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High Tech or High Touch — What's Best for Employee Wellbeing Programs?

Posted By Ellen Kocher, Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Human hand shaking digital hand coming out of laptop screen.Today, approximately 80% of organizations claim employee well-being is a critical part of their business plans. For younger generations entering the workforce, wellness has become a way of life. Incorporating wellness into workplaces has been shown to improve morale, job satisfaction, overall mood, workplace culture, job performance and, by extension, lives spent outside work. Employees like the way they feel when they have healthy lifestyles and there is tremendous value in having healthy, happy employees. Moreover, studies show that organizations with explicit and well-defined wellness programs tend to both attract and retain better people.

Since most companies have bought into workplace wellness in one form or another, it is more important than ever that it be valuable, affordable and inclusive for all. Organizations are faced with the choice of how to deliver wellness: either "High-Touch" personified relationship-driven programs or "High-Tech" technology-driven programs. This article aims to compare both in order to guide stakeholders to their optimal choice.

Motivational keychain says "High-Touch Wellness"

is essentially delivery of live programs on or off-site through specific wellness coaches working with individuals or groups. Coaches educate, mentor and support people in cultivating positive health choices that assist in achieving health goals through lifestyle and behavior modification. Wellness coaches are health professionals who target not only the physical aspects of well-being but also mind, spirit, and overall lifestyle. On-site wellness coaches are one of the fastest-growing trends in workplace wellness today.

High-Touch Advantages:

  • A personalized approach according to specific needs without a "one size fits all" solution
  • The client has full control of the agenda - so if something didn't work out the plan can be changed
  • Studies have shown the power of interpersonal support in building courage to try new behaviors beyond education
  • It has been shown that maintaining engagement is more likely with a health coach
  • Extra support and guidance to help break through blocks or obstacles
  • Compassionate motivation and accountability
  • Somebody to listen when one wants or needs to be heard
  • A "no-judgment" zone and safe space where struggles can be shared with someone who can relate
  • Employees (and their relations) can learn strategies for changing lifestyle behaviors influencing personal long-term health and well-being
  • The coaching relationship has been shown to positively empower individuals to create permanent changes that possibly were difficult alone
  • Health coaching has been shown to produce better health outcomes than wellness programs without coaching
  • Evidence supports health coaching with 84% of 43 studies combined reporting improved health outcomes at multiple levels in employees regularly working with health coaches
  • In our "High-Tech" world, "High-Touch" coaching is a way to re-humanize our workplaces
  • Coaches are savvy at helping participants understand their data in a way that's meaningful and impactful

Person synching their phone to their fitness device."High-Tech Wellness"

is essentially technology used by individuals and organizations to manage health and wellness. Tech tools provide organizations with the infrastructure to efficiently identify health risk levels of employees in order to develop and deliver programs that motivate, engage and reward. For individuals - through smartphones, apps, computers, and wearables - technology can help track, measure and monitor body functions and actions with real-time feedback supporting informed decisions about specific health behaviors. Today, technology plays a key role in the development of the most cutting-edge wellness programs allowing companies to monitor employee enrollment, overall return on investment and to pinpoint top health issues. This can include employer-driven initiatives such as: wellness or activity challenges, mobile tech tracking food, activity or sleep, email communication, forum-style message boards, push notifications, social networking, video chat, gamification or online education.

High-Tech Advantages:

  • Cutting Edge
  • Individuals play an active role in their health
  • A 24/7 environment - social and other
  • Instant feedback enhancing engagement
  • Individual capacity to monitor goals and compare performances
  • Motivational alerts or rewards when users reach goals
  • Employers can track participation due to the data-driven nature of tech
  • Employers can adjust and customize programs
  • Employees (and their relations) can learn strategies for changing lifestyle behaviors influencing personal long-term health and well-being
  • Data driven
  • ROI and VOI can be measured by both employer and employee
  • Educational
  • Can be cost effective
  • Can be time efficient

The Best Employee Well-Being Programs...Use BOTH!

Wellness is contagious. Employees talk to one another and share their successes. This momentum and "peer pressure" is one of the most powerful tools in creating a culture of wellness as explored above, both "high-touch" and "high- tech" have undeniable advantages.

An intelligent combination can offer a true population management solution that engages a broad number of employees, motivates them to make long-term behavioral change, and contributes to a stronger employer-employee partnership. Every company can make a difference by giving it some creative thought. Even on tight budgets, a little imagination can go a long way since in wellness, even small changes can compound over time and numbers of lives - and businesses improved.

7 Creative Solutions to Combining High-Touch & High-Tech!

  1. Apply a progressive approach, using people in a high-touch capacity to bolster and back up your high-tech tools
  2. Once a human connection is established, propose wellness coaching by telephone or via the internet
  3. Provide your high-touch coaches with the appropriate hi-tech tools they need to create, manage and communicate with participants
  4. Run regular live sessions - maybe monthly - and supplement with ongoing technology
  5. Provide wellness apps and educational platforms to help employees take charge of their health AND provide live coaching to motivate them to use it on a regular basis!
  6. Create a supportive environment for both high-touch and high tech options, involving stakeholders at every level
  7. It has been shown that despite technological tools, most employees appreciate a combination of high-tech and high-touch options, so ASK YOUR PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT!
  8. Please reach out to brainstorm your organizations creative solutions!

    Ellen Kocher is an conomist and Certified Workplace Wellness Consultant, Master’s Degree in Health & Wellness Coaching, Accredited ICF, Health & Mindful Eating Coach. Educated in the US, she has lived in Switzerland for over 30 years. Following 10 years in the Finance Industry, Ellen understands the challenges of a busy working lifestyle. In 2003 she lost weight and found her new self through nutrition & lifestyle change. She has dedicated the past 15 years to nutrition & workplace wellness promoting a non-diet, mindfulness-based approach to eating, physical activity, holistic health, and self-care. She has coached hundreds of individuals and groups in dozens of organizations to make sustainable lifestyle changes. Ellen recently earned her Worksite Wellness Specialist Certificate through NWI.

