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Why “Mandatory” Wellness Programs are Problematic Under the Law

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Monday, November 12, 2018

Why “Mandatory” Wellness Programs are Problematic Under the Law

By Barbara J. Zabawa, JD, MPH
Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC

The Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts recently polled its members for questions about employee wellness program compliance.  Most of the respondents had questions that involved offering incentives in “mandatory” wellness programs and what types of programs caused problems with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  These two lines of inquiry are actually related, and led me to conclude that there is still a lot of confusion out there about when and how to comply with the ADA.  This blog post aims to clear up that confusion.

When does the ADA Apply to Worksite Wellness Programs?
The ADA applies to wellness programs that ask employees for their health information, usually through a health risk assessment/questionnaire or through a biometric screen.  The ADA does not apply to wellness program activities that do not involve health information collection, such as walking challenges, nutrition programs, or health education classes.  The reason why the ADA is limited to programs involving employee health information collection has to do with the ADA’s general prohibition against asking employees “disability-related inquiries” or asking them to take a medical exam.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces compliance with the ADA, views health risk assessments (HRAs) as a “disability-related inquiry” and a biometric screen as a “medical exam.” 

Our Worksite Wellness Program Includes an HRA and a Biometric Screen.  Are those Allowed under the ADA?
Yes, they are allowed under the ADA, as long as they are part of a “voluntary” employee wellness program.  42 USC § 12112(d)(4)(B). 

What is a “Voluntary” Wellness Program under the ADA?
There is no definition of the word “voluntary,” but the EEOC in rules issued in May 2016 stated that employers could offer incentives for completing an HRA or biometric screen if the incentive value was no more than 30% of the cost of self-only coverage.  So, according to the EEOC, an incentive, whether monetary or in-kind (such as days off or a prize), could still make the HRA or biometric screen voluntary, as long as the value of that incentive did not exceed 30% of total cost of self-only coverage.  However, as of January 1, 2019, the EEOC must delete the 30% incentive limit from the rules because of a decision in the case entitled AARP v. EEOC.  As a result, after January 1, 2019, there will be no guidance as to what amount of incentive, if any, will meet the ADA’s “voluntary” requirement.

Will our Wellness Program be able to Incentivize HRAs or Biometric Screens after January 1, 2019?
It will depend on the incentive amount, whether there are any alternatives to earning the incentive and your employee population.  If your employee population consists of a lot of low-wage workers, a large incentive may give the perception that the HRA or biometric screen is “mandatory,” and not voluntary.  Also, if your employee population consists of a lot of workers who value their health information privacy, asking employees to divulge their health information in exchange for an incentive could make the HRA or biometric screen seem more coercive than voluntary.  So, it’s important to know your employee population.  Also, you may want to consider allowing employees another way to earn the incentive if they are uncomfortable with disclosing their health information through the HRA or biometric screen.  Some alternatives may be attending a class or participating in an exercise challenge.

But our HRAs and Biometric Screening Activities are Mandatory.  How Can We Comply with the ADA?
The fact that you label your HRAs and biometric screens as “mandatory” parts of your wellness program undercuts the voluntary nature that the ADA requires of your health information collection activities.  The ADA requires health information collection activities to be part of a “voluntary” wellness program.  If you state that your HRA or biometric screen is “mandatory,” that does not sound like a voluntary program.  Use of words like “mandatory” or “required” in relation to HRAs or biometric screens should be avoided.

Tags:  EEOC  employee benefits  employee engagement  employee incentives  wellness  wellness programs  workplace wellness  Worksite Wellness  Worksite Wellness Programs 

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Millennials in the Workforce Webinar Recap

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Wednesday, July 26, 2017

As the proportion of Millennials in the workforce surpasses that of the earlier generations, employers must be prepared to explore new ideas for programming, communications, and engagement. Nick Patel, Founder and President of Wellable, Inc., says that Millennials want three things from their employer: to deliver impact, to work for a company with purpose, and to have perks. But Patel also points out that even when Millennials have these needs met they still tend to be unhappy, and he cites four key influences.

