Posts Tagged Wellness
It may be self-evident to many of you reading this blog that alcohol use, sleep deprivation, and obesity can negatively affect performance at work or at home. If this is a correct assumption and you have all three of these areas under control, thank you. On the other hand, after 39 years of working with people and organizations on these issues it is clear to me that our society continues to miss the boat on them.
This week alone, I had client organizations call about each of these concerns. In one case a senior executive was observed to drink one bottle of wine at a company function, plus cocktails before dinner. Her behavior became problematic when she propositioned a male colleague, angrily denied she had drank too much and proceeded to accuse others on her executive team of “being out to get her.” To make this situation even sadder, the executive had done something similar three years earlier at the same company function. This became a performance issue at a number of levels. First, upon investigation, it turned out she had a number of days in the last few months where her secretary reported she left early for lunch and never returned resulting in significant loss of individual productivity. Second, she created liability for her company when she propositioned a colleague. This created a potentially hostile work environment/sexual harassment lawsuit. In addition, there was lost time for human resources, management, and legal to review the situation and interview all parties. Third, when confronted with her behavior and the company’s requirement to go to the employee assistance program for an evaluation and potential referral for treatment if indicated, she refused and resigned. This resulted in additional loss of intellectual capital and the personal long term health costs to her. This reminder for everyone in supervisor, management, or executive functions is that alcohol and other substance use disorders have not diminished despite policies, procedures,’ and education interventions. It is important to stay alert to your employees’ and colleagues’ behavior and act in a timely and compassionate manner similar to the company discussed in this paragraph.
The research on sleep deprivation is well documented. Sleep deprived individuals do not function well cognitively and their reaction times are diminished. This finding was significant enough for one researcher to say that sleep deprived drivers were more dangerous than alcohol impaired drivers. What are the costs to your organization related to sleep deprivation? We know that individuals who are sleep deprived eat more, make poorer food and exercise decisions, are more irritable with others, and make poor decisions. Many companies recognize the dangers of sleep deprivation and provide nap rooms, meditation classes, and other options so that employees can refresh themselves and perform better at work.
Obesity, wellness, and financial impact discussions are ubiquitous on the internet and in the professional literature. Our workforces are getting fatter and fatter. Recent research suggested that obesity not only has downstream health costs for the employer, there is some evidence that cognitive functions can be influenced as well. This research needs to be replicated. Then there is the subgroup of morbidly obese individuals who also have co-morbid depression. Depression affects performance in terms of diminished problem solving skills, concentration problems, social withdrawal, lowered energy which is compounded by the lower energy associated with morbid obesity, as well as other symptoms such as memory impairment. Any of these symptoms will negatively affect performance in most jobs. As an employer it will become an even heavier burden going forward to manage the workforce as the obesity incidence continues to grow. What is becoming more apparent is that the typical wellness program is unsuccessful in helping the morbidly obese. A major component that is missing is the psychological aspects of performance related to weight loss and weight gain. The research in this area has been well established for over 25 years. Coors Brewing in 1988 was one of the first companies to incorporate an intensive outpatient obesity program as part of its wellness program. It was a highly successful program. Unfortunately during that time there were many fasting programs and one of the unintended side effects of these programs was an increase in gall bladder surgeries and the corresponding cost. Due to a variety of factors beyond the scope of this blog, all weight loss programs were discontinued a few years later. There are best practice examples of successful interventions with the morbidly obese employee population which apply the psychological elements needed to lose and sustain weight loss.
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Have a day filled with loving kindness and compassion,
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D., CEO & Psychologist
I just couldn’t help dovetailing off of my erudite colleague Ryan Lucas’s most recent blog “Health inSite: Breaking the Fifth Wall.” You see, I am currently in a theater production – mid run. This is something I do every two years or so to keep me young and “in the game.” As always, the life lessons have been prodigious and applicable. These lessons can be applied to health, wellness, as well as organizational performance. Each night we have a huddle before the performance (big cast – 21 actors plus directors, choreographer, lighting engineers, and stage managers) to share a moment of teamwork and motivating words from one another. In this blog I will be sharing a version of what I will share in our next huddle.
