Five Big Trends to Improve Your Workplace Wellness Programs in 2013

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1 Five Big Trends to Improve Your Workplace Wellness Programs in 2013

2 Introduction The world around us is constantly changing. That s a given. Some shifts cause an immediate and direct impact on our personal lives or our work. Others sneak up on us and have a more gradual but equally significant influence. If you re responsible for your organization s workplace wellness programs, you need to pay attention to both types of change. Shifts as disparate as new healthcare laws and new apps for smartphones are affecting the way workplace wellness programs are designed and implemented. Trends in nearly every aspect of life are changing the way wellness programs can engage your employees and bring greater value to your organization and stakeholders. Virgin HealthMiles has been providing employee health programs since It currently serves more than 200 companies that, combined, have over 1 million employees. This paper illustrates five current regulatory, social and technological trends that are changing the world of workplace wellness programs and how you can benefit from those trends. Trend No. 1: Finding Opportunities in New Healthcare Rules The Affordable Healthcare Act will affect the design of workplace wellness programs in several ways. Trends in nearly every aspect of life are changing the way wellness programs can engage your employees and bring greater value to your organization and stakeholders. The new law will spur administrators of wellness programs to look for solutions from vendors that offer communication and management options that will ensure continued participation and engagement as the designs of their plans change, says Barrett Coakley, senior product marketing manager for Virgin HealthMiles. Plan Design First, the new regulations require employers to rethink the types of wellness programs they offer beginning in 2014, to stay in compliance with federal mandates. The law will also compel companies to reassess their incentive strategies to make sure they re in line with new incentive levels. The new rules increase incentive levels from 20 percent to 30 percent (50 percent for smoking cessation) starting in Employers will need to reconsider how they divvy up their budget for various incentives to engage specific audiences and reach more narrowly defined wellness goals. Research has shown that incentives are more effective if they target specific audiences. 2

3 Communications With the changes to regulations, companies will need to drive even greater employee awareness and participation in their wellness programs to maximize their return on investment, Coakley says. This has the added benefit of heightening the organization s return on investment in those programs. For example, the new regulations allow either incentives or penalties of up to 50 percent of the cost of coverage to employees and their employers for smoking cessation programs. Why does it allow for either incentives or penalties? Coakley asks. Research shows that sometimes the carrot works and sometimes the stick gets better results. You ll have to determine what will work best for your population before you decide how to position your incentive dollars. Example of Variable Incentive Offerings Under the Affordable Healthcare Act Amount of Incentive or Penalty Total Cost of Employer Sponsored Coverage* 20% 30% 50%** Individual $5,615 $1,123 $1,684 $2,807 Family $15,745 $3,149 $4,723 $7,872 *Amounts from the 2012 Kaiser/HRET Employer Health Benefits Survey (EHBS) **Incentive amount for smoking cessation program Vendor Management In a nutshell, the new law gives employers a chance to stop and evaluate how they manage the vendors who provide their various workplace wellness programs. With all of the upcoming changes, for continued employee participation and success, it s crucial that your employees be able to: Easily locate and understand all of the workplace wellness programs you offer, on either your company website or benefits portal Quickly identify programs that will best meet their individual health needs and interests Easily sign up to participate in any of the programs you offer You will also need clear vendor management to develop uncluttered and supportive communication with employees. 3

4 There s a lot of information out there already, Coakley says. Look how many s we get every day. If you re adding multiple vendors and multiple programs to your wellness initiatives, using to keep your employees informed about all of your offerings may not be the simplest and clearest way to communicate with them. One answer is a system that provides an umbrella for all of your organization s health and wellness programs and benefits. This way, your employees can find all wellness-related communications easily and quickly. This corporate health-and-wellness umbrella could really help you drive greater awareness of your wellness offerings and as a result, boost employee participation, Coakley says. Trend No. 2: Honoring the Demand for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Four of every 10 American workers today feel that being able to use their own devices while at work is their top workplace priority. 1 This includes tablets, smartphones and apps, according to 2012 research by Cisco Systems. And that means apps that can track your health and activity in social and fun ways, Coakley says. This is crucial, because the consumer market for personal health devices has exploded over the last two years, allowing people to track everything from their sleep patterns to their diet to the miles they walk. Enabling your employees to use the tools that they want to use, when they want to use them, will boost engagement in your wellness programs. You ll see better results and lower healthcare costs. Employees second priority, according to Cisco and other research, is the desire to perform personal activities at work and vice versa: to manage work tasks on their own time, whenever and wherever they choose. What these priorities mean for your wellness program in a nutshell, Coakley says, is that you want to give your employees the option to walk with a pedometer and download their data, from home or wherever, directly into a personalized website that s part of their workplace wellness program. For example, with its HealthMiles program, Virgin HealthMiles offers its GoZone pedometer for employees to track their daily activity no matter where they are. But the Virgin HealthMiles system is also device-agnostic. This means it also allows your employees to use any compatible device to track their activity, as well as record other health and wellness measurements, such as their weight and blood pressure. Enabling your employees to use the tools that they want to use, when they want to use them, will boost engagement in your wellness programs. You ll see better results and lower healthcare costs. 1 Cisco Systems Inc. Cisco Study: IT Saying Yes to BYOD. May 16, release/854754/cisco-study-it-saying-yes-to-byod 4