First, this generation of workers grew up in the time of “participation medals”, meaning they may have been rewarded merely for participating in a team sport or activity. Some believe that this created a sense of entitlement which Millennials are carrying into the workplace. Next, they grew up with technology and social media. Patel describes this as making Millennials good at putting filters on things - that in the world of social media everything can appear “72 degrees and sunny.”  Third, a world where rides, television, and shopping can be accessed so readily has generated a level of impatience and desire for instant gratification. Finally, the work environment can be a challenge for Millennials who have to adjust to letting go of the “participation medal” mentality.

When thinking about programming for this generation, Patel points out that financial wellness, work/life balance, and mental health are common concerns. Unlike other generations, Millennials are more likely to define “healthy” as a lifestyle of eating well and exercising rather than the mere avoidance of illness.  Communications should be designed to tap into this mindset as well as cater to Millennials’ interest in reliable health content. Finally, taking a shift from some of the more legacy approaches to worksite wellness such as biometric screenings may pay off when engaging this generation of workers. Patel notes that novel wellness benefits (travel credits, 401(Play) Funds, etc) and consumer-grade technologies are more likely to drive engagement.

Athenahealth’s Megan Sireci is no stranger to the desires of the Millennial worker. Sireci, Manager of University Recruiting and Programs, believes that embracing this unique population starts with company culture. As an example of engaging Millennials in the workplace, Athenahealth has adopted the philosophy of “bring your whole self to work,” and this is accomplished by focusing on three components: Integration of life and work, societal impact, and constant growth.

Offering employee resource groups (ERGs) around topics such as diversity and women’s leadership, as well as providing extracurriculars (book club, running club) are just two of the ways that Athenahealth seeks to integrate life and work for their employees. Sireci knows that perks have become somewhat expected by this population, especially at tech companies, and sees extracurriculars and ERGs as a way of broadening the way they define employee benefits.

The second component to the organization’s philosophy is societal impact - seeing that daily work goes “beyond the desk.” Charity work and volunteering opportunities are offered to accomplish this. Finally, Athenahealth seeks to promote constant growth by creating a culture of teachers and learners. This is accomplished through a number of programs including “10x10” where managers and direct reports spend the first 10 minutes of a monthly check-in providing two-way feedback to each other. Sireci emphasizes that employees are given co-ownership to the future of their career which helps them to feel empowered.

Patel and Sireci provide a clear perspective for employers seeking to engage Millennials both in their wellness programming and their organization as a whole. While many employers should be considering these strategies, they should also remember not to lose sight of engaging older generations. Understanding what your employees want in a wellness program is an integral first step no matter their generational makeup of your workforce.

Register Now for the Annual Conference to learn more about strategies that engage and inspire your workforce.

Click here to listen to the full recording (members only - you must be logged in)

Tags:  employee benefits  employee engagement  engaging millennials  millennials  wellness  workplace wellness  worksite wellness  worksite wellness programs 

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Building A Career In Worksite Wellness: Panel Event Recap

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Wednesday, April 26, 2017


An evening full of insight and inspiration, the panel held by the Worksite Wellness Council of MA and the Massachusetts Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had a clear theme: networking is everything.  Panelists included Valerie Machinist, MS, RD, LDN, Deborah (“Deb”) Gorhan, MS, MCHES, Philip Swayze, MS, CWPD, and Catherine (“Cathy”) Theodore, RN, BS, CWPC. Each panelist spent some time talking about what they do in their current role and the path they took to get there. Though the panelists all work in different areas of worksite wellness, they shared a similar message about persistence, passion, and getting involved.

“Follow your heart, follow your dreams.”  Catherine (“Cathy”) Theodore, Regional Director of Health Strategies for UnitedHealthcare of New England, shared these words of wisdom with the group. Cathy first entered the health and wellness field as an oncology nurse, knowing from a young age that she wanted to pursue a career helping others. She credits her success to have a passion for wellness, keeping an open mind, and never closing a door on any opportunity. Cathy also told the attendees to believe in themselves, encouraging them to apply for jobs even if they don’t feel they meet the qualifications. She emphasized making a connection with those in charge of hiring to separate yourself from other candidates.

