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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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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 Silver WorkWell MA Award Winner, Pegasystems

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Monday, December 12, 2016


2016 WorkWell MA Silver Award Winner, Pegasystems
Interview with Crystal McDermott

Tell us about yourself and your organization. 
Pegasystems (Pega) develops strategic applications for sales, marketing, service and operations. Pega’s applications streamline critical business operations, connect enterprises to their customers seamlessly in real-time across channels, and adapt to meet rapidly changing requirements. 

Pega is a global company with offices in 19 countries, serving many of the world’s leading and most sophisticated Enterprises.  

Together with Eve Gao, Pega’s Benefits Specialist, I develop and support robust benefit offerings to our North American employees, including the wellness program.   Some of our wellness programs are offered to our employees worldwide.  

Congratulations on being a WWCMA WorkWell Massachusetts awardee. What does this mean for you/your team?
This recognition is yet another objective measure of the success of our program.  We hear regular feedback from our employees and their families about the positive effects that our wellness program has.  This honor demonstrates that our program measures up against all of the best and brightest.  We are thrilled to receive this honor and share this success with our employees who strive every day to improve their lives and make Pega an amazing place to work. 

Why are wellness programs important for your organization?
While the tangible benefits such as an increase in preventive care and physical activity are clear, the team building and improvement to organizational health are less easily quantified, but equally beneficial.  These programs serve to both improve the overall health of our employees and their families while at the same time helping to create an atmosphere filled with comradery, healthy competition and a strong focus on positive outcomes.  

What wellness program(s) have you implemented? Any new initiatives planned?
Currently our wellness program, PegaUP!, is constructed of three parts including physical health, financial health and mental and emotional health.  We regularly engage employees in various initiatives around physical health, encouraging increased activity and preventive care. An example of these include our global fitness challenges, an engaging Health Risk Assessment for employees and spouses, onsite yoga and HIIT classes.  Pega has also implemented a fun points-based system for earning a cash-incentive; “the more you do, the more you earn”.  

Supporting our employees financial health has included seminars on planning for Medicare, Retirement planning and Eldercare.  Programs to help with stress relief, time management and onsite massages help to manage our employee’s mental and emotional well-being.  In the coming year, we will continue to focus on all of the above as well as investigating expanded options in the area of mental and emotional health as well as planning for retirement. 

What impact is/are they having on your organization and employees? 
We have received direct feedback from employees that significant and sometimes serious issues have been caught early as a direct result of the employee engaging in preventive care. We’ve had numerous employees’ state that because of our wellness plan, this is the first time in years that they had an annual physical, dental or vision exam.  

These are the type of results that make us the most proud.  When an employee, inspired by the wellness program, makes the decision to take better care of themselves, the program is having a clear and measurable effect on the life of the employee and by extension, the Pega community.   

Additionally, many of the initiatives result in employees coming together to compete with or against each other in healthy challenges.  This creates opportunities for individuals to meet and build even stronger working relationships.  These benefits extend beyond wellness, creating a cohesive Pega team.  

Are there aspects of your wellness program that make it unique that you would like to share? 
We feel our PegaUP! wellness program is unique in that we focus on total well-being.  While we offer many wellness programs to encourage a focus on physical activities, we also offer other initiatives focused on financial well-being and emotional well-being.  We think this is important to help our employees feel “emotionally fit” which has had a positive impact on our company culture.  

Who are your wellness champions? (CEO, division leader, HR leader, an employee, etc) 
Our entire leadership team supports our wellness activities.  Our greatest wellness champion is our CEO and Founder, Alan Trefler.  Alan has always supported our wellness activities and continues to support us offering a new Fitbit to our new hires.  This gets employees engaged from Day One!   

There are wellness champions throughout the Pega community including many of our top leaders.  A Vice President regularly attends our on-site yoga classes, many take advantage of our on-site biometric screenings, and others encourage their teams to participate in the wellness challenges.  In each of the functional areas of the wellness program, there are many different members who help us to promote the initiatives and encourage other employees to engage to improve their own well-being.   

Any words of wisdom for organizations starting a new program? 
Start small.  Focus first on low hanging fruit. Deliver initiatives that your employees are immediately interested in.  As you earn credibility with your employees, you can then introduce more challenging and niche programs.  

Communicating to your employees is critical.  Be prepared to say your message numerous ways and times.  Most of all, remember that for many people, health can be a scary thing and something they can easily put off in place of work, family and other distractions/stresses in their life.  By making your program fun, and interesting, you have a great opportunity to engage your employees in initiatives that will improve their overall health and well-being while creating a positive company culture which can strengthen your company.


Tags:  AwardsMassachusetts  Employee Engagement  HR  Human Resources  Pegasystems  Q&A  wellness ambassadors  Workwell Massachusetts  workwell massachusetts awards 

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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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What is Telemedicine?