5 Moving From Systems of Records to Systems of Engagement Yes, the topic sounds incredibly technical and not like it would have anything to do with your wellness program: systems of records vs. systems of engagement. But it relates directly to your employees wanting to use their own devices whether at work or at home. It also ties back to the shift toward needing more finely focused employee communication for your wellness programs to be successful. Systems of records have no communication after the fact, Coakley says. It s a model consisting of silos of information. Records are captured, stored and managed. 2 There s little engagement between people after that. Systems of engagement, on the other hand, allow such features as what Coakley calls on-the-go performance management, and feedback from your social circle at work about a project you re working on or a wellness challenge you re participating in. And it lets you see everything that s going on with that initiative, Coakley adds. When Virgin HealthMiles pioneered the wellness gamification market in 2005, it was already tapping into the need for systems of engagement. Gamification encourages people to have fun while they re adopting a healthier lifestyle. It does that in part by helping people engage with the wellness system on a daily basis. Gamification and the use of personal mobile devices promote ideas and ways for people to interact and become engaged and connected with the system on a daily basis, Coakley says. Contrast that with a person doing an activity one time and then leaving the system maybe returning in six months. Continuously using records and reports that the wellness system gathers, and providing feedback to your employees based on that information, will help heighten engagement in wellness programs. It has an additional benefit: It provides a huge amount of hard data for your organization to mine and apply to other aspects of your health and wellness programs. You can see what s important to your workforce, what programs people are using, and how to optimize your programs in response, Coakley says. Trend No. 3: Bringing It All Together Workplace wellness programs support many varied health goals, from stress reduction to weight loss, from smoking cessation to lowering high blood pressure. Individual programs can be provided by different vendors, and the trend is toward getting more options from even more vendors. If each vendor has its own portal or gateway, it obviously will be incredibly difficult for your employees to engage with the programs you re offering, Coakley says. To give their employees a better experience, more employers are clustering their vendors under one umbrella. 2 Bersin by Deloitte. The Business Case for Talent Management: Steve Ballmer Agrees. Jan. 22,

6 By doing this, Coakley says, You make it easier for your employees to log in to the system, see everything you re offering, choose the programs that are relevant to them and join those programs. A centralized workplace wellness system also helps you: Segment and promote your programs to targeted audiences among your workforce Make it easier to add programs and ensure participation; your employees don t get yet another from a vendor directing them to an unfamiliar website to participate in a new program More efficiently get the data you need to assess how your programs are working and make real-time changes going forward Examples of How Program Integration Drives Engagement Awareness Web Posters & Digital Brochures s Participation Incentives Social Gaming Employee Experience Program Page LifeZone Branding A centralized wellness system can help you boost employee awareness and participation in your programs. Specific benefits include: Developing customized promotional campaigns (e.g., posters, brochures, s and text messages) for any of your programs that are also immediately recognizable as being part of your comprehensive wellness initiative Maintaining more efficient and consistent management and monitoring of your program vendors, including what they communicate to your employees Enabling social interaction within and across your wellness programs, to boost peer support and continue engagement Easily applying gamification techniques across all of your programs, regardless of whether they re designed with game mechanics Offering one Web page that shows, at a glance, every vendor and every program you offer to your employees 6

7 Trend No. 4: Being Flexible Considering all of the changes affecting workplace wellness programs today, Coakley says, it follows logically that the best systems will be flexible. They ll be built to be modified so you can continue to engage employees over the long term. Programs will increasingly need to be design-flexible, time-flexible and communicationflexible. Here are some things to think about as you work with your vendors to design your programs. Design-flexible Are you launching your program at the time of year that s most likely to ensure maximum participation? Will factors such as weather and climate affect engagement? For example, if you re kicking off a physical-activity program, you ll want to take extreme cold or hot seasons into consideration when you communicate participation ideas to your employees. Also, not everyone is a snow bunny or beach lover; make sure you re offering relevant and varied suggestions to maximize participation in your program. What about events in the community that could boost or hamper early participation? Organizing a corporate team to participate in a local charity walk, for example, could be a great way to leverage a timely, local event and rally your workforce to participate in your new wellness program. Should you launch one specifically targeted program in concert with another (e.g., smoking cessation and weight loss), or should you wait and launch them separately? Should your programs be launched or updated quarterly, annually or on a customized schedule? Time-flexible Once you decide to implement a new health and wellness system, when do you want to introduce it to your workforce to make sure you re maximizing your investment? You get more time flexibility and faster time to engagement with a system that is based on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) because it doesn t require a long implementation period or your IT team to provide hosting and related services. Time flexibility also means having the ability to separate the program launch and updates of your wellness program from other employee programs, such as open enrollment. Communication-flexible Are you taking advantage of all of the ways you can promote your wellness programs in today s world? Promoting your programs in multiple ways is key to great participation, Coakley says. You really need to be able to communicate digitally, including s, text messages, Web portal communications and social media, as well as communicate offline. I know offline seems old-fashioned, producing posters and brochures. But they draw people in. 7