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What does Employee Engagement mean to you?

Posted By Dr. Tyler Amell , Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2019

Employees working on a projectThe first thought that likely springs to mind might well be that heady period that follows a co-worker’s marriage proposal. Happy days. But unfortunately, from a workplace health, wellbeing, and productivity perspective, Employee Engagement has two distinct and potentially confusing interpretations.

I ran into this issue head-on during a conference presentation I gave last spring. The subject of my talk was Health, Productivity, and Engagement, and how these three concepts are interrelated and necessary to cultivate in high performing organizations — those that make up today’s top workplaces. And there is plenty of evidence to support their enthusiasm.

Just under half my audience took the concept of engagement to mean something different to my intended message regarding participation in employer-sponsored wellbeing initiatives. The other half interpreted the concept as I had intended: When people are enthusiastic about their work and workplace, they provide greater discretionary effort, resulting in higher productivity.

The latter concept is one that is frequently discussed among insightful corporate leaders, and is often high on the list of priorities for organizations striving to be employers of choice in a highly competitive global work environment, thus ensuring higher levels of productivity are attained.

Another very sizeable consideration is the fact that ill-health related productivity loss is estimated to cost the U.S. economy in excess of $530 Billion annually, based upon 2018 data from the Integrated Benefits Institute, a San Francisco-based leader in benchmarking in the health and productivity market. Similarly, the lost productivity in the U.S. amounts to over 1.4 Billion days of absence or impaired performance annually.

It’s obvious that people cannot be as productive if they are ill or injured. And people cannot be engaged if their discretionary effort is impacted by personal injury or illness. The logical conclusion is that productivity and engagement, for both the individual and the organization, rest on a platform of health.

The Gallup Organization has some very insightful data on employee engagement, but the numbers are not encouraging. According to the Gallup data, worldwide levels of employee engagement are at 15%, with variation by geographic region.

That’s not to say that 85% of companies haven’t attempted to improve their results. But the issue may lie in how those efforts have been interpreted by employees. Is the message “head” or “heart” driven? Is employee health and wellbeing the empathetic, primary objective, with productivity being the unstated rational dividend? Or is increased productivity the primary objective? If there is a sense that employee engagement efforts represent thinly veiled boardroom attempts to boost bottom-line results, the lack of enthusiasm on the “shop floor” will reflect that.

Health and wellness, at its core, is a personal issue. Whether an individual employee chooses to engage, or not, in a corporate wellness program may well be the result of how they interpret the motives behind this corporate offering. In supportive corporate environments, employee wellness programs promote engagement by creating and sustaining a sense of community in the workplace. They foster work-related relationships that reflect the supportive corporate culture. These individual relationships meld into groups and provide a fertile base that nurtures teamwork and collaboration, valuable elements of a contemporary corporate ethic.

Macey and Schneider published an interesting summary in the academic journal Industrial and Organizational Psychology where they differentiate between various types of employee engagement, all based in organizational psychology. The authors noted three types:

  • Psychological State Engagement,
  • Behavioral Engagement, and
  • Trait Engagement.

Close up of business man stacking small Engagement as a psychological state refers to employee involvement and commitment. Behavioral engagement is a demonstration of proactive, personal initiative. And trait engagement is demonstrated through positive views on life and work. As well, other factors, such as the nature of work, and the type of leadership have an obvious effect on these elements of employee engagement.

They strongly suggest that all types should be measured in engagement surveys and employee sentiment analysis. These surveys have seen a substantial increase in their use in the past few years as organizations struggle with assessing and improving employee engagement as they look to improve productivity.

Those organizations in the top quartile of Gallup’s global employee database are 21% more profitable, and 17% more productive than those in the bottom quartile. And these numbers don’t include other significant results in areas such as higher levels of quality, safety and perhaps most importantly, valuable staff retention. Other sources of information find similarly positive outcomes. But unfortunately, for some people leaders and the organizations they oversee, the concept of engagement is more important than the health of their workforce.

Which brings us to the second interpretation of Employee Engagement. Many professionals engaged in workplace health and wellbeing limit the concept of engagement to the raw number of people participating in wellbeing programming, or interested in assessing and improving their personal health. This obviously leads to workplace health and wellbeing discussions that are limited in scope and not necessarily aligned with the priorities of people leaders in organizations — a group that tends to be more focused on the concept of enthusiasm for their work and workplace, discretionary effort, and of course, productivity.

I believe it would be beneficial, on a number of levels, for wellbeing services vendors, insurance carriers, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and Third Party Administrators (TPAs) to rethink their approach to workplace health, wellbeing, and productivity. This would represent a pivot away from the idea that health costs (absenteeism, disability, pharmacy, medical, and health) should be the primary considerations for people leaders. It would be a move toward viewing employee engagement as a focus on the health of their workers, which then leads to positive results in increased engagement, discretionary effort, and productivity.

Research, surveys, and expert opinion are most often less-than-perfect interpretations of reality. Add in the increasingly complex trends in employment types such as freelancers, contractors and consultants, and the effect they have on the employee base, and obvious conclusions become less so. But all signs point to one, indisputable fact: a healthier workforce is also a happier, more cohesive, and ultimately, a more productive one.

Dr. Tyler AmellDr. Tyler Amell is an internationally recognized thought leader on the topic of workplace health and productivity, as well as a frequent speaker and writer. He is a trusted advisor on strategic and integrated workplace health and is the Chief Relationship Officer at CoreHealth Technologies, a corporate wellness technology company that powers well-being programs for global providers. He is on faculty at Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences and is on the Executive Board at the Work Wellness and Disability Prevention Institute and as well as the National Wellness Institute. In the past, he has served on the executive board of the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), and the Canadian Association for Research on Work and Health (CARWH). He has held senior executive positions in a variety of sectors including human resources technology, consulting and healthcare.

