Eat well to sleep well

Poor sleep, stress and anxiety are all normal and understandable reactions to the current COVID-19 pandemic we find ourselves in. These are extraordinary, unprecedented times after all.

 

In fact, esteemed Australian psychology and psychiatric authorities estimate that every individual is ‘carrying’ a 10-15% overlay to normal levels of anxiety in the current climate.

Fortunately, there are many strategies that can be implemented to combat poor sleep, stress and anxiety. Focusing on the factors that we can control to promote positive mental health and physical health is as important as ever. Let’s take a look at how our nutrition choices, and small changes, can make a positive difference.

Healthy eating = healthy sleeping

 

  • Improve sleep by avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate and alcohol in the afternoon and evening. Ideally, avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before going to sleep.

  • Avoid reaching for packaged and sugary foods as they can increase feelings of anxiety, increase cravings and fatigue.

  • Instead of late night chocolate biscuits, try walnuts – they’re a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin as well as melatonin which is the ‘body clock’ hormone that sets your sleep-wake cycle.

  • Add healthy fats to your meals – they are essential for brain health, reducing inflammation and helping to stabilise mood. Include oily fish in your dinner for a sleep inducing meal option. They are high in vitamin B6, which your body needs to make the sleep enhancing hormones melatonin and serotonin.

  • Fish such as salmon will also help to stabilise serotonin levels, which your body uses to manage stress.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day – even mild dehydration can make you tired.

  • Avoid skipping meals to prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels which can lead to unhealthy cravings and fatigue.

  • Eating low GI foods such as wholegrain foods, fruit and vegetables will help maintain your energy levels during the day.

  • Enjoy smaller, lighter meals in the evening rather than high-fat or heavy meals that can slow down your digestive system. If you get struck down with heart burn, you’re more likely to experience sleep problems and disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome and daytime sleepiness.

  • A nightly cup of tea (without caffeine) can be a perfect relaxing ritual. Chamomile, ginger, and peppermint are calming choices for bedtime.

Health by Design is here to help you navigate the many challenges of employee mental health and physical health during the COVID-19 outbreak. Contact us today if you need extra support.

Nutrition & work performance: are you putting the right fuel in your tank?

Food is fuel for our bodies. We need a certain number of kilojoules each day to function. However, when the kilojoules we consume are low quality (such as processes foods that are high fat and low in nutritional value), our bodies can suffer. An unhealthy diet hurts our organs and weakens our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to illness and poor energy levels. Factor in a demanding work schedule to the mix with deadlines to meet and it certainly isn’t an ideal combination is it!

Let’s take a look at the type of foods that drain your energy. We should avoid high fat, energy dense food if we wish to improve and maintain good energy levels. Food that drains our energy should be reduced or eliminated altogether (this can be a gradual process!). These foods, loaded with simple sugars, causing a quick energy boost followed by a decline that is just as quick – often leaving you more drained than before.

Stimulants such as caffeine and sugar may provide a boost of energy in the short-term, but long-term they deplete our bodies of energy by continually drawing out minerals and nutrients. They can also be highly addictive! Stimulants include:

  • Coffee

  • Soft drinks

  • Alcohol

  • Sugar

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Trans-fats

 

In contrast, there are plenty of foods we can consume that improve our energy levels.

  • Dark green leafy vegetables are a high-quality food source providing many of the vitamins our bodies need to stay healthy with sustained energy. These vegetables are often high in calcium, iron, zinc, folate, potassium and vitamins A, C, E and K.

  • Whole grains are an important source of carbohydrates – which is exactly what we need to be able to supply energy to the body in the form of glucose. Glucose is the preferred fuel source for the brain and central nervous system. Without glucose, we cannot maintain our health.

 

There are other types of food which are important for energy, health and performance too. Protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats and certain vitamins are all associated with brain function and mental performance.

