quantified-self style initiatives need to be balanced with those with an emphasis on behavioral modification and real-life human motivation. Yet this balance is lacking, and the scales are tipped in favor of the quantitative collection of data.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to what aspects of our behaviors we can track and measure, and further endless possibilities for how we design the products that do this. This is an exciting prospect, with lots of room for experimentation and creativity. But just because something can be measured, doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile to do so.

The industry has become enchanted by these technical possibilities to the extent that it seems to have forgotten why it wants to measure these behaviors and why it wants to design these products in the first place.
True innovation is not inward looking, but looks out to the world, sees what people need and solves real problems.

This is what is sorely missing from the health technology industry. It is time to look outward once again and cast an eye towards the real difficulties facing the world.

The onslaught of this new technology is a good thing. But if it is not steered towards real world problems, it will continue to turn inward towards itself until the mainstream public are left isolated and unconnected.

I challenge the industry to rethink their approach. They must pull their heads out from a narrow focus on designing sleek, tracking-only products for the already-healthy, and take a look at what could really help those that actually need to make changes to their health-habits. We are humans, after all.

If you don’t do it, some other company just might.

An Open Letter from the GetHealth Team

Exclusive Research Insight…

Thursday 26th of September, 2013

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On Thursday 26th September, our CEO Liam Ryan will be giving a talk at the Technology for Well-Being conference held in Dublin.

This is the first time that we will be giving a glimpse into the research that we have been working on at our HQ in the Dublin.

The title of his talk, Changing Behaviours: We are more than Rational Robots brings into focus the specific problem GetHealth is aiming to solve: the problem of creating behavioural change.

Healthcare costs, driven by epidemic levels of obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes, is fast becoming one of the biggest issues facing the human population.

What is surprising, however, is that the vast majority of these costs are caused not by some rampant virus, or incurable disease, but by our simple, day to day habits and behaviours. We are eating, and lazing, our way towards a future of expensive treatment and poor quality of life.

The solution appears to be simple: change our behaviours, and live longer, healthier, happier lives (while saving trillions of dollars).

However, helping people change their behaviours is no easy task. Government policies have thrown information at the problem; but this method has failed to get the traction needed, as obesity and diabetes remain on the rise.

Similarly, recent surges in the use of devices that track and measure our daily behaviours are failing to resonate with the unhealthy and at-risk.

The problem is that both governments and technology companies are treating humans like perfectly rational robots. Information input, they assume, will lead to beneficial output. But, humans are far more complicated than the perfectly rational robot. We are emotional beings who often act against our best interests for a myriad of reasons and motivations.

The creation of lasting behaviour change must take account of our complex human nature and appreciate why we behave the way we do. Information and data are useful, but in order to effect change, the information and data needs to be contextualised and interpreted in order to reveal insights that are simple, manageable and rewarding.

GetHealth to speak at TED conference

Thursday 5th of September, 2013

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On Thursday October 17th, GetHealth CEO Liam Ryan will be taking to the stage to present an idea worth spreading at this years TEDx Tallaght event. The title of his talk is "Changing Behavior: We are More Than Rational Robots", and will bring together the research and insights the GetHealth team have been working on over past few months. It aims to challenge the status quo of the importance of personal wellbeing, and how the intersection of technology can lead to lasting behaviour change in health habits.

What is TEDx?

TED is a non-profit programme devoted to Technology, Entertainment and Design. TEDx licenses are granted to local groups and South Dublin Libraries are delighted to get one of these licenses for a fourth year.

TEDxTallaght 2013 is themed The Atelier of Ideas. Ateliers have their origin in medieval times and became places where master artists and crafts people shared skills and encouraged creative experimentation with their students. Now imagine a 21st century atelier where ideas are sparked and innovation is nurtured - an Atelier of Ideas - that’s what TEDx Tallaght 2013 aims to be this year. Bringing together inspired thinkers and curious souls, this TEDx welcomes people from many disciplines who all want to achieve a deeper understanding of the world.

For more on the speakers, please view www.tedxtallaght.com. And if you are in Dublin on October 17th, you can register to claim your ticket here.

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Within the wellness sector, people are always talking about how to motivate people and get them to do certain things. One aspect of this motivation comes from our inherent social structures and networks. The thinking is that individuals are often motivated to partake in certain activities or adopt particular attitudes based on the influence of their colleagues, friends and family.