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Can Good Posture Help to Prevent Back Pain?

Posted By Dr. Nicholas McCarty, Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2019

Man stooped forward, holding his back in pain.Do you suffer from back pain? Are you trying to find ways to help alleviate it? If so, you might first want to look at your posture. Back pain is often caused by poor posture. This is because it causes strain around the spinal cord which results in pain. In many cases, it can also cause more extreme symptoms, like ruptured discs. Keep reading to learn how good posture could help your back pain. You’ll learn how back pain is often caused and how good posture can fix it.

What Causes Back Pain

Back pain is typically caused due to severe inflammation or strain around the spinal cord. This problem can be caused by numerous things. This includes:

  • Muscle or ligament strain
  • A ruptured disc
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Scoliosis

Woman holding her head on both sides, with a headache.Symptoms of Back Pain

Back pain comes with quite a few different symptoms. Many common symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Pain when you move around
  • Pain radiating down your leg
  • Stabbing pain in your back
  • Numbness in your back and legs
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches

The Benefits of Good Posture

While some back pain problems are due to a medical condition, most are caused by bad posture. Hence, the importance of good posture cannot be understated. Below are some benefits as to how it can help to eliminate your back pain.

It Keeps Your Bones and Joints in Correct Alignment
When you use incorrect posture, it can put strain on your bones and joints. This can eventually cause them to move out of alignment, when your spine’s strange position causes them to shift. Eventually, this can lead to back pain. Using good posture prevents this because it stops strain on your back’s bones and joints.

It Prevents Stress on Your Spinal Cord
Bad posture can also put stress on your spinal cord. Your spinal cord is surrounded by vertebrae, which protect it and enable both flexibility and support during movement. Bad posture can cause these bones to move or be pushed into awkward positions creating stress on your spinal cord as your vertebrae try to maintain their natural curve. Poor posture not only causes the vertebrae to move in different directions, but it can shift your body weight, putting even more stress on your spinal cord.

It Improves Circulation
Good posture can also help improve your circulation. When you slouch, it causes your blood to move away from your heart. When you use proper posture, circulation to your heart is increased. This also helps to lower blood pressure, as your body is optimally aligned for your blood to circulate as efficiently as possible.

It Reduces Muscle Tension
When you have poor posture, it can lead to muscle contractions which can lead to back pain and tension headaches. Good posture keeps your muscles relaxed which can reduce tension headaches, stiffness, back pain, and other soreness throughout the body. Reducing muscle tension also helps to prevent injury.

It Can Boost Your Energy Levels
You might be surprised to learn that good posture can help to boost your energy. This is because it reduces tension and strain around your spinal cord which can alter your mood. As mentioned above, it also improves your circulation which can encourage your body to feel happier and energetic.

Techniques for Using Good Posture

Woman stretching with an exercise partner

Below are some techniques you can keep in mind to help ensure you use good posture.

Stand Tall
One of the best ways to improve your posture is to stand as straight as you can. This will work to stretch your spine back into its natural curve. It can also help to provide relief to painful muscles around your spinal cord affected by your poor posture. While standing straight, make sure to also bring your shoulders back slightly. This will help to align your neck and spine.

Use a Lumbar Cushion When You Sit
One way to help your posture is to use a lumbar cushion when you sit. Your lumbar system consists of your spinal cord and the nerves surrounding it. This item will work to help keep your lumbar system aligned while preventing you from slouching.

A lumbar cushion is designed specifically to provide support to your spine when you sit. It helps to make you feel as if you’re floating rather than compressed against a seat which can cause tension in your tailbone that moves up into your spine.

Limit Your Screen Usage
Many people today suffer from what is called “text neck”. This is when your neck becomes sore and tense due to you lowering it down to look at your smart device. Because your neck is connected to your spine, tension in your neck can affect the spine as well. Due to this, it’s ideal to limit your time on your smart devices. You can also make sure to lift them up to eye level to prevent bending your neck down.

Watch Your Shoes
Sometimes the shoes you wear can cause strain to your spine. This is because your gait—the way in which you walk—involves the bones in your feet, and how they move will ultimately affect the alignment of the spine. If not properly supported, your feet can cause your spine to slouch which can lead to back pain. Take care to wear adequately supportive shoes to ensure they properly support your spine.

Gently Stretch Your Body
Back pain can be caused by your muscles tensing up because they aren’t being moved. You can help to prevent this by standing up, keeping your shoulders back, and gently stretching your body. This will keep your spine aligned while also releasing any tension you might have.

Keep Your Weight Evenly Distributed on Each Foot
Some people might lean more on one side of their body. This can cause strain to the side that is being pulled. To prevent spinal strain, work to keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet. This will also help to keep your spine aligned and prevent back pain.

In some cases—such as with scoliosis—you might need special medical treatment. If you suffer from back pain that persists, is intense, or comes with other symptoms (such as tingling in your extremities), it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Remembering to pay attention to your posture, however, can help to significantly reduce the symptoms of many causes of back pain, improve your circulation, boost your energy levels, and prevent injury. Good posture is one of the simplest and most important ways to start yourself off “on the right foot”.

Dr. Nicholas McCartyDr. Nicholas McCarty is a graduate of Logan University where he earned his degree in chiropractic medicine. After moving to Alaska, he became a chiropractor at Better Health Chiropractic in Anchorage as well as a physiology lecturer at the local university. However, his true passion lies in chiropractic medicine. He found his calling as a chiropractor after being treated for post-surgical pains of his own. His primary mission is to treat and reduce unrelieved pain in patients, as well as stay abreast of new technological developments in chiropractic and physical medicine.