Deb Gorhan, Wellness & Health Promotion Manager for Johnson & Johnson – Americas, says, “Don’t let other people tell you that you can’t do something.” When she first started at J&J, Deb had a vision for the job she ultimately wanted and took it upon herself to write out a description for the role.  Over two years, that exact role finally became her job. She feels that both culture and environment are key to building a successful worksite wellness program. Leaders should represent wellness, and the built environment should be constructed to encourage healthy habits such as walking and taking the stairs. Deb’s career advice is to, “go for it,” and to stay connected with people and groups in the industry to ensure success.  

As the sole Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) on the panel, Valerie Machinist spoke to the role of an RDN in worksite wellness and noted that opportunities for RDNs are growing in the field. Valerie is currently the Product Director for Optum’s On-Site RDN Services and the President of the Massachusetts Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, previously working as a health educator and a consultant. Her path to her role at Optum began with a realization that she did not want a career in clinical dietetics, but rather a career where she could help others make the changes to stay out of the hospital in the first place. Valerie said that the importance of volunteering and being connected cannot be understated, and to “never burn bridges.” She also encouraged attendees not to feel “boxed in” by job descriptions, referencing a previous experience in which she crafted a new program assessing environmental factors and breast cancer risk. Finally, Valerie urged current and hopeful wellness professionals to do everything possible to meet people and learn.

A “meandering path” is how Philip Swayze, Director of Health and Performance for HUB International New England, describes his eventual entry into the world of worksite wellness. He credits that path for making him a better consultant and encouraged attendees to parlay their skills and interests into jobs as he did. Like Deb Gorhan, Philip also once created a new role for himself based on both his strengths and the needs of the company. He says, “it’s about being open to suggesting ideas and solving problems,” and encouraged attendees to not be afraid to speak up and raise their hand. Another recommendation was to volunteer to get access to more opportunities. Philip credited his personal and professional connections as being directly responsible for helping him secure at least three jobs in his career.

The panel, though made up of professionals from varied backgrounds, clearly had a consistent theme of networking for success. Each participant credited networking and volunteering as being integral to their success and noted their continued involvement in volunteer roles. Success in the world of worksite wellness, it seems, is about having a passion for the subject, the persistence to pursue your goals, and the personal connections to foster opportunities.

Tags:  wellness  wellness careers  wellness consultant  wellness coordinator  wellness director  wellness program manager  wellness programs  Worksite Wellness  worksite wellness programs 

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Are Your Employees Sleep Deprived?

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
The Top 3 Signs Your Employees Need More Sleep
It's no mystery that sleepy employees are often less productive than their well-rested counterparts. Make yourself familiar with these signs that your employees need more ZZZs:

1. They make more errors than usual. 
When a productive, reliable employee begins to make more frequent mistakes this may be a sign that they are not getting adequate sleep.  While no organization would knowingly welcome mistakes, the possibility of them should be especially concerning to the healthcare industry. The Joint Commission reported that medical residents working 24-hour shifts made "36% more serious medical errors" than those working 16 consecutive hours.

2. They are dependent on caffeine. Though caffeine in small doses (100-250 milligrams) has been shown to increase alertness, a dependency on caffeine may be a sign that an employee is fatigued.  Look for employees consuming energy drinks or multiple cups of coffee, especially in the afternoon. Once daily caffeine intake exceeds a certain level (usually 500-600 milligrams), adverse effects, including irritability and insomnia, can occur. This can lead to a worsening of the sleep/wake cycle and further dependency on caffeinated beverages.

3. They are late to work or calling in sick more frequently. Identifying patterns of behavior can help pinpoint employees suffering from sleep deprivation. A 2015 analysis of data from an employee wellness program found that higher levels of sleep disturbance were associated with a greater likelihood of absenteeism, and that over time this was directly correlated with a decline in performance and an increase in health care costs. 


Want to learn more about how to help your employees sleep?  Attend our webinar on January 12th: Maximize Your Employee Health and Performance - Help them Sleep!


