Transportation Access And Employee Wellness

                                                                                            Heather Picardat                                                                              Marketing Intern


As an employer, one of your main concerns is to ensure that your employees are taken care of, they are able to do their job and they are provided a comfortable and healthy work-environment to the best of your capabilities. While most employers are checking off these lists and accommodating those needs successfully, it can be difficult sometimes to understand that employee wellness is a rounded effort that extends beyond your office doors.

Picture this; you’ve just completed your degree, and you’ve landed the job of your dreams, but you have no way to get there.  Because you haven’t started earning a solid income just yet, you do not have the means to pay for parking either. This is not just a scenario, though. It’s the reality for thousands of Michigan residents and it’s flying under the radar. Employers don’t know that it’s a need that they can help with, simply because it’s not the ship they’re sailing. When you think about employee wellness, the last thing you’re thinking about is transportation. Part of that is due to the fact that you most likely have a car that takes you to and from work each day. But that’s not true to everyone.

In fact, over 13% of communities in Grand Rapids alone are in a “Transportation Desert.” That means these residents do not have a vehicle of their own and they are not within the bounds of a walkable area with access to a bus stop. To put it into perspective, about 33% of Grand Rapids adult residents are college graduates, with roughly 8% of them being unemployed. High APR rates on new and used vehicles combined with the fact that Michigan has the highest car insurance rates of any state in America just further complicates things. Consider the high cost of tuition repayment with the possibility that a recent grad might live in a Transportation Desert to top it all off… It’s a vicious cycle, and can be a problem.  This is one prong of financial wellness considerations that can be made in your wellness strategy.  Employers can help in 3 simple ways.

  1. Implement a Wave Card Program.
    The Wave Card is a reloadable Rapid Bus card that allows you to purchase fare for public transit ahead of time. It’s accessible for individuals as well as corporations to purchase ahead of time and reload easily without ever having to leave the office. The nice thing about Wave is that it’s a simple option for reimbursement. There is even a 1-day option for the Wave Card that is very inexpensive. That could be used, for example, if you have an interviewee coming in without an option for transportation. Set up a pre-loaded wave card that could be picked up at their nearest Rapid Station. (https://www.ridetherapid.org/the-wave)
  2. Set up a Ride-Share.
    West Michigan Ride Shares offers a great program where several employees can ride together to arrive at work at the same time. All you have to do is map out the ride-share parking locations that best benefit your employees and everything else is provided at a small fee. You could even utilize ride-share parking lots, free of cost if you choose to set up an internal ride-share program in which employees trade off driving responsibilities using their own vehicles.
    (https://www.wmrideshare.org/employer-services)
  3. Offer Parking and Travel Reimbursement.
    For many employers, especially in downtown areas, parking can be a real challenge. Depending on the area you are in, chances are, there is a prominent parking facilitator nearby. Your company can contact that facilitator and request (x) parking spots per week at a nominal fee. All you have to do is either reimburse your employees parking on a monthly basis or provide vouchered parking that is pre-paid in those specific lots.
    (https://www.ellisparking.com/monthlyparking)

The implementation will take some financial planning, but it’s a worthy investment.  You put the money forward today to save the investment on repeat employment, training and hiring efforts. Not only that, but you become more of an employer of choice in a competitive work environment to gain the right employees.  You eliminate those needs by creating a more inclusive environment for getting your employees to and from work.

Sources:
Johnson, A. (2019). CEO of The Rapid.
Kelly, H. (2019). City of Grand Rapids, Transportation and Planning Supervisor.

Statsamerica.org. (2019). USA Counties in Profile: StatsAmerica. [online] Available at: http://www.statsamerica.org/USCP/ [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019].

October Is Now “Walktober”!