In this play, the Fourth Wall definitely gets intentionally broken. If that didn’t work, the play would be a mere shell of itself. Okay, here you go: the play is “The Full Monty.” If you are not familiar with the story, it is about a group of unemployed steelworkers who come up with the idea of putting on a working man’s strip show to make some quick cash. Through the process, each one goes through some personal transformation of overcoming personal doubts and limitations. This is the Broadway musical version that was created after the movie. This is a play of tremendous heart and is about so much more than crudity and stripping (It is set in Buffalo with steel workers, so there is a bit of a hard edge).
Here is what I want to share:
As much as this has been an incredibly fun and positive experience, as happened with me, I have faced some personal demons in the process. I would guess most of us have; be it relationships, body image, skills and talents, or any of the stuff that gets in our way when we attempt to excel. So much of the play is about overcoming those demons. What it takes in order to accomplish this is the openness and support of those around us – our community. When the six of us (“Monty Men”) come out for the last big number, the rest of the cast is out in the audience and has become part of the audience (breaking the Fourth Wall). I cannot tell you the powerful and amazing feeling of getting ready to “bare it all” with this great crew out in the audience whooping, hollering, and heckling. Then they incite the audience to do the same – perhaps approaching the Fifth Wall Ryan alludes to in which people join together in support. The focus is on the six of us, but it’s about each and every one of us, and what it takes to overcome your doubts to reach pure joy and celebration. What I experience is that we are all in it together and that’s what makes it work. I overcame my, as well as my character’s, personal demons. What a gift!
Perhaps we do not completely get to the “Fifth Wall” Ryan alludes to in his blog. There is no designed sharing between audience members. However, we are all very present together in the dance and song “Let It Go.” Breaking the barrier walls, we can construct with one another through openness and support, and create miracles of accomplishment. This is the same at work, in our families, and in any given situation. The characters in this play are almost as diverse as in any workplace. And yet, in the end when we “Let it Go” the show is a huge success and the world feels like a better place.
Let it Go,
Patrick Hiester, L.P.C.
VP of BizPsych
In the 10th installment of Health inSite, we take a look at strategies of an up-and-coming way of engaging health through Gamification. Gamification has recently taken to the health world via a veritable windfall of funding coming through venture capital firms to try to create platforms that encourage and incent people to take on everyday health activities. While most of these have been fitness related applications and websites so far, a good number are starting to look at emotional resiliency, pro-social behavior, and more. If you’ve not yet read Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken, or seen her TED Talk, I highly suggest them. McGonigal suggests that there is value in creating unnecessary obstacles for people to achieve more and feel the power of their own success by creating fiero moments – moments of intense pride in one’s triumph over adversity. These obstacles enrich our lives and add value to our, oftentimes, mundane daily activities. As McGonigal mentions in her book, if the point of golf is to put the ball in the hole, why don’t we just pick up the ball and walk it over to drop it in the hole. Yet, we spend a lot of time playing the game and add obstacles to make it more challenging. It creates motivation to achieve for the sake of achievement, rather than the end goal. This is the point of a game and it has a big role to play in the future of health.
There are a number of groups starting to use the concepts of gamification to encourage health promoting activities. And, there is a lot of hoopla being created around using technology platforms to make gaming a part of employers’ health strategies, with 60% of employers planning to add gamified health strategies in 2013. However, most of these groups are only using small pieces of the total package that gamification, and other psychological research, includes; and sometimes, are even using pieces that are inappropriate, such as financial incentives and gimmicks, which directly undermine the value of the game itself. But maybe there are better opportunities to correctly use the concepts of gamification, as well as the many other pieces of psychological research that we’ve covered in Health inSite, to create a total population health strategy at work; the first wellbeing program that actually pushes employees to challenge themselves, and each other, to become more healthy, rather than less ill. In fact, MINES is doing just that.