Tags:  Lack of Sleep  Sleep Deprivation  Worksite Wellness  Worksite Wellness Programs 

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Q&A with 2016 Bronze Level WorkWell MA Award Winner, Flexon Industries

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Wednesday, December 14, 2016


2016 WorkWell MA Bronze Award Winner, Flexcon Industries
Interview with Kim Smith

Tell us about yourself and your organization. 
Flexcon Industries, a member of the Swan Group, is a world leader in the design and manufacture of pre-pressurized diaphragm tanks used in water storage applications. Focusing on quality, innovation, and customer service since 1989 they have positioned their products at the forefront of the industry. Flexcon is the first company to offer a stainless-steel water connection on a well tank, a union connection, the first flow thru tank for constant pressure systems, and the first diaphragm composite tank.

I am the Administrative Assistant/Wellness Coordinator and, along with Vicki Scopa, run the wellness program.  We organize seminars, challenges and bring in vendors from the health and wellness industry. We also handle all program communications including newsletters, postings and emails.

Congratulations on being a WWCMA WorkWell Massachusetts awardee. What does this mean for team you/your team?
We have worked hard to organize and maintain our wellness program so this means a lot to us and shows us that our efforts are worthwhile.  Vicki and I both do this in our spare time so winning an award is validation that our program is on track and working. 

Why are wellness programs important for your organization?
Wellness programs are important because it reflects on the company. It shows that they care for their employees, not just for the work that they do for the organization, but also on a personal level.  The program is not enforced and it’s not a numbers thing, meaning it doesn’t tie back to our insurance. No one is punished or rewarded for participating or not in the program, rather it is done to engage employees and help them on all levels.

What wellness program(s) have you implemented? Any new initiatives planned?
Our ongoing programs include the healthy snack of the month, we are involved in the Nourish to Flourish program, and we have a weight loss program called Weigh-to-Earn. 

We don’t currently have anything new planned but we are hoping that in conjunction with our new insurance broker we will be trying out some new programs.  We would like to bring in a vendor each month for a workshop or class for our employees to take advantage of such as a fitness classes, an ergonomics class, a nutrition workshop, etc.

What impact is/are they having on your organization and employees? 
We believe the program is good for morale. Giving people knowledge and ways to help them be healthier is the first component and then some of our wellness challenges bring everyone together so it’s great for employee morale and engagement.

Are there aspects of your wellness program that make it unique that you would like to share? 
The healthy snack of the month is unique because we provide our employees with different types of food that they might not normally eat. In the past, we have given out different kinds of fruits, veggie cups and we recently have teamed up with Snack Nation, who will be providing us monthly with unique options such as plantain chips, sweet potato chips and other healthy alternatives.  We have a diverse group of people so we try to find things that are beneficial for everyone.

Who are your wellness champions? (CEO, division leader, HR leader, an employee, etc) 
Just myself and Vicki, who is our Document Control/Wellness Coordinator.

Any words of wisdom for organizations starting a new program? 
Keep it simple to start. If you make it to elaborate to begin with it is hard to keep up.  But don’t give up – you might get a lot of resistance in the beginning but it will pay off!


Tags:  AwardsMassachusetts  Employee Engagement  Flexcon  HR  Human Resources  Q&A  Wellness  wellness ambassadors  Worksite Wellness  Worksite Wellness Programs  Workwell Massachusetts  workwell massachusetts awards  WWCMA 

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Q&A with 2016 Bronze Level WorkWell MA Award Winner, Alkermes

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Wednesday, November 23, 2016


2016 WorkWell MA Bronze Award Winner, Alkermes
Interview with Shannon Smith

Tell us about your yourself and your organization. 
Alkermes is a leader in innovative medicines that address the unmet needs and challenges of people living with debilitating diseases. As a fully integrated global biopharmaceutical company, Alkermes applies our scientific expertise, proprietary technologies and global resources to develop products that are designed to make a meaningful difference in the way patients manage their disease.