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Tuesday, August 16, 2016
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation report of 2015 employer-sponsored health insurance covers over half of the non-elderly US population, for a total of 147 million people. A report published by the Institute for Healthcare Consumerism suggests that health care costs use up to 50% or more of a company’s corporate profits. Of these, the indirect costs of poor health that include absence of work and decreased productivity can be up to 2 to 3 times the amount spent on direct medical costs.  As companies become more engaged in their need to decrease costs associated with providing healthcare to their employees, emerging telemedicine platforms are rapidly evolving as a potential vital tool to control costs, improve access to care, and reduce absenteeism. 

By engaging telemedicine enabled care, employees avoid the disruption of having to take time off to receive care for conditions which can be generally managed via remote access. Telemedicine services can take several forms: real-time video or telephonic communication including text interaction between patient and physician, remote monitoring of patients such as those with chronic illnesses, medication adherence tools, and other remote web and mobile applications to assist with management. 

Approximately 74% of employers plan to offer telehealth services to their employees in states where telehealth is permitted. This represents an increase of approximately 48% from 2015.   37% of employers in 2015 expected to offer their employees telemedicine consultations to offset costly emergency room or physician office visits. By 2016 – 2017 an additional 34% expected to offer telemedicine consultations as a viable alternative. A potential $6 billion in savings could be achieved by employing telehealth services in the workplace.  

Telemedicine is certainly at the forefront of medicine, but several issues must be addressed and process redesign in the creation of new delivery care models including those in the workplace must take center stage:
  1. The declining number of primary care physicians as well as increasing wait times for physician visits and the demand for same day visits are helping drive telemedicine and telehealth to the forefront of innovative solutions to offset these problems. However, fragmentation of care continues to be a concern especially for consumers frequently using alternative sources of care other than their primary care physicians. Additionally, telehealth services pose a significant threat to disruption in the continuity of care for patients, especially those with chronic conditions such as diabetes.  

  2. Contracting directly with vendors such as Teladoc, MDLive or Doctor On-Demand permits corporate entities to establish preferential pricing solutions to help offset costs of providing care. Telehealth providers generally employ either proprietary or private Electronic Health Records (EHR’s) in the process of providing care. The patient data incorporated and integrated into the health record remains with the vendor’s EHR. It is important to understand how the employee have easy access to their medical history as well as have the tele-visit encounter transferred to their primary care physician. What will happen to data access if the vendor goes out of business? How are requests for the information gathered during the telehealth encounter dealt with by the vendor? Who owns the data of the encounter and what safeguards are in place to protect patient/employee confidentiality and monitor HIPAA privacy compliance? Undoubtedly, telehealth vendors like all providers have a need to not only obtain data, but also analyze, track, and interpret data to help achieve the performance goals. 

  3. Furthermore, what safeguards are in place in the event of misdiagnosis or delay of treatment? Are the vendors of telehealth services solely at risk or are employers also at risk in the event of malpractice litigation? 

  4. Accessing a provider through a web or mobile service may not be the preferred option for every employee population. How does the vendor plan to communicate the service, increase adoption, and drive engagement

Telemedicine offers a solution for employees to obtain care in the workplace and at home without disruption of normal activities. While telehealth can expand the reach of medicine and potentially reduce the cost of certain services for many, it is still an unstructured field with many different approaches to care. 

Article written by: Mario Moya MD
Mario Moya MD is a native of Del Rio, Texas and has been in private practice in the Philadelphia area since 1995. He currently works providing vascular services in the outpatient setting in multiple states and holds unrestricted licenses in 21 states.  Dr. Moya earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin and subsequently pursued his medical studies at the University of Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico on a scholarship program. He completed Surgical and Internal Medicine Internships as well as Radiology Residency at Mercy Catholic in 1994 followed by a Fellowship in Vascular and Interventional at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Texas. Committed to lifelong learning, he is currently enrolled as a student in Brown University’s Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership. Dr. Moya became interested in population health management and the use of telemedicine as an adjunct in the proactive management of chronic conditions such as Diabetes.  As a physician, he is passionate about being at the forefront of new models of care that employ evolving virtual technologies with true medical home care services providing greater access to care for management of chronic conditions in underserved areas. 


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Tags:  Employee Benefits  Employee Engagement  HR  Human Resources  Telemedicine  Wellness Programs  Worksite Wellness  Worksite Wellness Programs 

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Appoint Wellness Champions To Promote Wellness Programs

Posted By Melissa Matheson, Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The first step to ensure employee participation in wellness initiatives is educating employees on program details and generating excitement about these offerings. Rather than have information about wellness programs come from the top down – like so many policies, programs, and procedures tend to in companies – it is important to have employees working on various levels to disseminate information, so the information is coming from peers.

These employees, dedicated to promoting and encouraging engagement in wellness programs, are typically called wellness champions. Wellness champions work in conjunction with a wellness committee to understand the offerings, determine which areas and programs need more participation, and provide feedback on program interest from their peers.

When searching for wellness champions for your wellness program, a few questions may arise.