Tags:  back pain  physical wellness  posture 

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How Technology is Expanding the Wellness Industry

Posted By Romuald Antoine Jr., CPT, CHC, Friday, October 11, 2019

Couple using fitness apps on their phone while in the gymTechnology continues to change the way work is done and is reshaping the landscape of the wellness industry. As employers increasingly rely on technology better manage employees, engage them in wellness, and improve morale, they are looking for digital health solutions.

One of the key findings in the 2019 Workplace Wellness Trends Report by Shortlister of findings from 10 out of 12 largest employee benefits consultants in the US is that 66% of mid to large size employers are implementing or seeking for a wellness platform or mobile app to engage their employees.

With technology, the possibilities are endless because there are so many segments of wellness that a company can cover. For example, some companies only offer digital biometric solutions, while some offer apps to help employees with depression. Then there are some that are more comprehensive and offer modules covering each dimension of wellness.

Here are 3 ways wellness platforms are changing the industry for the better.

  1. Conduct Health Assessments & Biometric Screenings
    A health assessment is a great way to get a baseline of a population's lifestyle and health risks. When that data is then combined with biometric screening data it can allow a user be educated on their results, get a personalized action plan, or even schedule a visit with a health provider, all within minutes.
  2. Educate and Raise Awareness
    There are so many ways to educate employees about wellbeing, including the use of flyers and newsletters or hosting a lunch-n-learn. New wellness platforms now have customized content readily available through video, live-chats with experts, blog posts, and podcasts. These help employees understand the importance of behavior change and absorb the material in a fun way.
  3. Tracking Wellness Activities and Program Participation
    This is the fun part! With the use of wearable devices such as a Fitbit, Garmin or even a smartphone, employees can now track their health. Some devices track sleep, steps, and even offer guided meditations. This allows a user to not only continuously track their activity, but also set personal goals, earn rewards, and even have some friendly competition within the office. On the other side, this is another tool that HR can use to see if a program is being used, or if users are engaging with the content and if it's beneficial to the company.

Is this only relevant to HR Staff?

Woman on video chat with her wellness coachWhile all this information may sound impressive to an employer, how can this help an emerging wellness professional?

About six years ago, once you entered the wellness space, you most likely were going to work for a company that only offered health coaching, consulting, or corporate workshops. Now with technology, people with a wide range of experience and backgrounds can be a part of the wellness industry in a new way. For example, if you're a software engineer you might join a team that has a digital solution to help reduce chronic disease; if you're a health coach some companies now offer virtual coaching that can be done remotely; if you're a graphic designer you can create the content that is used in the portals of wellness programs. Even if you're still interested in interacting directly with employees, offering workshops, or creating content, there's still a need within digital health companies.

All in all, the addition of these solutions enables more professionals to find their space in the wellness industry. The power of technology can give employees fun wellness programs at work, and provide tools to scale wellness offerings, research, and knowledge to thousands. Looking ahead for 2020 and beyond, there will be even more ways to combine tech savviness with old-fashioned human interaction to move the wellness industry in the right direction and improve the employee experience.

Romuald Antoine Jr., CPT, CHCRomuald Antoine Jr., CPT, CHC is a millennial engagement expert and author of the Ultimate Guide to Engaging Millennials, is the founder and CEO of One Stop Wellness, a workplace wellness company that helps organizations empower their employees to improve their lifestyle.

Tags:  biometric screening  health assessment  technology  wellness programs  workplace wellness 

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Unlocking Wellness at the 2019 National Wellness Conference

Posted By Lisa Medley, Thursday, October 10, 2019
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2019

Dana Bender and Lisa Medley“This conference is life-changing,” was a popular refrain from the 2019 National Wellness Conference held the first week of October in Kissimmee, Florida. In its 44th year, this gathering brings together experts with decades of experience, those shifting gears to create more meaning in their lives and those they serve, as well as brand-new wellness professionals. 

The conference theme was The Key to Thriving: Six Dimensions of Wellness. Things kicked off Monday afternoon with a warm welcome from members of the board, staff, and Heart-to-Heart Committee along with a chance to unlock the Keys to Thriving Treasure Chest and win prizes donated by sponsors, exhibitors, and presenters. After registration, conferees enjoyed the Exhibit Hall Grand Opening that included a range of sponsors and exhibitors that supported all Six Dimensions of Wellness and more! There were opportunities to learn more about your genes, your brain, the brain in your heart, pain reduction remedies, innovative technological solutions, and financial wellness. Educational, coaching, wellness-based insurance companies, and healing centers were also present to offer missing pieces to traditional models and support the wellness movement. 

After an evening of making new connections and reconnecting with treasured friends, Tuesday morning began with hugs—lots of them! Ken Nwadike of the Free Hugs Project shared stories of de-escalating intense confrontations on the frontlines of riots and protests. His efforts in “Restoring Civility in America” show the vital importance to be more supportive and respectful toward one another and celebrate the hope that peacekeeping is possible, even amidst uprisings. In addition to his powerful stories, he invited us to hug a neighbor, cheer on four conferees in a race to win Free Hugs T-shirts and, at the conclusion of his presentation, receive hugs from Ken himself. The line was long, lasted nearly an hour, and embodied the whole-person approach of the National Wellness Institute.

Then there were rabbits. Wednesday’s keynote was delivered by Dr. Kelli Harding, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, who shared “The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness.” (The presentation shares the name of her recently released book.) She explored the science of surprising hidden factors, such as kindness and connection in our day-to-day lives, that can have profound impacts on our overall health beyond visits to the doctor’s office. The Rabbit Effect was referring to a study that showed the significant growth and development of a group of rabbits who were not only fed, also but held in the arms of a researcher. Shortly after setting the stage for her stories and research discoveries, she invited us to greet one another with kindness and remarked that “this group doesn’t need to be told twice.”