However, there are several ways in which this kind of influence can work. In this blog post we are going to look at two of the main ways you can leverage social motivation to get the best out of your employees.

Competition.

The first way is through competition. By pitting individuals, or groups against each other it is possible to create motivation. This plays on the desire within many people to be the best, or at least, to be better than others. Some common techniques for harnessing this kind of motivation are leader boards, point systems and weekly or monthly league tables.

These can be great for making things interesting and you are sure to fire up a number of competitive employees this way.

However, it is important to note that competition doesn’t motivate everyone. Research from How to Get People to Do Stuff by Susan Weinschenk has shown that, in particular, men are far more likely to respond to competition than women are. This is something to keep in my mind if your organization employs both men and women.

Also, it is important to note that the smaller the field of competitors, the better. If you have a leader board with a couple of hundred employees, many will feel that there is too small a chance of winning and hence not put in the effort required. If, however, you organize smaller groups of under 10, it is far more likely people will see themselves as having a legitimate chance and therefore put in the effort required.

Collaboration.

Collaboration is the other main motivating tool that harnesses the power of our social bonds. According to Jane McGonigal in her book Reality is Broken collaboration is based on three elements: cooperating (acting purposefully toward a common goal), coordinating (synchronizing efforts and sharing resources), and co-creating (producing a novel outcome together). She argues that this kind of coming together of people is far more powerful than competition.

This is because where competition encourages selfish, closed-off values, collaboration encourages more open-minded, selfless behaviors, and these are better for everyone. Also, through collaboration people can share ideas and techniques for solving certain problems, instead of keeping them for themselves. This leads to a much faster learning curve for the group.

Conclusion.

Ultimately, as Aristotle said, humans are social beings. We live for our relationships and connections and these can help us to become better people. Wellness programs need to understand this and use it help motivate employees to change their habits.

We recommend a combination of both competition and collaboration. Try creating small groups of between 3 and 6. Allow these groups to collaborate with one another on certain tasks  (5k run, healthy breakfast challenge, etc.) and have them compete with other small groups. This way, you avoid the negative, selfish aspects of competition, while also keeping things interesting!

Dr Robert Grant

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Information alone is not enough.

Many wellness programs attempt to change behaviors with information based campaigns that educate employees about what they should do. However, research shows that such attempts by themselves are not enough to create the kind of meaningful changes that are necessary to see rewards from wellness initiatives.

Recent research into behavioral psychology and behavioral economics examine the nuances and subtleties of human behavior. Through the research in both of these areas, there is increasing understanding as why people behave the way they do and why people do certain things even when they “know” better, e.g. eat too much sugar and salt, continue smoking tobacco, etc.

So, if information alone is not enough, then what is to be done to create sustainable behavior change?

Research into this science offers four key characteristics of a wellness program that aim to create sustainable change, and accommodate the myriad of influences that effect our decision making:

  1. Make the daily health tasks easy and convenient to complete. Instead of focusing on general goals like “Eat better!” or “Do more exercise” a wellness program must focus on small, actionable steps. People are more likely to complete a task if it is broken down and manageable. For example, “Walk for at least 20 minutes today” or “Eat 3 pieces of fruit this morning”. Use specific goals like these, instead of much broader bigger goals.
  2. Structure the program so that it is as personal to each individual as possible. Research shows that people are far more likely to complete a program if they feel it is for them specifically. Otherwise, they can just get lost in the crowd. Try to make employees feel they are getting some individual attention to their own needs. 
  3. Focus on making the program rewarding as opposed to punitive. Human beings respond much better to positive reinforcement and encouragement than to negative feedback. Also, the sooner such a reward is given, the better as it becomes directly associated with the behavioral achievement. 
  4. Allow for a strong social aspect to the program. Finally, social cohesion is a powerful motivator. 

By structuring the program so that employees can collaborate and compete with one another you foster a culture of health where everyone encourages and motivates one another to improve. We recommend you try setting up small groups of 3-6 and have the groups compete. This way you get the best of both competition and collaboration! 

Please see our white paper Mobile and online technology: Bridging the gap to lasting Behaviour Change for more in depth analysis of this area. 