  • Brain food – protein: protein is found in meat, fish, milk and cheese. It provides the building blocks for the body’s tissues, nerves and internal organs (including our brain and heart).

  • Brain food – carbohydrates: as we’ve already discusses, carbohydrate is an essential fuel source. Grains, fruits and vegetables are all healthy sources of carbohydrates.

  • Brain food – healthy fats: omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the optimum performance of your brain. You can ensure your diet is rich in omega-3 fats by eating plenty of oily fish including mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, herring and anchovies.

  • Brain food – vitamins & minerals: these are essential for the growth and functioning of the brain. The ‘B’ complex vitamins are particularly important for the brain and play a vital role in producing energy. Vitamins A, C and E are powerful antioxidants, which help to promote and preserve memory. Minerals are also critical to mental functioning and performance. Magnesium, for example is necessary for brain energy. Sodium, potassium and calcium are important in the thinking process and they also facilitate the transmission of messages.

 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look into some more specific strategies about how you can use nutrition to your advantage at work.

  • Studies suggest that cognitive abilities tend to peak during late morning hours – so tackle your most mentally taxing work tasks before lunch. Experts suggest that alertness and attention levels taper off following meals. This is why you might find yourself struggling to concentrate in those post-lunch work meetings.

  • Our bodies are primed to digest and utilise food for roughly an 8-10 hour period in the day. Eating outside of these hours can mean that digestion takes a lot longer, and we process fats and sugar less efficiently – which impacts on our energy levels.

  • Research has found that increasing your vitamin B intake could significantly reduce work-related stress. Vitamin B is found in whole, unprocessed foods such as meat, beans and wholegrains as well as milk, yoghurt and green leafy vegetables.

  • Tempted to skip breakfast? Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Those who eat it tend to perform better than those who don’t. Foods at the top of researchers’ brain-fuel list include high-fibre whole grains, dairy, and fruits. Just don’t overeat; researchers also found high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.

 

In summary, if your diet lacks essential nutrients, it can hurt your ability to concentrate. Eating too much or too little can also interfere with your focus. A heavy meal may make you feel tired, while not eating enough can result in distracting hunger pangs. It’s also really important to stay hydrated, so if it’s been awhile since you had some water – go fill up your water bottle now!

Would your workforce benefit from more education on this topic? Contact us today via [email protected] to discuss how we could help.

How our staff keep mentally healthy

During October, for Mental Health Awareness Month, we interviewed some of our staff to find out what they do to stay mentally healthy. There were some common themes and great suggestions. We’ll share them below:

  • I started kickboxing in January this year. Which has become one of the best ways for me to release stress and clear my mind. I always feel better after beating up on a bag for 45 minutes! Also, I love to jog and listen to my gospel music which helps me realign my thoughts to positive ones and helps to increase energy. I also meditate and pray in the mornings which I believe starts my day a lot better and gives me strength for the day. Also cooking new recipes and meals allows me to explore my creativity.

– Kristy, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

 

  • My number 1 go-to is EXERCISE. I exercise regularly to protect my mental health – I can really start to struggle when I don’t exercise enough. It’s also just as helpful when I’m having a hard day. I’ll put my little boy in the pram & go for a walk – I think it’s the combination of getting outside & the physical activity that helps me out on these days. But I’m also a big believer in regular “self care” – whether it’s food prepping for the week ahead, reading a good book, listening to a favourite podcast, getting a massage, getting coffee with a friend, taking a long warm bath etc.

– Lauren, Health Promotion & Marketing

  • Aside from exercise/physical activity which is probably my main way of maintaining my emotional/mental health in a good place, whenever I feel out of balance mentally I find socialising with my partner or friends, sharing a meal and talking about life helps me to get my perspective back on track and get back in balance.

– Pablo, IT support & client support services

  • Since becoming a parent a big thing for me is scheduling “slow days”. I’m usually always running around here, there and everywhere, so I make it a priority to schedule days every so often where I don’t have to be anywhere or tick anything off any lists! It gives me the chance to relax (as much as my kids will let me!) or catch up on anything in particular that has been weighing on my mind.