Arkansas Dept. of Health employees completed Certificate of Worksite Wellness Specialist

On Thursday morning, we were treated to a robust panel discussion: Thriving in Today’s Environment. Moderated by Jane Ellery of Ball State University, the panel included: DeAnne Aussem, Managing Director & U.S. Leadership Coaching Center Center CoE Leader at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC); Colin Bullen, Founder and Director of BRATLAB Limited; and Curtis Watkins, Owner of Watkins & Associates Executive and Team Development. These three inspiring professionals come from different avenues of wellness and have a shared vision: helping others to thrive in their everyday place. 

The panelists offered ingredients for successful thriving and addressed myths that limit progress. One key to thriving is integration, so that wellness practices are applied by all, including leadership, and woven in throughout the day. Examples include nap pods, prayer rooms, 1-minute meditations at the beginning of meetings, rooms for teaming and collaborating, and walking meetings. The overarching theme was redefining the way work gets done. 

Another key that was echoed by the panelists was the importance of a clear vision of what it means to thrive. Aspiration is worthy and it needs to be connected to the underlying rationale both on the professional and personal level. When it comes to day-to-day practice, patience is required, as well as the acceptance that thriving is a journey of continuous steps. 

What happens when even though there is vision, something is still amiss? The panelists gave voice to many myths that may impede progress. The myth that education is enough was debunked. This is the case for rewards and incentives as well. Although changes may occur initially, they will not stick in the long-term. Sometimes it is a matter of not circling back to programs to see what is working and what is not; more often there is lack of intrinsic motivation. 

A remedy offered is ensuring the internal and external environments are supportive for ongoing success. For example, is someone’s inner landscape being driven by a belief of, “I can’t” regarding the change they would like to make or are presented with? In this case, asking questions, sometimes many, provides an opportunity for people to share their stories rather than being stopped by assumptions. In addition, it is important that the focus is on “Who are you?” not just what you do. To humanize workplaces and communities, it is necessary to honor that we are one human being; not someone at work and someone else at home.  

Intrinsic motivation is ultimately strengthened by increased self-awareness. All the panelists offered a variety of tools and practices to support this process. These include: meditation; emotional literacy, including befriending those emotions that may be in the “shadows”; somatic awareness (paying attention to what you are sensing below the neck); engaging in practices to feed all of you—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; and being willing to be vulnerable.

Recognizing the impact of the external environment is also key. Internal shifts will be more sustainable if the outer world is supportive. For example, if there is encouragement to move/exercise, is there actually time to do it? When people are having breaks, to what extent are they using it to restore themselves or are they getting lost in technological overstimulation? Are those in leadership being active role models? Is there nonjudgment for ideas and emotions? In other words, is it safe enough to let your guard down and be authentic? Is there a focus on the collective and collaboration or is the myth of separation or a “lone ranger” mentality present?  

Parting thoughts included celebrating that every single person has value and is part of the whole to create a world of contributors, not just consumers. In addition, getting to know your inner landscape with simple queries like, “What is important to me?” is essential. The wisdom of Victor Frankl was also shared who taught that in between a stimulus and response we all have the power to choose. When we create the time and space to practice being in that space, we can expand our choices to be well while being efficient with our energy. This is a powerful recipe for greater liberation, which can truly make the world a better place to live and thrive!

When we weren’t being inspired by this amazing group of keynotes and panelists, the wellness horizon was being expanded by a plethora of presentations. One of the cornerstones of the National Wellness Conference is an opportunity to engage both the personal and the professional. There were a variety of continuing education credits to be earned, and a rich selection of strategies, tools, and techniques. Conferees could explore their spirituality and body wisdom, increase their emotional repertoire, become more mindful, map their heart, and get to know the brain in the gut. The Coaching Academy, Worksite Academy, and Multicultural Competency Academy all offered immersions in their respective areas. A range of populations were represented, from engaging with youth to retirement as well as worksites, schools, diversity and inclusion, integrative health, and international representation from ten different countries. There was also delicious food, a kazoo band, waving to alligators from a distance, and social time to eat, drink, and be merry.   

It is an exciting time to be in the wonderful world of wellness! To celebrate the continued evolution of this field, next year’s conference theme is: Reimagine Wellness. Save the dates for July 20-22, 2020, and join us at Orlando World Center Marriott. In the meantime, dive into the rich resources that the National Wellness Institute provides all year long to reinforce the powerful currency of connection.

Lisa MedleyLisa Medley, MA, CMT serves as a Wellbeing and Body Intelligence Expert. She supports her clients to cultivate positive relationships with their body for sustainable inside-out wellbeing. Lisa believes in reintegrating the body and its wisdom to support the evolution of our divine human potential. Learn more at SoulisticArts.com. Check out her new Instagram page as well: @soulisticarts.

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Modern Practices in Workplace Wellness & Well-being in Russia

Posted By Dr. Ivan Rybakov, Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Global economic competition has created a demand for a healthy and effective workforce. Companies and organizations started the first health and well-being programs between 2000 to 2008. They incorporated programs such as health days and fairs, EAP programs, and check-ups for employees. Demographic problems (increasing mortality) gained attention from government and officials in 2018-2019. The Russian Ministry of Health Care founded the first program to combat this. The program aimed to systemize different practices in workplace wellness. The result was a practice-oriented guide.

Systematic workplace health and well-being practice

The main parts of this document include:

  • Rules for creating and developing health and well-being programs for the workplace
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Prevention of excessive alcohol consumption
  • Healthy eating in the workplace
  • Physical activity in the workplace
  • Stress prevention

This document contains popular components like health days/weeks according to the methods used by Marsh & Mercer 2018, which is one of the most popular components of well-being programs (more than 40% of companies use this), health and well-being politics, online and onsite training, and leadership programs.

“Health Fair” in the workplace of a Russian oil company

The rules for creating and developing health and well-being programs for the workplace The first part of the standard analyses the experience of companies such as Kamaz, Rosneft, Sakhalin Energy, Gazpromneft and uses these companies as examples.

One of the first steps required is to create health and well-being politics in the workplace, a health and well-being committee, and health leadership.