                                                                                  Mekenzie Anderson                                                                                               Wellness Intern


Now that the fall season is upon us, it’s time to start working on that fall bucket list! Something new you may want to add to your to do list is joining in on walktober. Walktober is a 31-day challenge designed to inspire people to prioritize walking. Walking can provide several health benefits to people of all fitness levels. Not only does it improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes but it also serves as a great stress reliever. The cooler fall temps makes October a great time to lace up your shoes and get started. Walktober is a national challenge, celebrated all over the country. Below are some suggestions on how you can get involved this month.

  • Walk to work. – Ditch the traffic and enjoy a stroll to your workplace. Unable to walk to work? Try for an alternative and get your steps in during your lunch break. Get your co-workers on board and move your meetings outside. Who knows, maybe a walking meeting will spark some new creative ideas. If you live in the city and use public transportation get off a few stops early and walk the remainder of your trip.
  • Create a challenge at work. – Encourage employees to participate in the fun by providing an incentive or a prize. Create a fun hashtag for participants to use when posting on social media. This may add some extra motivation.
  • Go on a color tour. – Gather some friends and family for a hike at a local park. Schedule it when the leaves are in peak season to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
  • Get involved in a community walking events. Check your local running/walking shoe store and ask about upcoming events taking place.
  • Track your progress. – There are numerous apps with tracking capabilities but one of the most popular is the Fitbit app. Don’t have a Fitbit device? No problem, the app will use a motion sensor in your smartphone to estimate your steps. Some of the features include time elapsed, average pace, and calories burned. The app also allows you to virtually race and challenge your friends.

There are several different ways to incorporate walking into your everyday life. Challenge yourself this month to get outdoors and be more active. Walktober is the perfect time to start!

September Is National Cholesterol Education Month

                                                                                      Todd Freitag                                                                                          Sales/Wellness Coordinator


September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps make any necessary lifestyle changes. Children, young adults and older Americans can have high cholesterol. Learn how to prevent high cholesterol and know what your cholesterol levels mean.

National Cholesterol Education Month is also a good time to learn about lipid profiles and about food and lifestyle choices that help you reach personal cholesterol goals before the holiday season hits us when we typically consume higher fat content food and become less active. More than 102 million American Adults (20 years or older) have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL, which is above healthy levels. More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in many of the foods that we eat and also in our body’s cells. Our bodies need some cholesterol to function normally and can make all the cholesterol they need. Cholesterol is used to make hormones and vitamin D. It also plays a role in digestion. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke.

How do you know if your cholesterol is high?

High cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. However, doctors can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or if it is not enough, through medications.

It’s important to check your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

Many things may increase your risk for high cholesterol, including:

  • Genetics: High cholesterol runs in some families.
  • Age: As we age, our cholesterol levels rise.
  • Medicines: Certain drugs can elevate cholesterol levels.
  • Obesity: Individuals with overweight or obese body mass indices are at greater risk for high cholesterol.
  • Diet: Consuming high quantities of saturated and trans fats can raise LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Inactivity: Activity helps to elevate HDL cholesterol. Lack of activity has the reverse effect — it increases LDL cholesterol.
  • Smoking: Tobacco products decrease HDL and increase LDL. The link between smoking and high cholesterol is greater for women.

How often should you have your cholesterol checked?

It is recommended to have your cholesterol checked at least every four years but it doesn’t hurt to have it checked regularly as cholesterol can change with little time. Preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, but experts agree on the need to screen young adults who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and family history

Less than half of young adults who have these risk factors don’t get cholesterol screening even though up to a quarter of them have elevated cholesterol.

A simple blood test called a lipoprotein profile can measure your total cholesterol levels, including LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol), HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol), and triglycerides.

The following chart shows optimal lipid levels for adults:

                                                                                         Desirable Cholesterol Levels
Total cholesterol Less than 170 mg/dL
Low LDL (“bad”) cholesterol Less than 110 mg/dL
High HDL (“good”) cholesterol 35 mg/dL or higher
Triglycerides Less than 150 mg/dL

What are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, particularly from high-carbohydrate foods, you may have high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia).