Congratulations on being a WWCMA WorkWell Massachusetts awardee. What does this mean for you/your team?
We are honored to be recognized for developing a program that reflects our company’s mission of improving health through innovation. Our organization depends on us to make the work/life experience as pleasant and easy as possible, and helping our employees improve their health is the greatest reward our team can hope to achieve. 

Why are wellness programs important for your organization?
The development of medicines for patients depends on the well-being of our employees. Our Wellness Incentive Plan is a motivator—it offers benefits for all employees to help them live happier and healthier lives. 

What wellness program(s) have you implemented? Any new initiatives planned?
Our Wellness Incentive Plan is our core wellness program, however, we provide opportunities for nutrition, stress reduction and fitness as often as we can. For example, we provide onsite yoga classes, “Mindfulness” programs, walking / running challenges and healthy eating opportunities at our dining facilities. We will continue to seek ways to streamline our program to meet the needs of employees and we’ll look for new and innovative methods to encourage healthy behaviors. 

What impact is/are they having on your organization and employees? 
Employees regard the Wellness Incentive Plan as an essential part of our benefits package. New hires are impressed with the Company’s commitment to health and wellness. We take great pride in the fact that we are encouraging a culture of happy and healthy employees who like to come to work.

Are there aspects of your wellness program that make it unique that you would like to share? 
One of the programs that we are most proud of is our TriAthlone Challenge.  There is a triathlon that is held each year in the town of Athlone, Ireland where our Irish manufacturing plant is located.  Each year, our U.S. employees compete for a chance to win a round trip ticket to Ireland to participate alongside their colleagues in Athlone.  Employees need to complete at least one triathlon in the U.S. in the calendar year. The more triathlons they participate in the more they increase their odds of winning.  It is a really great event that has steadily increased participation over the years.

Who are your wellness champions? (CEO, division leader, HR leader, an employee, etc) 
Executive Management Team, Human Resources, and our employees.

Any words of wisdom for organizations starting a new program? 
With an approach that rewards and doesn’t penalize, employees feel a partnership with HR and an appreciation for our commitment to their well-being. It’s a recruiting tool, and a retention tool, and it helps build loyalty and a sense of community among our workforce. 


Tags:  Alkermes  AwardsMassachusetts  Human Resources  Q&A  Wellness  wellness champions  wellness programs  Worksite Wellness  Worksite Wellness Programs  Workwell Massachusetts  workwell massachusetts awards  WWCMA 

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Q&A with 2016 Silver WorkWell MA Award Winner, Signature Healthcare

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Wednesday, November 23, 2016


2016 WorkWell MA Silver Award Winner, Signature Healthcare
Interview with Jennifer McCarthy

Tell us about your yourself and your organization. 
Founded as Brockton Hospital in 1896, the Hospital is the oldest and largest inpatient facility in its service area, which is designated as the city of Brockton and twenty-one surrounding municipalities. The organization includes 550 affiliated physicians and other direct care providers, 150 employed physicians and a total of 2,200 associates operating from locations in Abington, Bridgewater, Brockton, Hanson, Easton, Randolph, and Raynham.  Employee wellness is a top priority at Signature Healthcare. As a healing institution, we care for the well-being of our employees in the same way we care for the well-being of our patients. We know our employees are our greatest asset and we are making an investment in their health and well being. Wellness Together is designed to guide our employees on this journey.

Congratulations on being a WWCMA WorkWell Massachusetts awardee. What does this mean for you/your team?
Receiving this award was a great honor for our organization as we have recently made employee wellness an organizational strategic goal. It validates that our hard work and dedication as a wellness team to our employees is in line with other organizations across Massachusetts. We are proud to be offering a best in class wellness program to our organization.

Why are wellness programs important for your organization?  
As a healthcare organization we set an example to our patients and to the community. By offering wellness programs that help our employees on their wellness goals, we can give them the resources to live healthier lives and therefore they are able provide better care to the patients and the community  all while demonstrating to them the positive impacts of a health lifestyle.  

