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Workplace Well-Being: My Grandma Was Right About Health

By 3p Contributor

By Tim State

My grandmother said, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” Who could argue?

Health is the backbone of our lives. It enables us to perform at work and enjoy our personal lives. Yet our collective health trajectory today makes one wonder if we’re taking that axiom seriously enough. In recent years we have seen an epidemic of chronic, lifestyle-driven diseases and conditions become a huge part of our nation’s health reality.

Largely behavior-based and preventable, chronic conditions drive most health care costs today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 86 percent of all health care spending in 2010 was on people with one or more chronic medical conditions. These conditions reduce our healthy days and productivity while increasing suffering and burden. Health care providers have increasingly taken steps to address these chronic health problems and provide the guidance people need to maintain healthy lifestyles.

My grandma was right. And we can do better than this.

Workplace cultures based on health and well-being

A sustainable society requires healthier, thriving people. However, in the U.S., this is unlikely to occur at scale without employers’ direct participation. Why not? American working-age adults on average spend nearly 60 percent of waking hours at work. This provides organizations the potential for profound impact.

Workplace influence could ultimately be more essential to long-term population health progress than employers’ collective sway with stakeholders. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor sponsored a study on workplace wellness programs, and found that wellness in the workplace can successfully improve and manage lifestyle factors that negatively impact workers’ health destinies, such as smoking, heart disease, and nutrition.

In this case, what’s good for society is even better for employers. Most organizations these days are boosting employee engagement and productivity, reducing health costs, and inspiring their workforce. Through a sense of community and shared purpose, they are building a culture that elevates health and overall well-being to create a sense of community that drives the employee experience.

What does this look like?

We are social animals. That’s why shared cultural experiences inspire healthier lifestyles and can spark positive change that lasts. For companies interested in building a culture of well-being, a few guiding principles can help them along the way:

  • It’s about people above all: A purpose firmly rooted in making a difference in people’s lives is a compass that will not fail. Visible leadership modeling a commitment to values makes this real.

  • Embrace well-being holistically: There is a profound interconnection between health (physical and emotional), a sense of purpose, security, and the feeling of belonging. Progress metrics and program resources should reflect this understanding.

  • Focus on personalized experiences: Demonstrating care within teams and meeting people where they are will move them.

  • Keep it simple: Pay attention to analytics, listen and engage in co-creation with employees to eliminate practical barriers to health – thereby, facilitating an easier path to health.

  • Shape health with social influence: As with all community achievements, the health of a team or group tends to move together. Attitudes, habits and outcomes are contagious.

Achieving results

At Humana, our organizational purpose is to help people achieve their best health. We put a stake in the ground to illustrate this commitment. Humana’s Bold Goal aims to make the communities we serve 20 percent healthier by 2020 by making it easier for people to achieve their best health. With our own associates, we’re being even more ambitious by striving to meet the goal by the end of 2017. Our purpose and goal are accompanied by measurable milestones to improve the overall well-being of our people.

We believe we have a duty to encourage our associates to maintain healthy lifestyles and to develop an environment that fosters this way of life. Experiences like our 100 Day Dash, an annual step challenge, encourages associates to get moving and have fun. Since 2012 our wellness and rewards program, and other associate experiences have made a difference:

  • Overall number of health risks per person has declined nine percent, with 42 percent eliminating risks and improving their health

  • 37 percent went from elevated blood pressure to normal levels, and 26 percent moved their elevated blood glucose to normal range

  • More than 100 tons of collective weight loss

  • Cut the prevalence of pre-diabetes by 20 percent

  • 13 percent improvement in overall well-being, measured by purpose, health, belonging and security

Time to act

At Humana we’ve witnessed first-hand how the synergy of culture and well-being can make a difference for individuals, the company and society. We are still very much on our journey, but the results we have seen in just a few years demonstrate the potential of putting people and their well-being at the heart of all you do.

Humana is not alone. As other organizations make real strides and as the evidence grows, leading businesses and policy organizations realize an important connection between the health and well-being of an organization’s people, and its ability to achieve and sustain business results.

In a study published this year, researchers found that companies winning evidence-based awards for workplace well-being outpaced S&P financial performance by 7 to 16 percent per year. A sustainable workforce requires people who are able to engage fully, weather adversity, build positive relationships, and be fully present to create value. As organizations help build a thriving, healthy U.S. workforce, they’ll be better positioned to deliver for consumers and shareholders in a more sustainable society.

Image credit: Pixabay

Tim State is Humana’s Enterprise Vice-President, Associate Health & Well-being

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