– Lauren, Research, Learning & Development

  • Fitness and Food are huge for me. But also a creative outlet is something I need in my life to feel “well”. Whether it is a goofy doodle, a colouring page, a fancy card making session, or writing. They all help to clear my head. Additionally taking a wellness day. A lot of people only take “sick days” of vacation time, but I think if we took more unscheduled wellness days, we wouldn’t need as many sick days.

– Nita, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

  • A few different approaches depending on what aspect of my mental health needs a boost, and also the situation… am I at home, on the road, with others or by myself etc… In general, I’ve always turned to movement to clear my head. Exercise helps me blow off steam and I like to pair it with music to suit my mood. When a lengthy or sweaty workout isn’t really practical, I find even a walk is really beneficial for me. When I’m seeking some calm or perspective, while I know this might sound a bit lame… I’ll admit that I’m a sunset guy. When I travel I love to find a nice spot to enjoy a sunset. I find it calming and an excellent way to regain perspective. It reminds me that the world is big and that days will always come and go. Often times the things which are taxing me as an individual are probably pretty insignificant in the whole scheme of things.

– Andrew, US Operations

  • Definitely exercise for me. I find running very meditative and calming. Also mentally ‘re-framing’….especially when I know the serotonin is a little low and I might be viewing things a little negatively, I basically do cognitive therapy on myself to re-frame the negative and rationalise what the reality is. Prioritise sleep! When under the pump the most or jet-lagged I try to stick most closely to the things above plus good nutrition.

– Greg, Managing Director

  • I feel like exercise is a big one for me. Running always has helped me to distress. I feel like my mind is always clear after a good run. Hiking/ walking with my family and/or friends or by myself is another great activity for me. There is just something about being out in nature that helps me feel calm, happy and even gets some creative ideas flowing. Recently, I found that kickboxing has been a good stress reliever, especially after a hard, stressful day. Something other than exercise and is a quick go to for me would be simply petting and loving on my dog. Animals have always made me feel better on a rough day. Even just looking at some funny/ cute animal videos or photos brings a smile to my face.

– Kathleen, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

  • Exercise is definitely my number 1 – closely behind is making sure I get outside (beach/park etc) as often as possible. The beach even in winter I find very calming and a massive help to switch off. If feeling a bit flat or unmotivated, getting some music on for that boost!

– Dan, AU Operations

  • Lifting heavy weights and moving fast! I also love to have some quiet time… cooking, listening to music or taking the dogs to the park and enjoying the outdoors getting some vitamin D.

– Sarah, AU Operations

  • Meditation 20 mins every day; martial arts 3 times a week; cardio 2-3 times a week; yoga 2-3 times a week. I also love going out for coffee with friends and family whenever I can.

– Gemma, Admin & Accounts

  • Always look on the bright side of life… no matter how tough times can be for you or those close to you, I think then of the starving in Africa or the kids & families in war torn countries and all of a sudden you know life is pretty darn good!! Must laugh or have a joke as often as possible with family or friends…. that really helps. Having a team or group activity… like my Friday morning tennis… is definitely my saviour each week – I love it!! Having something fun to look forward to in the not too distant future is also a good plan…. holiday, get together with friends, catch up with dad, going out with family… Or Elton John concert in Jan. at Hanging Rock… always good to look forward to something in life!!

– Patty, Finance Manager & Client Support

  • Crossfit and hiking! There’s nothing else that calms me and helps to rejuvenate me more than lifting heavy weights or being out in the woods or hiking up a mountain and just being surrounded by nature.