What wellness program(s) have you implemented? Any new initiatives planned?
We have implemented free yoga and Zumba classes, onsite and telephonic health coaching, 16- week weight loss classes, individual and team based physical activity challenges, mindfulness challenges, biometric screenings and “Know Your Numbers” events, educational and awareness campaigns. 

What impact is/are they having on your organization and employees?
We have been increasing physical activity and lowering health risks for our employees and their spouses. We have made employees more aware of their health risks and are working with them to take control of their own health and well-being as they work with our health coaches on achieving their wellness goals. 

Are there aspects of your wellness program that make it unique that you would like to share?
Many programs offer telephonic health coaching but our program offers onsite health coaching with our registered nurse health coaches to the employees and to their spouses. This type of personal connection during an employee’s wellness journey can impact their success. These coaches also run our weight loss and diabetes prevention classes onsite. 

Who are your wellness champions? (CEO, division leader, HR leader, an employee, etc.) 
We have wellness champions across all our sites that work in all different divisions and roles. Our CEO is our biggest supporter and helps lead the way in wellness by setting a great example for employees and supporting our program! 

Any words of wisdom for organizations starting a new program?
Know your audience. Not every wellness program is the same because every work environment is different. Interact with your workforce and find out what they want and what they need and tailor your programs and communications around that. We are recently learning how to reach out to employees who are not engaged yet but have thought about wellness and we are working on how we can get them to take action. Everyone in your organization reacts to different communication styles. 


Tags:  Employee Engagement  Human Resources  Signature Healthcare  Worksite Wellness  Worksite Wellness Programs  Workwell Massachusetts  workwell massachusetts awards  WWCMA 

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"Please Join Us - All Levels Welcome!" Kristie Howard on the Impact of Worksite Wellness

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Please Join Us - All Levels Welcome"
by Kristie Howard, WWCMA Founder and Co-Chair

If you were able to attend our sold-out Annual Conference at Gillette Stadium on September 20, you heard Kristie Howard, WWCMA Founder and Board Co-Chair, open the day with her gutsy personal story on how worksite wellness and leadership training influenced her personal and professional life. As a writer, I did not edit much of her speech. Her challenges and triumphs shine through in her own words. Enjoy Kristie’s insights and please share with others.  
– Laura Polas, WWCMA Marketing & Communications Chair

One of the things I love about the Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts is that it draws such a diverse group of people, yet we’re all aligned in our collective Purpose: We’re passionate about helping improve employee health and well-being, and we’re here to learn and share as much as we can, so that we can go back to our workplaces and do things a little bit better than we did before.   

I’d like to spend a few minutes exploring the theme of this conference.  As a community of wellness professionals, we have come to understand that wellness efforts shouldn’t just be about assessments, screenings, and health risk reduction.  Time and time again we’ve seen that employers have the most success when they address employee wellbeing beyond just physical health, and when they work to create conditions in which people can thrive.   

In fact, the two most impactful things an employer has ever done for my personal wellbeing had NOTHING to do with a formal wellness program. 

It was 2001.  I was a year and a half out of college, young and ambitious. I’d just accepted a promotion and my employer relocated me to Boston, where I had no friends or family. I felt isolated, overwhelmed with my new job, and my weight had skyrocketed to the highest point ever.   At a visit with my doctor, they said I was obese, and I was stunned. I knew I needed to change; I just didn’t have the motivation to take the first step.   

It was then that I was invited to participate in the company’s leadership development training program, four full days of training with the company’s top leadership, from the CEO on down to little old me, a mid-level manager at the ripe old age of 24. 

This was not your typical job or leadership training – it was a combination of skill training, and mindset/belief training. It teaches you how to think like Successful people:  how to be Adaptable, Confident, Focused, Resilient, Creative, Accountable, Persistent, and Fearless.

The first two days focused on self-leadership: building motivation and personal responsibility to improve oneself.  We were encouraged to focus on whatever we wanted, be it personal or professional goals.  I recall being laser focused on two things: my weight, and my next career move.  

Within a year, I had lost 50 lbs., was promoted again and accepted a position in sales, something I’d never believed I could do.   To say that leadership training was a life changing experience may seem over the top, but it is true.    