Dr Robert Grant

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Last week we talked about how wellness programs – just like new born babies – need time before they start to give back and reward. This is the case both in terms of changes made to the actual health-status of employees and in terms of the financial savings associated with these changes.

The fact that wellness programs take time (2-3 years) to have an impact on health status and associated costs is to be expected.

Yet, there seems to be an inherent impatience among many in the industry to see immediate returns on investment.

This impatience gives rise to an assumption: because wellness programs take time to impact healthcare costs, they are not worth the investment. That is, there is no positive ROI to be gained.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Time and again, case studies of previous programs reveal that with the right ingredients, wellness programs result in positive returns on investment. Making your employees healthier will save you money.

The most scientifically verifiable attempt thus far to support this claim of positive ROI comes from a 2010 review of peer-reviewed ROI studies by Harvard’s Katherine Baicker and a team of Harvard health economists. In this study they performed a meta-analysis of 44 peer-review studies from a range of industries and organisations. The results were published in the respected journal, Health Affairs.

To be included in the analysis, each case study had to meet a specific criterion of scientific validity. This was to ensure that the savings were directly caused by the wellness program and not some outside factor. Also, each study had to take place over a period of at least 3 years.

What they found was that across all these studies average medical costs decreased by $3.27 per dollar invested in wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.

What does this tell us?

The take home point from this study is that wellness works. If given time and if implemented according to the 4 Steps to Launching a Successful Wellness Program (see below) then wellness programs can deliver a significant return on investment. This should not be surprising. Healthy workers are more productive, miss less days and cost less for health care.

It may take time to reap the rewards, but they exist nonetheless. Go get them. 

Dr Robert Grant

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Benjamin Franklin, the great scientist, philosopher, inventor and politician, was once in attendance at the very first hot-air balloon ascension ever to take place. While watching these balloons magically float into the air, a nearby spectator is said to have quipped, “That is all very well, but what possible use are those balloons?”

To which Franklin replied, “What use is a new born baby?”

Franklin was mocking the short-sighted views of the spectator. The point of his reply – which is now a part of Franklin folklore – was that just because we cannot see the immediate use for something now, does not imply that it will have no use in the long term. Just like a new born baby, some things take time before their use becomes apparent.

Why tell this story in a health and wellness blog you may ask?

Wellness programs too, need time and care before they begin to give back and reward. Due to the complex nature of health behaviors and health risks, there is no quick-fix solution that can result in an immediate return on investment for a wellness program. It takes time (at least 2-3 years according to some) to change the health status of individuals and create a culture of wellness within an organization.

But the clever wellness managers play the long-game. They see that it is only with energy, patience and commitment that wellness programs can prove themselves worth the investment. Due to the unique nature of each individual organization, there is no one-size-fits all approach to determining ROI.

Yet, this in no way implies that a positive ROI is not possible. There are countless case studies and examples of well-run programs that achieve ROI’s of between 3 and 6 dollars for every dollar invested. But these case studies are of particular organizations with particular health needs and as such, cannot necessarily apply to all other organizations.

Those who demand an immediate answer to the return on investment question display the same short-sightedness as the spectator above. Some things have a more subtle and complex process of returning investment.

For example, marketing, advertising, research and development, are all heavily invested in, yet provide no immediate and obvious ROI. This is the case even though they consistently prove to be worthwhile investments.

It is time to move beyond the myopic obsession with immediate ROI and expand our understanding of wellness. A healthy workforce is better for everyone, including the bottom line of profits and savings. No one denies this claim. The benefits include increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, lower healthcare costs and an energy and vitality that are essential to attracting and retaining talented staff.

Wellness is a long term investment. Without this investment in healthy and happy people, we face a future of a sluggish and unmotivated workforce that will cost more and more in healthcare spending.

It’s time to break the cycle.

Please download our whitepaper on Wellness ROI for a more in-depth analysis: http://gethealthapp.com/whitepapers

Dr Robert Grant

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Currently, there is a large amount of research aimed at discovering why people behave the way they do, and why they develop certain habits. This is done with the goal of helping people to change their behavior one way or another.

This kind of research often falls under the title of “behavioral science”.

One particular concept of interest within this literature is the concept of “Keystone habits”.

A keystone habit is a certain habit or behavior that, when altered, has a knock-on effect throughout the life of an individual or organisation, and effects other habits that are seemingly unconnected to it. By focusing on changing a particular keystone habit, you can start a chain-reaction and cause a shift across a wide range of behaviors.