– Travis, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

  • I love to exercise and listen to music. I love to listen to 80’s music or pump up music when I go for a run… its a great way to relax, have fun, and I make sure to focus on my breathing (which seems a bit meditative). I also make sure to do some hobbies or learn something new. A new experience (whether ice skating, travel, or even skydiving) is always a fun way for me to reduce stress and have fun. Meditation and my religion are also great ways for me to put my worries into perspective… it makes them not seem like not such big worries anymore.

– Melora, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

Make a Quantum Leap in Wellness Engagement

“Organizations that can prove they are adding value to people’s lives will continue to grow and thrive.” Tim Rath

In an unregulated industry with no clear definition of “engagement,” the door is wide open for results “cherry picking” or claiming high rates of success for what is largely meaningless contact. Trying to determine the average engagement in corporate health programs is actually very difficult. Industry reports do exist, but many reported rates of “engagement” may be inflated as they count a one-time incentive driven screening as “engaged.”

To properly define engagement, it’s best to work backwards from the goals or type of outcomes you want to achieve and then determine what level of participation is most likely to achieve those goals. If you simply want to raise awareness, have a bit of fun, or check the box in order to promote that you “offer a wellness benefit”, then isolated, incentive driven one-time participation may be completely fine.

However, if you want to actually make a measurable impact on your employee experience, employee health, and organizational performance, then sporadic short-run engagement is insufficient.

In this area, an overwhelming majority of corporate “wellness” programs are vastly under-performing. They are one-dimensional or focus too heavily on specific generic actions, occur in the periphery, and many create a burden for employees (penalties, require proactive opt-in, logging points etc). Comprehensive program reviews have found that less than 7% of programs are comprehensive enough to have a significant sustained positive impact on individual health or organizational performance (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).

In order for people to make sustainable and meaningful change, they need to be consistently and actively engaged in the process: actively participating, learning, and progressively implementing actions. Therefore if measurable change and genuine employee value is the goal, the only real way to define engagement is by sustained, repeat and ongoing participation – ideally without incentives.

Comprehensive & personalized programs are more effective than incentives To take your health program engagement and effectiveness to a new level, you would be much better served by investing in a more comprehensive, personal-level program rather than trying to add or modify incentive strategies. Incentive strategies in reality are “let’s try to make marginal short term gains for a program our employees are clearly not responding to” strategies. Recent evidence (NBGH) suggests the major reason employees do not participate in corporate health programs is because they lack “personal relevance.” Is that really surprising when you consider the one-dimensional, dictated prescriptive nature of most programs?In addition, a 2014 RAND study found that engagement in comprehensive programs more than doubled the rates of engagement in more limited traditional programs and outperformed the impact of adding incentives to those programs by around 30%.

Programs will only have a positive impact on an employee’s job satisfaction if they provide value, and they will only provide value if they help people improve. This only occurs if employees clearly see the personal relevance and remain voluntarily and continually engaged long term.

Are you comparing apples to apples? It’s common for vendors to report engagement or satisfaction only from participants, or based on the largest attended (and often incentivized) event. For example, we recently consulted for a company of 20,000 employees who reported a “health program participation rate” of around 60%. When we dug deeper, we determined they had 60% of their employees “opt-in” and participate in an annual screening – primarily based on incentives and plan design. However, they only had 2.5% of their population complete follow up coaching or any meaningful change intervention. So is their engagement really 60%, or more like 3%? Another client’s vendor reported employee satisfaction from a recent challenge as “96% would recommend the program to a friend and would choose to participate again next year.” That sounds impressive, but when you read the fine print, that percentage is only from a sub group of respondents who “completed the entire challenge and both the pre-and post challenge survey”. That clearly creates a response bias to the few people who were really into the challenge, and it represented less than 5% of this employer’s total workforce.

At HBD, our mission is to help people change and enhance their lives by changing their health habits and behaviors. This is only achievable when people are effectively and consistently engaged. That’s why we monitor and report our non-incentivized participation back to our clients as a proportion of total workforce, monthly. By watching sustained high average monthly engagement (in excess of 80% of the total workforce monthly), we know the majority of people are routinely and consistently engaged on an ongoing basis. This is what creates the platform that allows us to help individuals on an effective and sustainable personal pathway to change. We aim to lift the curtain on vendor reporting and provide an easy, transparent view of a program’s success.