Can children and adolescents have high cholesterol?

Yes. High cholesterol can develop in early childhood and adolescence, and your risk increases as your weight increases. In the United States, more than one-fifth (20%) of youth aged 12–19 years have at least one abnormal lipid level. It is important for children over 2 years of age to have their cholesterol checked, if they are overweight/obese, have a family history of high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or certain chronic condition (chronic kidney disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, congenital heart disease, and childhood cancer survivorship.

If you have high cholesterol, what can you do to lower it?

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol. In addition, you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:

  • Foods such as legumes, avocados, nuts, fatty fish, whole grains, fruits and berries, dark chocolate and cocoa, garlic, soy foods, vegetables, dark leafy greens, and extra virgin olive oil
  • For adults, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. For those aged 6-17, getting 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke or quit if you do.

Guide to Environmental Wellness

                                                                              Toni Sperlbaum                                                                                           VP of Sales and Marketing


For the purpose of this article, we are going to define “Environmental Wellness” as: How design, operations, and behaviors within the workplace can be optimized to advance human health and wellbeing.

Did you know?

  • Humans spend 90% of their time inside buildings
  • We also work 62,400 hours of our lives (assuming 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and 30 years as our timeline)
  • 80% of adults in the U.S. go through their day at least mildly dehydrated
  • Harsh, inconsistent, or glare-filled lighting over the course of 8-10 hour workdays is a prominent cause of sleep disorders and causation of headaches, affecting productivity
  • Worker performance can be lowered by 66% when distracted by office noise, while even a 4% – 6% decline in productivity can be measured when building temperatures are non-optimal
  • Having elements of greenery and nature incorporated report a 15% increase in employee well being, a 6% increase in productivity, and a 15% increase in creativity.

Because we spend so much time at work, we as HR professionals and key players in making change happen in our workspaces can have a huge effect on how these spaces impact employees’ health and wellness goals.  The goal is to remove barriers to success by amending the environment.  Some of these changes are simple, while others require planning ahead of a new construct or majorly overhauling your current buildings.

The three factors to environmental wellness include 1. Policies and Procedures, 2. Social Supports, and 3. The Built Environment.

Here is your basic guide to evaluating your facilities to help your employees be successful:

Built Environment

  • Ensure you have a kitchen or common area/break room with microwave, fridge, sink, utensils, and/or dishwasher. This will encourage employees to bring lunch instead of eating out
  • Filtered/drinkable water accessible
  • Indoor & outdoor walking paths marked (doesn’t have to be a physical path – take some steps or a measuring device and figure out mile markers, in or outdoors)
  • Bike racks
  • Basketball hoops (or similar activity) in the parking lot
  • Vending machine overhaul. Require 50% of your machines have healthy options, move unhealthy options lower while moving healthy options to eye level, or inflate prices of unhealthy options in order to make healthier foods more affordable and accessible. At least post nutrition facts about the contents on the outside of the machine so employees have the knowledge to  make better choices.
  • Indoor greenery
  • Lively and energetic paint colors on the wall
  • Allow standing desks (or better yet, use standing desks as an exciting prize to one of your wellness contests!)
  • Wellness bulletin board. A designated area to communicate all things wellness.
  • Paintwork or artwork on walls in facility. You can even have an employee art contest to highlight their talents and engage employees in voting to choose the winners to be hung.
  • Talk to maintenance about regulating temperatures and keeping air moving
  • Hopscotch boards on the floor entering meeting rooms or bathrooms. Extra steps, a quicker pulse, and unavoidably, a smile.
  • Outdoor seating area (picnic table or bench) to get some fresh air, vitamin D, and eat lunch (prevents more frequent trips to get fast food)
  • Stairwells? Make them more attractive by painting the walls (FUN, employee work, not just normal paint colors, although that will help), having music in the stairwell, or having fun facts posted about taking the stairs v. the elevator and how it’s better for your health.
  • Elevators? Put prompts outside of elevator about stair health facts (calories burned, muscles used, elevated heart rate, blood flow, etc.)
  • Bigger Overhauls – natural lighting (skylights or moving workspaces towards windows) & dedicated Well Mom lactation rooms