The process includes 4 main stages:

  • Planning (analyze, create an operative plan, find resources, creating KPIs, risk hazards, level of risk factors in the employee population. )
  • Implementing five types of health and well-being programs (physical activity, stress, health habits, smoking and alcohol consumption)
  • Monitoring (checking KPIs for every program period, such as participation and engagement, levels of behavioral change)
  • Evaluation (new ways to improve health and well-being programs)

The most common well-being programs for workplace in Russia. Physical activity and healthy eating are more popular practices among “blue collar” workers.

Well-being in the workplace is a growing market in Russia. This is due to changing demographics, increased global economic competition, need for a productive workforce, and the desire to improve the quality of health and fitness in employees. It is important to promote health and wellbeing in the workforce to increase performance and productivity and to lower healthcare costs. However, there are still prevailing areas for development that include implementation of holistic approaches for workplace wellness and well-being, integration of wellness it-platforms, and preparation of wellness leaders and ambassadors.

Ivan Rybakov, MD, MBAIvan Rybakov, MD, MBA is a workplace wellness and well-being expert and researcher at Moscow's Academy of Health Industry Professionals, and is the editor of the magazines "Health Coach" and "Perks and Benefit". Dr. Rybakov is the author of "Corporate Health and Well-being", and has written more than 50 articles on the subject.

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Beating Burnout—The Benefits of Yoga for Nurses

Posted By Heather Mason, Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Busy nurses station at hospitalWhile nursing is often rewarding, interesting and praiseworthy, it is also undoubtedly a challenging role. In fact, when we discuss the profession of nursing, phrases such as “stress” and “burnout” are rarely far from the conversation, with staffing pressures and sometimes a lack of proper funding making the profession — which is inherently high-pressure — even more difficult.

There are increasing calls to include yoga in healthcare systems across the world, both for the benefit of the patients but to also help doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals better cope with the strains and stresses of daily life on the ward — from back problems to burnout. Mindfulness and yoga can offer both relief to immediate stress and increased resiliency over the long term, so individuals find it easier to remain calm even in trying circumstances.

While larger, system-wide changes are needed to comprehensively support healthcare professionals, giving nurses the tools which can help them deal with common pressures is becoming increasingly vital to ensure that we, to use a common phrase, “care for the carers”.

Why is nursing considered a stressful profession?

Nursing is a vital societal role. Comparable to firefighters, doctors, farmers, and teachers, if large numbers of nurses failed to work, we would face instant and untold ramifications. Nurses will often fight their way into hospitals through crippling weather events (as seen in the 2018 snowstorms in Britain) and even work when they are unwell, keenly aware of the impact on patients that any non-attendance can have.

Despite their importance, however, the role of a nurse is widely misunderstood. Public perception still relies heavily on the image of someone who makes the bed and does personal care, when these (no less crucial) roles are usually fulfilled by healthcare assistants. Nurses, by contrast, are highly trained medical professionals to whom even doctors will defer to, should a nurse have greater experience or knowledge.

This perception can mean that nursing can be considered “low-skilled” (although I would argue that no caring role should be seen in this way) and not viewed with the same esteem as other medical professions. Relatively low pay is an issue for nurses in some countries, with a recent UK controversy involving the news that some nurses are so financially stretched they have to visit food banks. Studies also indicate that lack of support from senior staff is a stressor for nurses, which may be linked to this issue.

Along with other medical staff, nurses also often work in shifts, for long hours, across public holidays, weekends, and nights — finding it difficult to juggle their job with their personal lives. Shifts are sometimes so intense that nurses will skip breaks and even find they can’t get to the bathroom, and when the physical work of nursing is done, there is also extremely important paperwork to attend to.

As a caring role, nursing involves a large amount of emotional labor — nurses regularly see events such as severe physical/mental illness, critical accidents, and death — that most people will only encounter a handful of times over their entire lifetime. Dealing with elderly patients with dementia, young people facing terminal illness, and occasionally aggressive patients can be both upsetting and exhausting.

Ultimately, while other jobs can be stressful due to the pressure of financial, service, or administrative responsibilities, healthcare is almost unique in the fact that mistakes can potentially have life-or-death consequences — making this sector one of the most stressful to work in.

Yoga for nurses

Woman practicing yoga on walking bridge.There are a plethora of reasons why yoga can be beneficial to nurses, especially when we consider the particular challenges of their work life. Whether it’s working night shifts in ER, being a staff nurse in a psychiatric unit, or assisting a doctor in private practice, there are various stresses across every nursing role which yoga can ease.

Exercise is a common form of self-care and yoga is, many would argue, uniquely beneficial because it is also a mindful, meditative activity which can be adapted to be purely secular or fully spiritual, according to personal preference. It can also be adapted to address certain issues or accommodate certain physical needs — as when, for example, a person suffers with back pain, or is recovering from mental trauma.

With research on the stress-relieving qualities of yoga having been conducted for decades now, there is convincing and rapidly growing evidence that strongly suggests yoga is an effective way to decrease stress — with yoga for anxiety reduction proving particularly successful. It appears that yoga regulates our stress response, reducing our perceived stress and anxiety and lessening the physiological symptoms of stress, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and digestive problems.

The practice of yoga has been found to reduce serum cortisol levels , reduce stress and anxiety, and improve confidence in dealing with stressful situations. A study by Berger &, Owen in 1992 associated regular yoga practice with increased positive mood, and yoga has been shown to increase dopamine levels with a subsequent impact on the brain’s pleasure and reward systems. Studies also suggest that yoga is an efficacious method of relieving lower back pain.

Nurses taught through the Yoga in Healthcare Alliance shared that the yoga made them feel lighter, more peaceful, and less time-constrained, and those who had been experiencing burnout reported that they felt more connected to the reasons why they had trained as a nurse in the first place.