  • How many wellness champions do we need to have to help make our program successful
  • A good goal is to have about 2% of the workplace population participating as wellness champions. This will allow exposure within the organization but won’t bring too many people into the mix where it is unmanageable for the wellness committee to keep everyone informed and updated.
  • Ideally, all levels within the organization will be represented. Seeing wellness champions  that encourage others and that each employee can relate to, can drastically improve interest in programs.
  • People who are not only passionate about health and wellness, but also outgoing and trustworthy. These are the people who are most likely to fully embrace their role as a wellness champion and promote the programs while also gaining traction and interest from their peers. Additionally, those who are exposed to a lot of different areas in the company are great wellness champions. The more connections they have within the organization, the more people they will be able to reach when disseminating information regarding wellness programs.
  • Since wellness champions likely aren’t involved in the regular planning of wellness initiatives, it is essential to ensure consistent communication. Updating wellness champions on any changes and setting clear expectations of their role to promote the wellness program is very important. There should also be established checkpoints to gain feedback from wellness champions and identify how the wellness champion role might shift during different stages of wellness programs or as new offerings arise.
  • What levels within the organization should participate as wellness champions?
  • What types of people should we be looking for as wellness champions?
  • How do we involve wellness champions in the wellness program?

Wellness champions will take on different roles depending on the programs and organizations they are representing. It is important to evaluate all aspects of wellness programs consistently, including wellness champions and their roles.

Tags:  employee engagement  wellness ambassadors  wellness champions  wellness programs 

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Q & A with Cathy Renda, Director of Employee Engagement at WinterWyman

Posted By Kristina Weljkovic, Tuesday, January 13, 2015
1. When you first started your wellness program, what were some of your main goals? What is your involvement with the wellness program?
Our main goals were to provide a balanced and engaging Wellness Program to employees; a program where there was something for everyone.  We wanted to help our employees better their overall health, in-turn improving the way they use health care services, as well as reducing their health-related costs. More important, we want our employees to feel better about their overall well-being. This translates into happy and productive people inside and outside of work. 

If employees are just starting to think about living healthier, we offer programs for them – if they are already living well, we have more advanced ideas to help them achieve their goals. Through WinterWyman’s wellness program and the active and healthy-minded people in our company, we have created a culture focused on celebrating and improving the quality of life for all employees. 

I joined WinterWyman in April of 2012 as a Sr. Human Resources Manager. Early on, I partnered with our Benefits Manager and together we co-chair the Wellness Committee, where we took on the task of taking our Wellness Program to the next level.

2. How long did it take to implement the wellness program?
It took several months to implement our Wellness Program. The legwork started back in April of 2011. In September of 2011, we designed and delivered an employee survey to gauge our employee’s interest in participating in a Wellness Program. Based on the positive responses, we formed a Wellness Committee and asked for employee volunteers to join. We held our first Wellness Committee meeting in December of 2011.

In early 2012, we defined the committee’s Vision and Mission Statements with input from our wellness specialist. Based feedback from the survey, we defined a roadmap of wellness awareness and education initiatives and started to implement them.

3. What were some of the hurdles to overcome with getting the program started?
Because our Wellness Committee is made up of volunteers who all have “day jobs,” and with this program being new to all of us, it took time to gain traction with our program. What helped us overcome the initial hurdles? Adding in additional resources from HR to support the program, laying out a clear roadmap of initiatives, meeting as group on a regular bases and engaging with an outside wellness partner to help design and deliver programs to our employees. 

4. Describe your program / company and how it works:
We offer various wellness initiatives throughout the year based on the roadmap we defined as a committee. 

These initiatives are often tied to the time of year or season. For example, we focused on cancer awareness/prevention during breast cancer awareness month in October. In the spring, after a long winter of idleness and less outdoor activity, we offered a step counting contest using Fitbits.

For each awareness initiative or contest, we communicate regularly to our employees via a monthly “Just for the Health of It” email, posting information on our Wellness board, and placing flyers in other areas of our offices. In addition, we offer employees a one-on-one coaching session with our wellness partner.

5. What would you say was one of the key components to the wellness programs success?
The absolute number one reason for the success of our Wellness Program is the complete support of our CEO and other members of our Executive Team. In addition, our partnership with Laurie Warren, an expert in worksite wellness, health and nutrition working at Warren Wellness, has helped us take our program to the next level. I don’t think we would have achieved the success we have had without her.  

I am happy to say that our hard work around wellness has paid off! WinterWyman was recognized in 2014 by the Boston Business Journal as one of their Healthiest Employers.

6. What keeps employees motivated? 
It’s hard to say, but overall I believe they are motivated by a culture shift we have seen in our offices. If you open up the refrigerators our staff use, you see a lot more healthy options in there than we used to. It’s not uncommon to overhear people sharing ideas and recipes in our kitchen at breakfast and lunchtime. 

We also have seen a wider adoption in our offices of standing desks. What started with one or two has become much more widespread. We try to keep this type of momentum going by continually offering new wellness learning opportunities and providing ongoing communication to our staff about our Wellness Programs.

Tags:  employee engagement 

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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.