Policies

  • Unhealthy food laying around – must have healthy options next to a candy dish
  • Catered lunch – if the organization is catering in lunch for meetings with people larger than 4 people, healthy options must be available for a choice
  • Nicotine free campus
  • Make clear if employees can use yoga balls at their desks or if that is a hazard in your organization

Social Supports

  • Walk Well Wednesdays Club
  • Working mother groups
  • Softball/Kickball leagues
  • Biking groups
  • Saturday 5K training groups
  • Community events groups – Relay for Life, Heart Walk activities
  • Weight loss groups

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!

                                                                               Christina Falahee                                                                                 Wellness Coordinator/Health Coach


During the summer, many of us are excited to spend time outdoors after being cooped up all winter. It’s during these warm months we spend most of our time outdoors. Although the sun is a great source of vitamin D, moderation is key.

July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month which is a great way to shine a light on the effects of UV rays and spread the importance of sun safety. UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer in the United States. It can cause eye damage including cataracts and macular degeneration.

 Who are Most Susceptible?

  • Had skin cancer before
  • Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
  • Have many moles, irregular moles or large moles
  • Have freckles and burn before tanning
  • Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red, or light brown hair
  • Live or vacation at high altitudes (the strength of UV rays increases with elevation)
  • Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates
  • Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
  • Spend a lot of time outdoors
  • Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
  • Have certain inherited conditions that increase your risk of skin cancer, such as xeroderma pigmentosum or nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome).
  • Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as infection with HIV
  • Have had an organ transplant
  • Take medicines that lower or suppress your immune system
  • Take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

 How Do I Protect Myself from UV Rays?

  • Seek Shade: UV light is the strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm. If you are unsure how strong the sun’s rays are, use the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are the strongest, and it’s important to protect yourself.
  • Protect Your Skin with Clothing: Clothes provide different levels of UV protection. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light colors. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. Dry fabric is generally more protective than wet fabric.
  • Read Your Sunscreen Labels: Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection protect against both UVA and UVB rays and with sun protection factor (SPF) provides UVB ray protection. Values of 30 or higher are recommend. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming and sweating, even if it’s labeled “water resistant”. Be sure to check the expiration date on the sunscreen. Most sunscreen products are good for at least 2 or 3 years, but you may need to shake the bottle to remix the ingredients.
  • Wear Your Sunglasses: Effective sunglasses should block glare and 99 – 100% of UV rays and have a wraparound shape to protect the eyes from all angles.
  • Routinely Check Your Skin for Any Changes: Birthmarks, new moles and marks should be consistently examined for alterations in size, shape and color or if they look and feel differently from other moles and marks on your body.

The High Cost of Insulin

                                                                                          Adam King CPhT, PRS                                                                    Pharmacy Savings Program Manager


Rarely a week goes by where I don’t hear about the high cost of insulin, either from employees that participate in HPA’s program or through media outlets.  Yes, the cost of insulin is high, and there are few generics available to combat the problem.

I do have good news!  There are steps that you can take to lower the cost of your insulin prescription:

  • Manufacturer coupons- Most of the major manufacturers of insulin do offer copay discount cards. You can find a list of them on the website needymeds.org.  If you are using Humalog, note that the manufacturer program only covers the U-200 pen.
  • Look into switching brands- Some insulins can be used interchangeably. Lantus, Toujeo, and Basaglar are all the same insulin made by different companies, but Lantus will cover the entire cost of your copay where the other two have a limit on their copay cards.   Novolog and Humalog are nearly identical but may require a dose conversion to switch from one to the other.  Always consult with your physician before changing insulins and doses.
  • The makers of Humalog offer a discount on their products through a company called Blink Health. If you have a health plan with a high deductible, this may be an option for you.  Since Blink Health processes the prescription payment, you won’t be able to pay for the discount with your health savings account.  However, you can pay yourself back from that account if it is properly set up and still enjoy the tax benefit and cash discount.
  • If your child is insulin dependent, investigate your state’s Children’s Special Health Insurance Plan. These plans offer affordable premiums based on your income and reduces copayment at the pharmacy to $0.  Depending on your state, children may be eligible to participate up to the age of 21.
  • Vials of insulin are less expensive than the pen versions of the same insulin. If you feel comfortable drawing insulin into a syringe, this may be another option to lower cost.

These strategies can help you while the government works toward a longer-term solution to the problem.  The Food and Drug Administration is looking at ways to increase competition and introduce lower cost insulins, but they must first re-write a few regulations which is likely going to take a year or two.

April is National Stress Awareness Month

                                                                                      Olivia Keeley                                                                                         Winter Wellness Intern


Did you know that April is National Stress Awareness Month? Probably not, because we constantly try to ignore the mental and physical demands stress brings upon us. According to the American Psychological Association, a survey taken in 2017 reported 80% of respondents experiencing at least one symptom of stress in the past month. Stress happens to all of us. Sometimes it seems unavoidable and overbearing. Whether a stressful situation occurs at work, home, school, or on the roads we must learn ways to cope with it. It is always important to remember that taking time for yourself is essential for your mental and physical health. It’s healthy to relax, renew, and rejuvenate!

According to the American Heart Association, stress can lead to a lot of unwanted complications. Health troubles such as: heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, weight gain, concentration and memory issues, sleep problems, depression, headaches, anxiety, and digestive complications are few of many health related issues that could take a toll on your body. Negative stress can prevent us from performing our best physically, mentally, and emotionally. Although no one lives a completely stress free life, we can still manage it throughout the week.

The American Heart Association provides healthy habits we can turn to in a stressful situation:

  • Stress-Busting Activities – Try doing activities that allow you to relax or avert your negative energy to something positive! Meditation, journaling, playing a favorite sport, taking a walk in nature, exercising, or listening to music are just a few activities you can attempt to limit your stress.
  • Positive Self-Talk – Rather than letting a stressful situation put you down, try shifting your thoughts from negative to positive by changing your mindset. Instead of saying, “Everything is going wrong” try switching that to “I can handle this one step at a time”. Or, instead of saying something like, “I can’t do this” try saying “I’ll do the best I can. I’ve got this”.
  • Give Up Bad Habits – Having too much alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine can increase blood pressure and heighten feelings of anxiety. Try cutting back on those unhealthy habits to reduce your stress.
  • Laugh Often – Laughter enhances your mood and helps you forget about things that may cause you to stress out. Listen to a funny podcast or put on a comedic movie. Tell jokes with friends and share laughter together!
  • Slow Down – Plan ahead and stay organized with a planner or desk calendar so you don’t have too much on your plate at once. Without having to rush to get things done, you will feel calmer and satisfied that you’re ahead of schedule.

When you take these small steps to manage your stress, you will feel more creative, more alive, and have time to appreciate small moments of happiness.  Furthermore, you will be able to recognize when you need to take time for yourself to be your healthiest version of you!

The Price You Pay At The Pharmacy Is Not An April Fool’s Joke

                                                                                  Adam King, CPhT, PRS
Pharmacy Savings Program Manager


You walk into the pharmacy, plunk down your insurance card thinking you just got the best possible price for you and your insurance on your generic medications, right?  Well not so fast!  If you want to really save money on your prescription, where you fill your prescription is just as important as which medication you take.

Let’s consider the cholesterol drug atorvastatin which is better known as Lipitor®.  These prices were actually paid by members of the same prescription drug plan for a 90-day supply.

