Organizations are using tough love to boost employee wellness
Monday, 15 August 2011 16:00Unhealthy workers have a tendency to raise employee health benefit costs, and employee wellness programs that provide tools and tips for healthy living usually don't come free. As a result, organizations are taking certain measures to ensure that their staff makes an effort to improve their well-being or pay more for healthcare.
An article in the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the trend of offering incentives or penalties for participation in employee wellness programs may be a way for organizations to get their workers' attention, communicating to the staff that they take health - and expenditures stemming from a lack thereof - seriously.
“We want you to take some responsibility, and if you don’t do certain things we want you to do, you’ll only be eligible for the bad [health insurance] plan with a $3,000 deductible as opposed to the $1,000 deductible,” said Paul Berger, chief medical officer of Aon Hewitt, quoted by the news source. “That gets your attention.”
The Harvard School of Public Health has also reported on the topic, saying that organizations are mostly seeking a return on investment (ROI) for their wellness initiatives. It has been estimated that there is a $3 to $1 ROI for these programs.
The news source quoted an expert who said that individuals tend to be more averse to losing money than the potential for a gain.
Stressed-out parents may have children with behavioral impairments
Monday, 15 August 2011 16:00In a mouse model, researchers at the University of Haifa found that anxious mothers may have offspring that exhibit anti-social behavior.
However, they also discovered that stress-relieving interventions for the parents were effective in reversing this effect to some extent.
"As our study shows that the inheritance of the effects of adversity can be modified by timely intervention, this may have important educational and therapeutic implications,” said lead author Micah Leshem.
Since working mothers are by no means uncommon in today's workplace, the findings have some relevance to workplace stress and preventing social problems in future generations.
Stressed-out moms may find some relief in HeartMath's emWave2®. The handheld device has been shown to be effective in relieving feelings of tension inside and outside of the office.
The emWave2® is an interactive system which reads the user's heart rhythm through finger or ear pulse, providing immediate feedback through a visual displace. Using the tool may help employees learn how to reverse their stress and gain control over their mind and emotions.
Negative emotions may stand in the way of employee wellness
Monday, 15 August 2011 16:00One of the challenges in determining whether an employee wellness program will be successful is figuring out the personal and work-related obstacles that stand in the way of a worker's desire to lead a healthier lifestyle.
It appears as though stress and anxiety are barriers for many staff members, in addition to feelings of depression and inadequate social support, according to a study conducted by ComPsych.
"To be effective, corporate wellness programs must focus on emotional as well as physical factors of the employee, and include a counseling component to address underlying issues," said Richard Chaifetz, the company's CEO.
The survey revealed that an estimated 40 percent of employees cite emotional or physical health issues as sources of distraction from normal daily activities, with 36 percent saying that their feelings of tension are present at most times. Moreover, 43 percent of survey respondents reported having little support from family and friends.
The study also provided some insight in to employees' eating and drinking habits. A total of 34 percent said they consume one serving or less of fresh produce daily, and 23 percent said they had recently engaged in binge drinking.
Stress may trigger over-eating
Sunday, 14 August 2011 16:00"Comfort foods" are known as such for a reason, since individuals often reach for the cookies or potato chips when they are feeling stressed and are in need of relief. A study conducted by researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine recently examined the brain mechanisms behind this effect.
Scientists discovered that stress has the potential to lead to a "re-wiring" of the mind, in which a person's ability to regulate their appetite or food intake is impaired.
Authors of the study noted that humans likely evolved to have this response, since an absence of food causes stress and the effect would spark early humans to seek out a source of nutrition.
"Furthermore, the fact that the lack of food causes activation of the stress response might help explain the relationship between stress and obesity," said co-author Quentin Pittman, Ph.D.
In a mouse model, the researchers observed that blocking a stress hormone in rodents alleviated the brain effects that were previously shown to lead to overeating.
Some workers often go to lunch for pizza or burgers as a release from the day's stressors, but this may lead to an overweight, unproductive workforce. Employee wellness programs that provide tools and resources for stress management may be helpful in teaching individuals how to let go of their anxiety in a healthy way.
Stress affects employee performance in multiple ways
Thursday, 11 August 2011 16:00The Houston Chronicle recently published an article suggesting that stressed-out workers may take out their frustration through passive aggression, doing things like forgetting to return phone calls or emails, focusing in their personal life while at work or stealing office supplies.
It's possible that the poor economy has many individuals feeling stuck in their current position, which may fuel the vengeful behavior and lead to poor employee performance, according to the news source.
Additionally, the article reported that many workers are turning to venues like Facebook to vent about work, leading to offended supervisors and hurt feelings.
On HumanNatureAtWork.com, author David Lee wrote that stress causes a numbing effect in people, making them less sensitive to the fear of consequences of poor performance or behavior. Additionally, this dulling of the senses makes decision-making and communication difficult.
Moreover, Lee said that stress can inhibit a worker's creativity, which can stifle a company's ability to grow and thrive.
These findings suggest that employee wellness programs that provide tools and resources for stress management may help organizations reduce workplace stress while strengthening employee performance.
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