 

So with that context, let’s take a look at our engagement numbers in comparison to the industry:

 

– Average one-time engagement in wellness programs: 20% – Average one-time engagement in health programs with incentives: 40% – Average engagement in “comprehensive” health programs: 52%

Average sustained month-to-month engagement in HBD’s programs without incentives: 82%

*Level of engagement considered optimal for achieving the best program outcomes and returns for an organization >60% (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).

The type AND frequency of engagement matters if you hope to provide employees value and achieve sustainable health and wellbeing improvements. Our methodologies which include integrating consistent engagement into an employee’s workflow, and providing personal level contact and coaching helps us create some of the highest performing programs globally.

If you are seeking to make a quantum leap in the effectiveness of your workplace health programming, please contact us to discuss your unique workforce and challenges.

Guess Less. Gain More.

How neuroscience could change the game for executive health and performance coaching.

 

In the current competitive labor market the challenge is not only to attract the best talent, it’s also to keep them as long as possible and get the best performance out of them while you have them. More than ever, high performers want to find meaning in their work or get a sense that their work adds value to their life. Salaries are no longer the key differentiation for engaging key talent. Instead, helping high performers better themselves as people, and as workers helps them feel valued, fulfilled and more connected to your company.

Traditional executive health programs, like broader wellness programs, are largely generic and offered in the periphery as a fringe benefit. While it’s nice to have these programs, the irony is that the executives that may need them the most, the ones who are most stressed and time poor or the ones who are least proactive with their health, are the least likely to seek them out.

Now neuroscience is changing the game. Executives need programs which are efficient and relevant. The power of neuroscience in executive health and performance is that it allows for highly personalized, precise, and relevant interventions that executives can see benefit and meaning from. The other powerful benefit of having insight into personal brain chemistry is that it not only provides short term benefits, but it also (and perhaps more importantly) allows for predictive and preventive interventions which can help high performers better understand and mitigate the negative impacts of natural behaviors under periods of high stress. In contrast, other generic “stress management” programs require a lot of self-directed learning as well as trial and error to find what works for an individual under specific circumstances. That takes time and effort – something employees under high stress don’t have!

How many high potential leaders have been lost as a result of burnout? What if that risk could be minimized while also boosting performance under periods of stress? What if you could help executives improve their communication and relationships (both inside and outside of work)? What if you could help executives understand why they behave how they do – even when those behaviors may be counter to their health or performance goals? These are exactly some of the ways in which neuroscience can provide more precise answers and add value to an executive health and performance initiative.

Besides the individual value for executives or high value talent, there are broader potential impacts. Do you have “executive support for wellness” but struggle to actually get your executive teams to actively participate? A “good for our people but not good enough for me” type attitude can be very damaging toward attempts to build a culture of health. It also widens the gap between management and the broader population by feeding that “them and us” mentality. A program which genuinely provides management with positive personal value in regards to improving health, wellbeing, and performance can make your executives some of your biggest champions for broader health promotion. Nothing helps build support like experiencing personal success. Not only are they more likely to inherently understand the benefits and support the programs, but they are more likely to be seen actively promoting or participating. That difference between supporting in principle and actually leading by example can have a huge impact on culture and the promotion of organizational values.

If you’ve struggled to engage executives in effective health promotion or to find something that can give add more meaningful personal value in developing both personally and professionally, then a small pilot (say, a team of 5 for 8 -12 weeks) incorporating and utilizing the insights of neuroscience is fairly inexpensive and can achieve short term health improvements, long term resilience and performance gains, as well as boosting job engagement for your biggest human assets. To learn more, contact us and ask about out Chemistry for Success brain chemistry program.