8 Trend No. 5: Reaching the Right People with the Right Information Every trend affecting workplace wellness programs points this way: toward segmentation and personalization. It s all about helping you reach the right people at the right time with the right information information that s relevant to them. The successful engagement of employees in health and wellness programs increasingly means being able to better target your programs and communications to the unique health needs and the specific desired health outcomes of defined groups and employees. Methods to segment, focus and personalize wellness programs include, but are certainly not limited to: s and Web content tailored for a target audience When I log in to my company wellness site, Coakley says, I want to see what s important to me at a glance and have it presented to me right there. I don t want to have to hunt and search for the programs that matter to me, to have to cobble together my own program. Rewards and incentives targeted to specific groups If you re seeing a trend in obesity, or your employees biometrics have come back and you see a specific trend you want to address, you can target those areas with special communications and incentives, Coakley says. Segmented reporting designed to help you understand and maximize program impact through more-targeted planning and communication Workplace wellness programs are a big investment of company time and money, Coakley says. You want to know the specific programs your employees are participating in, which groups of employees are engaged, how they re engaged and over what period of time. Examples of Reaching the Right People with the Right Information Promote specific programs based on health needs and interests: Coaching and lifestyle management Nutrition Target communications and website content to increase personalization and engagement Reward a specific group with incentives to increase participation: Mammography for women over 40 Flu shots Leverage reporting to help gauge awareness, involvement and outcomes: Employee participation Number enrolled Activities completed Milestones reached With that kind of data, you can see how engagement and behaviors are changing over time, how they are affecting the health of your overall workforce, and how you can make changes in response. 8

9 Conclusion If you re responsible for the success of your company s workplace wellness programs, there are lessons to learn from observing trends in the world around you and asking what challenges and opportunities those trends hold for your wellness initiatives. About Virgin HealthMiles Virgin HealthMiles, part of Sir Richard Branson s famed Virgin Group, provides programs and technologies that engage your workforce in good health. Leveraging Virgin s deep consumer roots, we create compelling, personalized digital health experiences that drive long-term healthy behavior change and employee engagement rates more than three times the industry average. Our range of Pay-for-Prevention solutions and program integration capabilities: drive higher awareness and engagement across multiple providers and programs; deliver better measurement and insight into the impact of your investments; and power your overall employee health strategy. Our easy-to-deploy, easy-to-manage solutions feature a rich array of proven behavior change strategies, including: game mechanics, financial incentives, social networking, and many more. Over 200 industry leaders representing more than 1 million employees have selected Virgin HealthMiles award-winning programs for their employees. Learn more at Based on our experience developing workplace wellness programs that since 2005 have engaged hundreds of thousands of employees, Virgin HealthMiles identified five significant regulatory, social and technological trends occurring right now. These trends are changing the game when it comes to successfully engaging employees in wellness programs and lowering your organization s healthcare costs. We drew this conclusion: All five trends make a case for a wellness system that integrates every program it offers from every vendor into one system, and takes advantage of the increasingly mobile workforce and the rise of personal communication devices. Virgin HealthMiles knows that the more your wellness initiatives are integrated, the more smoothly they can run and the more likely it is that you ll get more benefit from your investment in health and wellness. Virgin HealthMiles four main principles for engaging employees in health and wellness programs, in fact, align perfectly with the five trends illustrated in this paper. Those principles are: Making good health simple by enabling employees to easily adopt healthy habits Motivating employees to participate and stay engaged in wellness programs through games, social interaction, incentives and having fun Providing proof of performance through rich data, insightful reporting and the application of proven strategies that drive results Bringing together all of your workplace wellness programs to drive better outcomes from a comprehensive strategy for improved employee health and wellness We promote wellness from the inside out, Coakley says. Part of the way we do that is to pay keen attention to the trends in the world around us the trends affecting our clients and the workplace and asking what it all means for workplace wellness. Virgin HealthMiles Learn more about how Virgin HealthMiles can help you engage your employees in healthy lifestyles. Visit 9

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