Fast forward to 2008.  Lots of life had happened in those seven years – illness of a parent, two job changes, married, first house, and a dog.   Though I’d kept most of the weight off, slowly it had crept up. 

And then Wellness Gift number 2 happened.

I was working for a small company that had a work hard/play hard type of culture.  It was very collaborative and social but was also competitive with an unusually high number of former athletes.   I’d been there less than a year when I got an email inviting me to sign up for a charity road race.  Now, I had figured out how to fit exercise into my life, but I never was a runner – in fact, I’d never run a mile in my life. 

There was one seemingly small thing that pushed me over the edge to sign up.   The email said, “Please Join Us - All Levels Welcome.”  I thought, I could walk it.  And maybe I can get another walker to sign up, so I’m not the only one.  It is a few months away and maybe I could try my hand at running and see how I do.   I got a walking buddy to sign up.  I signed up for the Couch to 5k training program online.   I got myself a great pair of running shoes… and I was off to the races.

Now, I’d like to tell you that I ran the entire 3.5 miles that year, but I’d be lying.  Not that that matters.  I remember vividly the amazing feeling I had the first time I ran past the one mile mark and then kept going another couple of minutes before I needed a walk break.  I remember how amazing it felt two years later when I did run the entire 3.5 miles in that same charity race.  And to this day, going for a run is my favorite form of exercise.  While I’m running, I almost always reflect on how grateful I am that the person who sent the email said: “All Levels Welcome”.

Where am I in my personal wellness journey?  With a one-year-old and four-year-old and working spouse at home, and working hard to advance in my career, I’ll admit that I’ve let my physical health slide a bit.  I did my health assessment and screening this year to earn the wellness rate on my health insurance premiums.   I even had a couple of calls with a health coach as part of my company’s wellness program.  But what do I appreciate even more?  That I have the flexibility to work from home, saving me the hour and a half commute, and I can go for a quick run or hop on my Peloton spin bike in between conference calls. That I’ve got tools available to help me track my personal finances and manage my budget, so I don’t have to be as stressed about money.   That my company offers backup daycare that will send someone to my home to care for my kids when they’re sick, so I can be productive at work.   

Reflecting on my personal wellness journey has caused me to think a little differently about how to make a real difference in employee wellbeing, and I hope it will do the same for you.


Tags:  Annual Conference  Em?s  Worksite Wellness  Worksite Wellness Programs  WWCMA Annual Conference 

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Q&A with 2016 Silver WorkWell MA Award Winner, Borislow Insurance

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Tuesday, November 15, 2016

2016 WorkWell MA Silver Award Winner, Borislow Insurance
Interview with Travis L. Horne

Tell us about yourself and your organization. 

Borislow Insurance:
Borislow Insurance is a leading employee benefits agency, serving clients in many states across a wide variety of industries. BI is centered not on traditional brokerage but on Strategic Advisory Partnerships with our clients. In this way, BI nurtures relationship with many clients that goes way beyond brokerage. At a time of great uncertainty and change in healthcare, the insurance industry and the economy, BI remains among the fastest growing and most respected agencies of its kind.

Travis L. Horne, MBA
Director of Health & Wellbeing
Travis has over twenty plus years of experience in the population healthy management industry.  As the Director of Health & Wellbeing he is responsible for the overall strategic vision, development and execution of employer’s culture of health and wellbeing to positively impact business goals and improve employee productivity.

Before joining Borislow Travis was the Director of Health & Productivity at Unum, Wellness Consultant for Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Massachusetts and a Health & Safety Advisor for the New Hampshire Local Government Center. 

Travis’s expertise includes identifying business solutions that will have the most financial and operational impact to clients.  Business solutions include actionable health & wellbeing and population health management programs, delivered through data analysis, vendor partnerships and client engagement.  

Congratulations on being a WWCMA WorkWell Massachusetts awardee. What does this mean for your team/you?

Borislow Insurance is proud to have been named a WorkWell Massachusetts Award Program winner for exemplary worksite health promotion. The award recognizes Borislow’s achievements developing, implementing, and participating in corporate health improvement and wellness programs. 