Why “Hub & Spoke” Wellness Models Under-perform

What if you could DOUBLE the positive impact at HALF THE COST of most current “wellness” models? What if you could truly get your population engaged (over 80%), and have over half of your population improve their health, without any incentives? Wouldn’t that be worth considering?

While most large employers in the U.S. say they offer a wellness program, less than 7% use all the program components required for successful interventions (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008). So, chances are, you are throwing money at an under-performing employee health promotion program.

The greatest weakness in most health promotion strategies is that the interventions are designed for the wrong people. Most interventions are built to accommodate people at advanced stages of behavioral readiness. The problem is, the vast majority of people are at early stages of readiness, and unfortunately, simply raising their awareness or incenting them to minimally engage will not magically advance them to the stage of sustainable action.

The “default” wellness strategy of most large organizations is a hub and spoke model like this (click here).

I understand the logic – “people have different needs and interests, so let’s put together an array of options to cover all our bases…”

Unfortunately, most of these bases are never reached. They require an employee to proactively choose to engage (e.g. opt in, log on, make a call, fill out a form, or attend something outside of their normal work and routine).

As you can imagine, being proactive is not a characteristic of someone at an early stage of readiness (i.e. most of your workforce). Even if you get someone to participate, the expectations or actions within the individual programs are short term, or also oriented to people who are ready to make a change. And finally, even for those who do participate in some activities within this model, travel within this framework is a constant “out and in”. That is, it is rare for the different elements of the program to cohesively reinforce each other or actively encourage flow around the circle from one activity to the next. The result is that overall engagement is low, and repeat consistent engagement across different activities (which is most likely to reinforce and facilitate change) is even lower.

These downfalls lead us to incentives. When traditional “wellness” wasn’t working, rather than address the flaws in the model, the great epiphany was to introduce incentives. Again, I see the logic – “we have all these great programs available, if only people would use them…so let’s use incentives and challenges to make it fun and rewarding, and everything will be fixed, right?…”

Well, it turns out that works initially…but it’s superficial and unsustainable. People can be easily enticed to make short term shifts or episodic changes, but these rarely translate into meaningful sustained change because you haven’t appropriately taken an individual through a complete, inherent change process. So as soon as the incentive is removed or is no longer appealing, or as soon as a non-routine stressful interruption happens in someone’s life, they inevitably revert back to their old poor behaviors. Why? Because the episodic behavior was never inherently driven or meaningful – and as soon as it’s no longer convenient, it’s terminated.

That brings us to the current state of our industry. The majority of workplace health promotion programs are vastly under-performing, yet companies continue to increase incentives or chop and change vendors in an attempt to make marginal improvements – all while slowly losing faith that any of it is worth the effort (or cost) – and all while slowly extinguishing any limited motivation their workforce may have had. According to SHRM, the average wellness incentive is now just shy of $600 per head per year. That’s a really poor investment of wellness budgets which could more effectively be spent on better interventions.

In any other aspect of business, if you determine there is an ineffective process, do you continue to invest more money to marginally improving that flawed process, or do you look to innovate and correct the process? Einstein is often credited with a definition of insanity to the effect of “doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome.” So I ask, are American businesses completely insane?

If people are not effectively utilizing your program without incentives, it DOES NOT mean you should tinker with different incentive models, IT DOES mean that you have the wrong program.

Low effective engagement without incentives is a clear sign that your employees do not see inherent value in your program. Therefore, you need to change your program, and what the science tells us is, you need approaches which are easier for people at earlier stages of behavioral readiness. Remove the proactive “opt-in” barriers, reduce the clutter of excess, narrowly-focused programs, and create a basic process of consistently and repeatedly delivering short – sharp bits of relevant, actionable health information to your whole population.

If budget permits and methods of appropriate coaching that allow the information to be tailored and delivered relevant to an individual’s personal needs and stage of readiness, then the impact is even greater. You can still have other relevant targeted interventions available for those that need them, but people’s progress towards those more advanced interventions should be nurtured and supported – not coerced.

