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.

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!

Work Stress & Self-Care

Jess Welch, Wellness Coordinator

How does one cope with too much work, little help, and no time to do their mounting tasks? Through coaching I consistently hear employees tell me about low job satisfaction. Work is their number one source of stress in their life and carries out into other areas leading to low life-satisfaction.

“I have no time to work out.”

“If I had one word to describe my eating habits it would be ‘quick’.”

“Work is constantly on my mind, distracting me from time with my family.”

“I blink and my entire day is gone.”

And as much as a simple answer could be to quit their jobs, it isn’t so simple after all. Everyone has bills to pay, relationships they have made within the workplace, and face the risk of starting over while many may enjoy large pieces of their jobs. So we have this complex issue of increased stress leading to increased risk factors for things like cardiovascular disease, decreased fulfillment, and no real answer to fix it due to life’s high demands.

Because this blog is not for my recommendations of the complex situation for employers to aide in creating a lower stress environment for their employees, I am going to focus on you: the workers. How do you keep up with life’s high demands inside and outside the workplace? How do you develop healthy habits and keep a job you may have worked quite hard to obtain?

Developing healthy coping strategies takes cognitive effort. If it were something you could do outside of cognitive thought, you probably would have been doing it already. As a species, we run as efficiently as possible already but unfortunately this is a piece we still have to think about. However, once we develop the strategies needed for self-care, it becomes less necessary to be intentional about it and more habitual.

Now, I break up stress into two separate categories: the first being that immediate stress, the “here and now” stress, the “my chest hurts and my head is spinning” stress. The second being that mounting and constant stress, like a consistent dull noise in the back of your head. Below you will see some ideas to help cope with each type.

The immediate stress:

  • Remove yourself from the situation for five minutes
  • Close your eyes and take 3 slow breaths: 7 seconds in, 10 seconds out.
  • Plug in your music and listen to one song you love
  • Get a stress ball

*Try these and go right back to work.

The consistent stress:

  • Go for a walk, exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Limit Caffeine intake
  • Do something you enjoy; volunteer, read a book, etc.

Coping with the consistent stress helps decrease the times of that “immediate stress” feeling. So developing a good self-care plan will lower those intense feelings. Now, you’re probably thinking – “Jess, if I have time I would have already been doing this! This doesn’t answer my question at all.” My answer? Find five minutes in your day. Then find ten. Increase your moments of self-care by five minutes a week until you can somehow find 20-30 minutes in your day. This does not need to be all at once, scatter it if you need to. But I promise, once you do you will not regret it! Your physical body, your emotional body, heck – even your work will all thank you!

Well Leaders: Involving the Right People

portrait-circle-toni copy

 Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

When a company implements a wellness program, many program administrators are very used to hearing that the promotion and support for this program needs to come from the top down in order for it to be successful.  While this is true, it’s not the entire story.  Each culture and logistics of the company has a role in how this plays out, but who could be more important than your CEO, CFO, HR team, and other key executives?  Middle Management.

If your CEO sends a letter home to employees encouraging their participation, their message is in your newsletter and on a flyer in the break room, that’s great.  But how much time do your employees actually spend with the CEO?  What is their level of trust of your CEO (another topic out of my expertise!)?  While in a perfect corporate world, the answers here would be “a lot of time!” and “a lot of trust!”, it’s just not reality.  Employees are spending a majority of their time in their own departments with their direct supervisors.  If those middle managers are not buying in to the program, neither will their employees!

We encourage you to host separate meetings with your management team, even one-on-one perhaps, to get their buy in and almost most importantly, their commitment to participating themselves.  Setting the example is half of the message!  Consider running special challenges or programs just for them.  Highlighting in a newsletter “Healthy Leaders” and showing what they have accomplished, or the results of your WellLeader Challenge.  Communication is also huge.  In many companies, the main route of communicating all of the fantastic programs you have going simply aren’t reaching all employees.  Your middle managers are the key.

Keeping the Holidays Healthy

  Kelly Murray, BS, Wellness Coordinator

The holidays can be a tough time of year when it comes to making healthy choices. Below are a few easy tips and tricks to keep you on track throughout the holiday season.

Christmas Shopping – Plan ahead before your trip to the mall!