Changing a keystone habit helps other habits to flourish by creating new structures and establishing values where change becomes contagious. This allows people and organisations to focus on just one particular habit to create change, instead of having to alter every single habit individually.

For example, adopting an exercise routine is such a habit for an individual. When someone starts habitually exercising, even once or twice a week, they “start eating better, and becoming more productive, they smoke less and even feel less stressed” (Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit). This is the power of keystone habits to change lifestyles.

However, this concept can also be applied to organisations. By focusing on certain specific aspects of organisational behavior, it is possible to create a chain reaction and to alter the culture of the workplace for the better.

For example, one of the major worries for business leaders today is to do with productivity and motivation of the work force. Without high levels of energy and enthusiasm, an organisation is never going to be able to reach their full potential. Furthermore, a workplace with a noticeably low level of morale and sense of motivation can be off putting to potential employees and such companies may have difficulty in attracting and retaining talent. Who wants to work in a place like that?

Wellness programs have the potential to change all of this. By focusing on the health and wellness of employees as a keystone habit, it is possible to create a knock on effect and alter the culture of the organisation. The reasoning is as follows: healthier workers are more productive, miss less days, have more energy and are less stressed.

So, if you can help your employees to become healthier, you are not only helping them personally, but you are also creating a culture-change in your organisation.

Wellness traditionally has been seen as an add-on, or a bonus program within many organisations. Yet this is a mistake. It is time to start to see wellness as a keystone habit. A set of behaviors that when changed, can alter the entire culture and values of your organisation and create a place that is more vital and more rewarding for those working there. 

Dr Robert Grant

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Given the potential benefits of wellness programs to an organisation – decreased health costs, less absenteeism, increased productivity, boost to morale, etc. – it would seem that senior management support for such initiatives should be a no-brainer. CEO’s and CFO’s should realize that with strategic implementation they can save money while increasing employee satisfaction.

However, such support is not always forthcoming. For a variety of reasons, senior management can often be so focused on short-term issues that they fail to see the long-term benefits of having a healthy and vital workforce.

Lack of this kind of support can lead to difficulties for those attempting to launch a wellness program. Without the support of senior level leadership wellness programs can fall flat, without ever having a chance to grow and develop. In fact, senior leadership support is so important to getting wellness programs right that the Wellness Council of America named it first in their list of the 7 Benchmarks for Successful Wellness Programs.

Here is why.

The top 4 reasons why it’s necessary to have senior level support:

1.) Allocation of resources - Without management buy in, it will be a constant struggle to get the resources needed to run a successful program. Whether it is time, money or even space, wellness programs need certain resources to help engage employees with their health needs. The easiest way to secure these resources is to have management buy-in from that start.  

2.) Participation - The second reason why senior support is necessary is in order to boost participation rates. Time and after time it has been reported that if the management does not seem to encourage or get behind a wellness program, no one else will. If it doesn’t seem like it’s worth their time, why should it be worth yours? However, if it is clearly obvious that upper level management are excited about the program and willing to devote some time to it, then this has a knock-on effect and will send a signal to others that its OK to get involved and make a full commitment

3,) Longevity - When it comes to improving health status of employees, longevity of the wellness initiative is essential. There are no overnight successes when it comes to decreasing health risks. Thus, the support of the senior leadership cannot be limited to showing up on the launch day. It needs to be there week after week, month after month. Of course, there is a limit to the time a manager can put into such an initiative, but weekly emails can be a great source of communication. This lets the employees know that the wellness program is a priority for management and they are monitoring its progress on a consistent basis.

4.) Results - Finally, the bottom line is that senior support gets results. The above three reasons combine to form the criteria of success for a wellness program, and senior management support underpins these criteria. Without such support it becomes almost impossible to get significant results from your wellness initiative.

Our advice..

Spend some time educating and selling the idea and benefits of your wellness program to your upper level management before asking for permission. It is essential to really convince them that it is worth the investment and also that they themselves are central to its success. They need to be Wellness Champions. Only in this way can your workplace become a place where wellness and healthy values are part of the culture, not just the latest fad. 

Dr Robert Grant

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To find out how GetHealth can launch for your company contact Chris today at chris@gethealthapp.com.