It takes more than a website to do this – including focus on using the resources available to a company’s natural habitat, the worksite, to engage employees during the 40 hour work week, and more, by creating a story. As described in the burgeoning world of Alternate Reality Games and Transmedia Storytelling, the ability to tell a cooperative narrative – on and offline – among those with which you work is an opportunity to actively create health, the benchmark of Salutogenesis. When you have many platforms for engaging in this storytelling, you increase the modes of access to actively engage all employees where they are, rather than forcing them into a platform that they may not be comfortable with, or is not ideal for their way of engaging in their health generating behaviors. This is done by asking for participation in the developing story that is experienced, rather than simply viewed. Imagine, rather than passively hearing or reading what someone needs to do to fight diabetes, or other chronic health condition, or even simply drop a couple of pounds, each person can create opportunities for their fellow employees to actively and interactively challenge one another in the course of an unfolding story. This makes health promotion participatory and engaging.
We’re focused on creating the health generating plan of the future and want to share it with you. In the meantime, maybe you’re already starting to embark on this grand adventure in your own ways. What do you do at work that helps make people healthier?
To our health,
Let’s dig a little deeper into the concept of Salutogenesis and what it might mean at your workplace.
Antonovsky’s explanation of Salutogenesis was well depicted by a river. His concern with the current model of health (Pathogenesis) is that it’s generally believed that we are healthy from the beginning but that because of environmental / circumstantial events, we become sick. Antonovsky expressed this as a river, where all healthy people stand on the bank, safe from the raging river’s flow. Once one stepped into the river – got sick – then something needed to be done. Salutogenesis, however, sees all people already in the river; but at different distances from the mouth. General resistance resources (GRRs), a term Antonovsky used as well, are the supportive mechanisms that make it possible to engage in their health generating activities. These allow for someone to swim against the current or maintain a position against the current. The result of thinking this way is the freedom to abandon the bias that one has failed at being healthy, but rather that they are always working at generating more health.
Sense of Coherence
Antonovsky’s continued his explanation of Salutogenesis as hinged on a Sense of Coherence. Sense of Coherence is defined by three major parts:
- Comprehensibility (I get this). The ability to understand one’s circumstances. If you look back at some of my previous postings on Cognitive Bias, we are unable to fully comprehend our experience because, as Kahneman has pointed out in Thinking Fast and Slow, we are subject to a number of biases including base rate neglect (not having the ability to assess, objectively, where things are from the start before making an opinion of what is possible).
- Manageability (I got this). The ability to assess resources for dealing with one’s circumstances. “The right tool for the right job” comes to mind here. To adequately meet the needs of Manageability, one must not only have the resources available, but the knowledge that they can be used.
- Meaningfulness (I’m good to go). The ability to comprehend the anticipated results as helpful. We oftentimes recognize that there is a change to be had, but taking that step can be difficult without a fire under your bottom.
Taken together, these three points sit at the nexus of the ability for any given person to be able to effectively engage with their health. When all three are maximized for performance, individuals can effectively mitigate the potential of their circumstances. Education obviously plays a big role in the process of becoming healthier, but education alone cannot make people healthier.
Your role as a benefits provider
As someone that is providing benefits to a group of people, you have a key role in the ability to help those covered to become healthier; to actually create health. It’s easy to provide a benefit that is available when it’s needed and provided by an external vendor, but that doesn’t have to be the end. Visionary organizations are engaging their population in small, but every day, ways.
What can be done
Engagement is key. First off, you have to take on an organizational wellbeing plan in earnest. If you’re willing to put in the effort, your population will be more likely to stay engaged. If you’re not behind it 100%, they probably won’t be either. But what can be done to engage in health more actively in the worksite?
Let’s look at some of the GRRs that Antonovsky identified and where they may occur in the workplace.
Money: Money enables us to purchase services and products that can enable health generating activities. It can also be used to incentivize or disincentivize activities – the so-called carrot and/or stick approach. But, money also has some significant impact on engagement. When individuals make a purchase, they are actively exchanging the value of their dollar for the value of what is being purchased. If you’re familiar with the concept of Behavioral Economics, this might include devaluation of a certain program because it is provided for free. Instead, incentivizing purchase of products or services that help in the generation of health means personal investment in its use.
Knowledge: You know that conference or meeting room that is usually set aside for meetings with clients, or teams within your organization? It may also be a great location to have a training or two related to health generating activities. Including helpful information in your break room, like healthful recipes, may be a continual reminder of what your population is putting into their bodies.