If the first thing that strikes you is that the chain retail stores charged the highest price, then you are very observant.  When it comes to negotiating with insurance companies chain pharmacies with thousands of stores have the highest negotiating power with insurance companies.  They can often dictate what the insurance company reimburses them which explains the higher cost.

The second thing you will notice is that member 1 got the best deal which is free.  The advantage here is that the member did receive the medication at no cost to themselves and the employer.  The store in this case is using this medication as a “loss leader”, or a method to get you to the store hoping you will purchase other items.  While free is a great price, just remember the retailer is hoping you’ll reward their “generosity” by spending money with them elsewhere.  These pharmacies will also often have higher charges for other medications you might fill.

If you want to save money without strings attached independent pharmacies, regional grocery chains, and hospital outpatient clinics do not share the same negotiating power of the large chains.  Instead the insurance company can often dictate the maximum allowed price the pharmacy can charge the patient.  This is how they claim to save health plans money, and in truth they are half right.  If you use one of these pharmacies, ask them if it might be possible to get a lower cost on your medication by paying out of pocket rather than billing insurance for some of your medications.  You’d be surprised how many insurance companies charge abnormally high rates for low cost generics.  While most people think HIPAA is a privacy law, its regulations are also put in place that give you the right not to bill your insurance.

Member 6 got upset by the higher cost he was paying at a larger chain pharmacy and decided to do some price shopping and discovered that one of the big box warehouse club pharmacies had a discounted “cash” price of $20 for his medication.  Cash pricing refers to prices charged by providers without billing the prescription or service to the insurance company.  So rather than bill their insurance, member 6 paid out of pocket to save money.  While member 6 got a good deal on that medication, member 6 did not get the best deal.

There is one cautionary warning on member 6’s tactic.  Member 6 should now get all their medications at that pharmacy to avoid a potentially dangerous drug interaction as there is no central database that tracks every medication that is filled unless those medications are filled by a pharmacy and billed to an insurance plan.

Member 7 used a discount mail order pharmacy to fill their prescription again by doing some price shopping.  Online mail order pharmacies are convenient and often inexpensive just make sure you order your medication early to allow for the delivery time.  Be aware that if the pharmacy advertises drugs from Canada, that they may be sourcing those medications from third world countries that have very lax pharmaceutical regulations.  What you think may be your cholesterol medication may very well just be a sugar pill.

If you choose to have an online discount pharmacy fill your medication, make sure that you get a good deal on all your medications.  Also verify that the pharmacy is registered with your state board of pharmacy which oversees that the pharmacy is following state and federal regulations related to pharmacy practice and drug sourcing.  The website should also be registered with the Verified Pharmacy Program offered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.  Again, this pharmacy will not bill your insurance, so you should make sure that the pharmacy is aware of all the medications you take and that there is a pharmacist available to answer questions about your medication.

Last, it pays to have a patient advocate that is aware of all the tactics companies use to maximize their profits at your expense.  Health Plan Advocate offers a certified and licensed pharmacy technician that will help you, your company, and your colleagues save money.  If your employer does not offer this benefit, ask your human resource department to contact us about this valuable service.

Wellness Committee Best Practices

                                                                                         Toni Sperlbaum                                                                                           VP of Sales and Marketing


Whether your wellness program is in its infancy or has been around for a while, The Institute for Health and Productivity Studies has determined that there are three primary best practices to be successful; leadership support/promotion, devoting sufficient resources to health promotion efforts, and a wellness committee.

Have you ever heard the phrase “Culture eats strategy for lunch”?  We as HR professionals can strategize the “best wellness program” all day long, but if your culture is directly interfering with your wellness efforts (your manager rolls their eyes when you leave to do your biometric health screening, walking or stretch breaks are considered you skimping out on your job, the organization celebrates “Donut Friday” every week, etc.), then the strategy means nothing.  A wellness committee is going to be the accountability point for your strategic plan and will be the grassroots effort to changing that culture.