As nurses handle the unique challenges of their role, yoga could become a great support in their lives. Providing yoga to nurses would allow them to deal with the inevitable stress that comes with their healthcare responsibilities, both through the immediately calming effects of yogic breathing exercises and the long-term benefits of a regular yoga practice.

Heather MasonHeather Mason is a yoga therapist and founder of The Minded Institute, who provide professional training in the application of yogic techniques in the treatment of various physical and mental health issues. She also campaigns for the introduction of yoga into healthcare through the Yoga in Healthcare Alliance.

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Mesothelioma Awareness

Posted By Emily Liptak, Monday, September 16, 2019
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2019

On September 26th each year, Mesothelioma Awareness Day is recognized as a time to educate the public on this rare form of cancer as well as to show support for those impacted by the disease.

What is Mesothelioma?

If you haven’t heard of mesothelioma, you’re not alone. This form of cancer is rare, but if an individual is diagnosed the prognosis is often poor. Due to its rarity as well as aggressive nature, mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to treat. Mesothelioma can be found in the lining of the heart, stomach, and lungs. This cancer is caused by asbestos exposure, in which inhaled asbestos fibers trigger an inflammatory response and fibrotic scarring which may increase DNA damage in tissues, particularly those which contain mesothelial cells. This DNA damage can interrupt the cells ability to regulate its own growth, allowing for uncontrolled growth around the body. Essentially, tumors may begin to form.

This disease is known for its latency period typically spanning anywhere between 20-50 years after initial exposure, which makes it difficult to pinpoint when an individual was first exposed. Nearly 3,000 new people are diagnosed with mesothelioma annually with the most common form being pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for this illness, although researchers have been working to find new methods of treatment, as well as establishing clinical trials.

Asbestos Awareness

While the importance of mesothelioma awareness is vital, understanding what asbestos is, why it is dangerous, and where it can be found is also an important step in preventative education.

Contractors spackling a ceiling.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is found naturally in rocks and soil. Due to its durability and heat resistance properties it was a popular material utilized in a number of materials such as:

  • Building products (insulation, roofing, flooring, cement)
  • Automotive parts (brake pads, brake linings, transmission pads)
  • Electrical materials (heating ducts, wiring insulation, boilers, furnaces)
  • Consumer products ( baby powder, hair dryers, potting soil, crockpots, fume hoods)

Asbestos is still not banned in nearly 70% of the world, and many people can be exposed while on the job or while in their home. This mineral isn’t dangerous to our health while lying dormant, but once it is distrubed it immediately becomes toxic to those in its vicinity. Asbestos was used in building construction until the 1970’s, so although it is not currently used in new buildings, it is still hazardous when living in an older home, or working in an older building. Unfortunately, many people are unaware their home contains asbestos and unknowingly disturb these fibers when tackling DIY home projects. Because of this, it’s important to understand this toxicant, where it comes from, and the proper safety precautions to take.

To be safe, the first step when beginning a home project is finding out when your home was built to see if asbestos was used in any area. The next step in the process is to hire a professional to remove and replace contaminated products or materials. Do not try to take on the removal process on your own, as you may not use the proper tools and safety equipment, and may not know how to dispose of it properly.

Ways to Show Your Advocacy and Support

There are a number of ways to show support and care for those impacted by this illness. If you’re hoping to make a change in the asbestos field, it’s important to support those that are advocating for a ban on this toxicant. Disaster preparedness can also help protect you and those around you from exposure. When a disaster strikes, it is easy to be overwhelmed with what may have been lost and the work that needs to be done. Luckily, there are resources that can guide you through what to do if your health becomes threatened by disturbed asbestos. A simple way to show support is by donating to a related nonprofit. Donating to a cause, such as the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, will support in efforts towards advocating for a ban, as well as funding research for better treatment options and creating programs for patients and their families.

Knowledge is power, and in the case of asbestos and mesothelioma, this saying couldn’t be truer. Mesothelioma is not a genetic cancer, which means it is fully preventable if the proper precautions are being taken, and general awareness and information of this threat to human health are shared. Take the extra time inspecting a home or reading the ingredients on a product. The safety of yourself and those around you may depend on it.

Récha Bullock Founded in 2007, the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center brings attention to the dangers of asbestos and the deadly form of cancer it causes: mesothelioma. An independent group working to help mesothelioma patients, caregivers, advocates and others looking to learn more about the disease.

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Healing from Grief — How to Move On When You Lose Loved Ones

Posted By Rechá Bullock, MS., CWP, CWWS, RYT-200, Thursday, September 5, 2019
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2019

Man sitting alone on bench looking down at town and graveyardI realize death is a part of life and none of us can escape dying. However, nothing could have prepared me for the profound amount of loss, grief, and sadness I felt when my beloved maternal grandmother died 21 months ago, an uncle 19 months later, and a close friend last year to breast cancer. Intense sadness, loneliness, and anger are some of the feelings and emotions that I experienced during the grieving process.

I was my grandmother’s primary caregiver and her medical power-of-attorney. I spent many hours and nights in the hospital with my grandmother throughout several illnesses that were a direct result of poor food choices. Each time my rambunctious grandmother would get admitted into the hospital, she always came back home. I was always able to nurse her back to health with clean healthy foods, moderate exercise, and by ensuring she took all of her medications. However, I knew in my heart that her very last emergency room visit was unlike any other. My sweet Grandmother died in the hospital from renal failure and her son (my uncle) died 18 months later.

Watching a loved one die, losing multiple family members and a close friend in less than two years is one of the most difficult things that I have ever experienced. I have learned there isn’t anything you can do to prepare yourself for the overwhelming feelings of grief and sadness. I also learned there isn’t a timeframe when you stop missing your loved ones or stop feeling sad. You must allow yourself the time to go through what you are feeling inside. During the first year of my grandmother’s death, I had really bad days and often did not make it out doors due to the gut-wrenching sadness and loss that I was feeling.