Borislow Insurance offers employees a personalized experience through our innovative approach, which cultivates a culture of health and wellbeing, drives behavior change and encompasses the whole person.  We engage employees through assessments and surveys, which provide guidance to develop our wellbeing roadmap.  Our approach to employee and business health is the unique component that makes Borislow Insurance one of the healthiest places to work.

The employees of Borislow Insurance feel it’s important to walk the walk and talk the talk, which is a key component to our continued success.  It’s a great honor to be named a 2016 WWCMA WorkWell Massachusetts winner.  

Why are wellness programs important for your organization?
Borislow Insurance feels that programs focused on employees needs holistically are necessary to develop and sustain a culture of health & wellbeing in an organization.  BI integrates wellness programming, wellbeing activities and culture enhancements in the work day to enrich the personal experience, which in return creates increased productivity and morale and a decrease in employee absenteeism.   All these factors in turn make BI one of the healthiest places to work.

What wellness program(s) have you implemented? Any new initiatives planned?
Borislow Insurance has implemented several wellbeing activities that are geared towards employee health & wellbeing and address our five core elements; physical, financial, workplace, community and mind-spirit wellbeing.  In 2017 BI will have enhanced the existing rewards platform with a new tool that will target employee’s health & wellbeing needs/wants and reward based on individual engagement.   

What impact is/are they having on your organization and employees? 

This is yet to be determined; the tool will not be in place until 1-1-2017.

Are there aspects of your wellness program that make it unique that you would like to share? 
The major aspect that we feel is unique in the industry is that we are focusing on employee’s holistic needs through benefits and not just a “wellness one-off” program.  Wellness one-off programs are fun, but benefits that focus on employees needs help to solve a problem or fill a gap.  A combination of wellness one-off’s and benefit offerings address all employees elements of health & wellbeing. 

Who are your wellness champions? 
Owners of Borislow Insurance
Senior Leadership
Employees of Borislow Insurance

Any words of wisdom for organizations starting a new program? 
- Walk, Jog, Run
- Focus on the culture and not just a wellness program
- Build a 3-year strategy that addresses all five elements of health & wellbeing
- Invest: An incentive structure is imperative for success 




Tags:  Borislow Insurance  Q&A  wellness programs  Worksite Wellness  Worksite Wellness Programs  Workwell Massachusetts  workwell massachusetts awards 

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Financial Stress in the Modern Workforce

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Friday, November 11, 2016

Increasing workloads, caring for children or aging parents, commuting, finding matching socks - these are all likely stressors you have experienced as a member of the modern workforce. While some stressors can be more readily left at home, others have the potential to follow us to work and impact our productivity. Recent research has revealed that concerns over personal finances are indeed being carried into the workplace. In a 2016 survey by PwC, more than a quarter of respondents (28%) reported that their stress over finances has been a distraction at work. With an increasing number of millennials entering the workforce with student loan debt, the stress is only expected to rise. 

But millennials aren't the only ones affected by financial stress. In fact, nearly 70% of workers report dealing with some kind of financial stress in their lives (source), with 47% revealing they would have trouble covering a $400 expense in an emergency (source). The burden is clear, and is doesn't stop with the employee. The impact on productivity and absenteeism is a serious concern for employers. Lost productivity is estimated to cost businesses $230 billion per year in total, or an average of $5,000 per employee (source). 

This type of worry is being felt across all income levels, so employers should be careful not to make assumptions about where to direct financial wellness messages and resources. The best approach for employers is to design practical programs and tools that are appropriate for their unique workforce. Attend our December seminar, "Financial Stress in the Modern Workforce," to learn how to help your employees better manage their money and their financial stress, leaving them more time to be productive at work and improving the organization's bottom line.

Tags:  Financial wellness  worksite wellness  worksite wellness programs 

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The Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts (WWCMA) is the preeminent, independent and objective resource for health promotion in the workplace and champions wellness programs to help employers encourage healthy employees, healthy families, and healthy communities across the Commonwealth.