The role of a wellness committee is to communicate, participate in, motivate, and support the organization’s worksite wellness program.  They will foster collaboration and enthusiasm among employees, provide a link between employees and management, represent and share co-workers’ ideas and concerns, encourage a positive work environment, and can reshape the company’s culture to promote healthy living.

What are the best practices?

  • Meet regularly (every other month or quarterly)
  • Call for new members annually
  • Set terms on your committee to continue getting fresh ideas
  • Get a good cross section of representatives, considering gender, age, type of departments/workers, management types, etc.
  • Don’t get all of your runners and skinniest people on the committee. This is so important!  It’s easy to think “they are a runner, they should be on the committee!” The truth is, unhealthy employees can relate to the unhealthiest representatives and that is exactly the kind of traction we are looking to get
  • Set committee procedures – have a formal agenda, create minutes, nominate a chair
  • Set ground rules – be prompt and courteous to others’ ideas, establish “voting” to determine which ideas get implemented, protect employee confidentiality when sharing ideas/concerns, and follow through on promises and commitments made.
  • Have the committee (not HR) develop the strategic plan, a mission statement, and a vision for the program. The mission statement is there to guide activity planning and facilitate smart spending (your CFO will love that).  If the activities do not directly impact the mission statement, it is not carried out.
  • HR should not be involved in this committee. It should be employee run for the most effective results (although holding the chair accountable through one-on-one touch-bases is absolutely acceptable and encouraged).

Other ideas for committees

  • Have your CEO put out a letter or video charging the organization to make wellness a priority, and invite members to join the committee. This will very boldly give permission.
  • Have supervisors nominate their employees. This gets supervisors involved, giving permission for their employee’s participation, and give them the chance to recognize the employees by nominating them for a special project
  • Have an application process for interested employees. This lets members know what they’re in for and committing to.
  • Host an awards luncheon at the end of the year. Give awards to committee members or wellness champions for highest personal participation in activities, the highest group participation in screenings/HRAs, the most additional programs implemented, and many others!  Invite supervisors, senior leadership, and even family members would be great recognition for the employee.

There are many ways to utilize a wellness committee, but if you have many of the above processes in place, your committee is off to a GREAT start!

National Sleep Awareness Week

                                                                              Hannah Roberts                                                                                    Winter Wellness Intern


National Sleep Awareness Week falls in March. Sleep plays an important role in maintaining physical health, mental health, quality of life, productivity, and safety. How you feel when you are awake depends on the quality and quantity of sleep your body is getting. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. In addition to getting enough sleep, regularity is key for an individuals’ sleep to be most beneficial for their body. Sleep is important for your brain to work properly, helping you to learn, problem solve, and cope with emotions.

On top of not feeling your best, not getting enough sleep can increase an individuals’ risk for various health problems. Ongoing sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Individuals who are sleep deficient are also less productive at work, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes. Lack of sleep can become a safety concern when driving or operating machinery.

The National Sleep Foundation provides the following tips for a good night sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule – this means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day including weekends. Regularity makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  1. Relax before bedtime – incorporate a routine to wind down leading up to bedtime. Dimming bright lights and reducing stress or anxiety is important due to their ability to make it more difficult to fall asleep. It is also important to avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and heavy meals two to three hours before going to sleep, although a light snack 45 minutes before bed is okay. Avoid electronic devices because of the light they emanate stimulates brain activity.
  1. Exercise daily – exercising (not at the expense of sleep) improves overall health and can reduce stressors making it difficult to obtain quality sleep. Higher intensity exercises are best, but incorporating light exercise is better than no exercise.
  1. Evaluate your room – the optimal sleep environment is between 60 and 67 degrees. There should be no distracting noises or lights. Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable and supportive, and that they are free from allergens that may disturb your sleep.

If you are having trouble sleeping do not hesitate to speak with your doctor. It can be helpful to record your sleep and the tips you have tried in a sleep diary to share with your physicians.