What I have learned from the healing process is the more you love someone, the greater the grief will be! Grief and mourning are normal and we must allow ourselves the time to mourn and feel all of the intense feelings that come with the loss of loved ones. There were times when I thought about my grandmother and laughed because I thought of one of the many funny stories she told me. Other times, the intensity of the grief I felt was physically overwhelming. This was especially true if I listened to one of her voice mail messages that I saved on my cell phone.

The Healing Process

The healing process is a personal journey and each person will endure various highs and lows, as well as a range of feelings and emotions when they lose a loved one. However, never allow anyone to disregard how you feel or make you feel like you should no longer be sad or still grieving. I have learned that grief can be unpredictable! Also, there isn’t a fixed time or date when you will stop grieving. In fact, some people may never get over the loss of losing a loved one and may continue to experience a range of emotions and life disruptions for many years. This type of prolonged grief is known as Complicated Grief Shear (2012).

Empty bench beside a lake at sunset.Complicated grief can be described as prolonged and intense feelings of grief that also includes a strong longing for the person who died (as cited in Shear, 2012, p. 4, para. 6). The intense feelings associated with complicated grief can begin to interfere with regular life activities, work, and personal relationships Shear (2012). If for some reason you are unable to have good days sprinkled in with sad days or become so depressed that you cannot seem to get back to your normal routine, you should seek professional help. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should contact your doctor or a mental health professional if you have intense grief and problems functioning that don't improve at least one year after the passing of your loved one (MAYO Clinic, 2017, para. 6). Professional therapists and mental health professionals are trained to help people cope with grief and process the range of feelings and emotions that come along with losing a loved one. Also, finding a counselor can be as easy as calling your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), primary care doctor, or finding a bereavement group at your place or worship.

I work in the public health field and knew that not dealing with my feelings could significantly jeopardize my mental and physical health. I am so glad that I allowed myself to cry when I felt very sad, sleep when I felt depressed, and exercise or do yoga when I needed to change my mood. I encourage everyone to tell loved ones, family, and friends when you are sad or depressed. Your family and friends can provide you with support by listening to how you are feeling, which can help to lift your mood.

In time you will definitely start to feel better and accept the death of your loved one. It is very important to be patient with yourself. Acknowledge what you are feeling. If you start to feel sad, try doing something that makes you happy like listening to music or singing your favorite song. My lifeline was yoga, teaching yoga, meditation, and exercise. Exercising, meditation, weight training, and yoga were like a refuge for me. Once I turned on my iPod and started moving, I was able to escape from my sad feelings. Remember, the overwhelming feelings from grief will not last forever and the time it takes to heal from losing a loved one is unique for each person.

Five steps to help you heal from grief

  1. Take one day at a time
  2. Be honest with how you are feeling and don’t be afraid to cry or be angry
  3. Let family and friends know when you need support
  4. Seek professional help or join a bereavement group if you are unable to get back to your normal routine or have prolonged sadness or depression
  5. Find an activity to do that will help change your mood like listening to music, meditation, exercise, or hanging out with friends

The grieving process can be long, difficult, and painful. Hopefully, the memories you have of your loved one(s) can help you feel lighter. Eventually, in your own time and your own way, you will begin to heal.


Mayo Clinic. (2017, October). Complicated grief. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/symptoms-causes/syc-20360374

Shear M. K. (2012). Grief and mourning gone awry: pathway and course of complicated grief. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(2), 119–128.

Récha BullockRechà Bullock is a Certified Wellness Practitioner, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, Yoga Teacher (200-RYT), Yoga for Cancer Teacher, public health professional, and plant-based foodie. Her passion for health and wellness comes from a lifelong love of fitness, health, nutrition, yoga, and a desire to help people transform their health by eating foods that are nutrient rich.

Tags:  emotional wellness  grief  social wellness 

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Wellness Trends - August 2019

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2019

The Wellbeing Initiative Your Organization Needs

There's a lot more to wellness than physical health. Yet only 12% of U.S. employers offer wide-ranging wellbeing programs that include elements like social support, health education and proper follow-up for health screenings, all built into a culture that sees workers as whole people. Read more at Gallup.com


Could a Wellness Coach Change Your Life?

We live in a time when no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of wellness, and with it — we hope at least — happiness. The health and wellness industry is now worth an astounding $4.2 trillion, a colossal figure that reflects the scale of our preoccupation with being ‘well.' Read more at Vogue.co.uk


The Role for Health Coaching in Primary Care 

It’s remarkable that while overweight and obesity are major epidemic medical problems resulting in many clinical complications, and we have solid scientific evidence showing us safe, effective interventions that actually help people to lose weight, we are not yet incorporating these methods into primary care. What’s our problem? Read more at Harvard Medical School


What is Functional Medicine and Why Some DO’s Gravitate to it

Learn more about this growing practice of personalized medicine, often described as ‘root cause medicine.’  Read more at TheDo.com 

Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity

Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age that shape health. This brief provides an overview of social determinants of health and emerging initiatives to address them. Read more at KFF.org


Social Determinants of Health: Transforming the Buzz Phrase to a Rural Action Item

“What’s next?” This is the two-word question rural healthcare innovators think about every day. For some innovators, a partial answer to that question might be population health management. For others, a top priority might be addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), a well-used, popular phrase perhaps still searching for its niche. Read more at RuralHealthInfo.org

Employee Engagement is Rooted in Wellness

Far from being the latest buzzword, employee experience is turning into the key element of the future-proof workplace. It’s time to change the outdated 20th century mindset that dismisses employees as dispensable and infinitely replaceable and instead recognize that business is all about people. Read more at WorldatWork.org

Uniqueness is not a disease

Most workplace environments have been designed for uniformity. Organizations invest countless hours and millions of dollars into attracting new talent; but when it comes to managing talent they already have all of their systems and tools are constructed for sameness. Read more at MarcusBuckingham.com

Tags:  Wellness Trends 

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