Commitment: Commitment may be especially easy to generate in the workplace because you’re already showing an investment in those you provide benefits for. Showing your commitment to the program can help create mutual investment, as well!
Social Support: Encourage people to support each other in your health generating activities by rewarding employees who provide assistance or encouragement in the health of other employees. This creates a social structure for engaging in health, and we know that community is the key to health.
Taken together, this is a powerful recipe for getting the kind of motivation needed to stay actively engaged in your population’s health. And, the long-term benefit of a healthier and happier workforce is what drives productivity and profitability.
To our health,
Blended, not segmented
In an increasingly interconnected world, the rift between the person and the role within the workplace is diminishing. Again, highlighting a moment from our presentation at the EAPA 2011 Conference back in October, we provided a brief demonstration of the change that is coming with the introduction of smart technology that is cheap, intuitive, and pervasive. We added many of the ingredients of our everyday lives – personal photos, TPS reports, business cards, a beer (non-alcoholic, of course), and some others – to a blender. After pureeing the ingredients, we had the mish mash of our lives in a soupy representation of its non-segmentation. Slowly, but surely, we continue to blur the lines between our personal and professional lives. The generation entering the workplace today, as well as the mavens that have been productively using social media over the past decade, are contending with very significant issues when it comes to their personal versus professional circles.
Which is perfectly fine for them as, characteristically, they are less concerned about the space between work and personal that has existed in previous generations.
But it does bring up a new combined reality wherein the interconnectedness of all things plays a new role, e.g., less applying for jobs and more networking with previous co-workers and current friends. This is a powerful change in the culture of hiring as we can rely more on data points that are trusted, rather than on the various axes we might consider from an interview.
We’ll have chips, you bring the dip
This is further aided by the number of devices (and the consolidators like cloud computing and apps) on which we can maintain a seamless online life. Our ability to share, connect, and compute through these various devices has led to a revolution for some workplaces. We’ve gone from intentional VPN connections on desktops into the workplace, to push-based access to email on our phones.
Now we have the opportunity for individual employees to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Gone are the days where individuals carry two phones, or a personal phone and a work laptop. A new tide is rising where an employee can use their personal device to connect to work. This has obvious implications associated with it. In my last blog, I walked through some of the changes in the landscape regarding social media in the workplace and its potential for the leaking of PCI (a play on Private Health Information, Private Corporate Information). Imagine the concerns regarding that PCI on a device that can literally be left on a street corner! Consider data from Lookout Security (a mobile app that tracks lost phones) alone: 9 million lost phones in 2011. By the way, if you have employees using mobile devices for work purposes, either company owned or personally owned, you should have a solution like Lookout or iOS’s Find my iPhone in place. It’s just another thing to add to the technology section of your HR manual.
We can access statistics and reports from virtually anywhere with a WiFi or data signal, and we can do it on the same devices as our social media and personal activities. This means increased efficiency for some, and others less so as there are more distractions on the same device; however, it also means being less tied down to a workstation. Enabling employees to function in their role fluidly and dynamically means a potential for faster response rates and less commuting or booting (as in booting up a computer) time. So long as you are not also operating in System 1 by multi-tasking.
What does this have to do with health?
I’m so glad you asked. The mobile revolution has another impact on our lives: the ability for our physical wellbeing to be more social and integrated with our daily activities. For an employer, this can mean increased health outcomes to decrease premiums as awareness of one’s health can increase attention to keeping oneself healthier. Integrated with Social Media, this also allows for real time feedback from our social network, encouraging and assisting in the process of growing our health. And since we spend 1/3 of our week working, ignoring this time because it’s “work time” is simply the wrong way to go about creating a healthier workforce. Population health strategies necessitate an integrated approach to health – and even more so when you are self-insured!
If that’s not interesting enough, using both hardware and software, new tracking of the quantified self enables a feedback system that helps provide data to be reviewed by System 2, resulting in increased awareness of our current health status. Knowing your heart-rate through events, in real time, allows for biofeedback-based solutions to situations. Literally translated, our at-the-moment health can enable greater productivity at work – whether that’s at a coffee shop, your home, or at the office. As these pieces of technology become cheaper and more precise, BYOD might one day allow for the inclusion of health devices for work too.
To our health,