  • Don’t go to the mall hungry.
    • Before heading out for a full day of shopping, eat a meal that is going to fill you up and give you the energy to do your power shopping. Eating before you go will make it less likely that you will stop and make poor nutrition choices because you are starving.
  • Bring a water bottle and pack a light snack.
    • Shopping can be intense! Before you leave home, pack yourself a water bottle and a healthy snack to take with you. Having these readily available will help prevent you from caving and buying junk food while you are out and about.
  • Plan your route.
    • Map out where you need to go. If possible, try to avoid walking past the food court or the sugar coated almond stand 10 times as you do your shopping. You can even plan to take the long way around and get in some extra walking.
  • Avoid fast food at the food court and choose a sit down restaurant.
    • Instead of grabbing a quick bite to eat from the food court, go to a sit down restaurant. It may take a little more time, but there are usually healthier options, like soup and salad, grilled chicken or fish, and veggies. Sitting down away from all of thoe noise and rush of shoppers will also help you relax, and take time to focues on the food you are eating. Enjoy and savor your meal. There is no need to rush, the sale will still be going on in 30 minutes after you eat your meal.

Holiday Parties and Gatherings

  • Bring your own dish to pass.
    • If you are going to someone else’s house for a meal, offer to bring your own dish to pass. This way you have some control over what you are eating, and you know what has gone in to it. Many people tend to bring deserts, but why not bring a healthy appetizer or a side? Vegetable trays and salads are always welcome.
  • Fill up on the healthiest options first.
    • Begin with a salad (the green kind, not the potato or pasta salad). Fill your plate with veggies and entrees before filling up on high-calorie sides and desserts. This means having a mountain of broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans rather than a mashed potato mountain.  Instead, if you are going to make a mini mashed potato mountain try to stick with one serving size of about 1 cup.
  • Stand at least an arms length away from the munchies.
    • Take a step back from the munchies! If you are sitting down at the table, or standing within arms reach of the chips, nuts, and candies you will be more likely to mindlessly snack on them without even noticing it. By standing farther away you will need to actively choose to move towards the snacks if that is what you really want to eat.

For more tips on how to stay healthy over the holidays, take a look at the American Heart Association’s Holiday Healthy Eating Guide

Monday Mourning

nahshon-circle

Nahshon Cook-Nelson, PR & Marketing Intern
GUEST BLOG

My first job was working at a fresh food market in the 11th grade
Finally it was my chance to get my own wage

Even more than getting paid
I was thrilled for the friends and new relationships to be made

And on that first day I…

Found out it was a masquerade
Most weren’t filled with praise but self-pity

Constantly complaining
Dramatically draining

Persistently persuading themselves and each other
That their place of work was an utter, sentence to chains

Specifically on that first day of the week
There was a sense of mourning
More people grew meek
Seeking to pull themselves from the present

As I look around today
Lots of things seem the same way

Now this may sound dumb
But I think most have grown numb
To the feeling they first had walking in the door
The urge to try new things and explore

Whether it was 9 to 5 or 8 to 4
We were passionate about the struggle and the growth
But now, we’ve grown sore

We are not required to live this way any. more.

If our work has truly brought us to the stage of worry then let it be discontinued
And our refugee begin

Otherwise, the only reason we complain is if we know of something better within
Where every Monday we can pull in to work with a grin

We may approach those whose internal lights have grown dim
But we will spread the notion of TGIM

Where many have felt the need to plead until their last working minute has struck
We will feed the seeds to give our best until our time is up

We can defeat this feeling that is so alluring
Give gratitude instead of complaints. So our joy is ever enduring

When agony rises and moments seem boring
Let us fight back so it is NEVER “just another Monday Mourning”

Going Beyond Diet and Exercise

portrait-circle-toni copy

 Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

When you think of the term “wellness program”, the first thing that often comes to mind when it comes to programming are diet and exercise.  More and more, however, we are seeing a more whole-person wellness movement in the field which includes not only diet and exercise, but many other factors such as financial wellness, stress management, ergonomics, spiritual wellness, and much more.

September is National Yoga Month, which means it’s the perfect time to offer onsite yoga classes at your facility or at least provide local resources and information to your members.  Luckily, yoga hits two birds with one stone.  Many yogis see their practice as their own personal escape, connecting deeply to their core values and philosophy.  It also combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation and stress relief.  Seventy seven percent of people report regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, and those who participate in yoga report reducing stress levels.

Outside of the mental benefits, no one can deny that yoga is a better workout than seems to those who haven’t done it before!  Not only does it improve flexibility, strength, and muscle tone, one 2011 study showed that 12 weekly yoga classes resulted in better function than usual medical care in adults with chronic or recurring low-back pain.  What this means for your health plan is less doctor or physical therapy visits!   It has also shown to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, improve respiration and energy, and reduce cardiovascular disease. It’s really a win-win.

If you’re not a big fan of yoga, or feel you are unable to host a class onsite for whatever reason, I encourage you to put out a Deep Breathing, Meditation,  at-home yoga challenge to your members, or even a Lunch & Learn seminar regarding some of these topics.  As you can see from the few benefits I sited above (there are many more!), mental and emotional wellness are just as important as diet and exercise.  That makes healthier, happier, more productive, and lower cost employees.

Namaste.