At HBD, we’ve rethought the health promotion model. We’ve de-cluttered it – because that makes it simple and more relevant for people at earlier stages of behavioral readiness. We try to filter out the noise, and create a clear, structured process for more consistently “drip-feeding” relevant and progressive education using fun, non-threatening themes which help re-frame complex health concepts. We work to integrate the education and engagement into the normal work flow so that people don’t have to opt-in, and we adjust the content so that it’s relevant depending on individual interests, needs, and stage of readiness. While additional resources for high risk individuals may still be necessary (e.g. PCP, EAP), moving people to an appropriate stage of readiness before referring them to these services will make the interventions more successful. This more successful health promotion model is more linear (click here) and provides greater consistency and continuity, making engagement and action far more sustainable.

So if your health promotion strategy looks like the hub and spoke model: stop. If the value of your annual wellness incentives are more than $100 per head: stop. If challenges or incentives are the only things that are keeping your program alive: stop. There is little long term value in continuing to battle for marginal improvements within that flawed system. Instead, reinvent the system, and redistribute that wellness budget into something that will actually make a difference, and that your employees will actually get satisfaction and value from.

You have very little to lose from at least giving us the time for a conversation. If the idea of DOUBLING your program effectiveness while potentially reducing the investment at all peaks your curiosity, then try giving us a call or visit the “contact us” page and send us an email.

 
 

Fill the Gaps for Sustainable Outcomes

Workplace health promotion strategies continue to evolve. But are the ideas really changing, or are we just throwing new tools at old problems? For many employers the problem lies not within their specifically chosen vendor or this year’s “beta version” of their favorite tool, but rather in the structure of their approach in general. Program pieces are not implemented with a strong strategic process or alignment. Instead, many programs have strong start points and end points but lack considerable consistency and strategy to help people navigate the area in between. Unfortunately it’s that “in between” where people’s behavioral journey evolves.

In the wellness industry new companies, new technologies, and new iterations seem to germinate constantly. And yet while so much changes, there’s so much that stays the same. New products and technologies are touted as innovative and game changing, and yet many of their applications rely on principles of traditional approaches which are known to be flawed – short term challenges, self-directed learning, sleeker looking platforms or apps, more accurate activity trackers, smarter bean-counters for incentive systems…

Many of these strategies still rely too heavily on the employee being proactive. That is, making the assumption that they are at an advanced enough stage of readiness to engage with the platform or be convinced to engage via incentives. However, the majority of people are not at an advanced enough stage of readiness, and incentives do not foster the type of inherent motivation required to get them there (refer to previous posts for more discussion on the down sides of incentives). Many of the strategies we continue to see defer to the traditional: testing to identify risk, filter high risk into disease management while trying to get the rest to proactively engage in optional challenges, opt-in coaching or requiring people to maintain or improve their test results in order to receive incentives the following year.

Improving health and changing behavior (in a sustainable way) is a lifelong endeavor. Stop-start programs like challenge based programs can be disjointed and begin to feel repetitive. Testing, triage, clinical compliance and retesting puts a lot of emphasis on outcomes without giving people the physical and mental tools to sustainably evolve their behaviors in the middle – that is, people might reach goals in the short term, but you haven’t changed their mindset or behaviors for the long term.

More evolved programs are ones that blur the boundaries between the separate health promotion activities. Rather than a distinct series of events, services, challenges or programs which people opt in to or are ushered into via incentive plans (which inevitably leads to employees participating in some aspects but not others), elements of advanced programs seamlessly fit together and flow from one to the other. Each additional element builds on and progresses the previous. Each additional element reinforces the last and provides a new layer of information that builds motivation and skills for change. The result is less of a disjointed “two steps forward, one step backwards” stumble towards the finish line, and more of a strategic and progressive journey towards a healthier workforce.

Program integration is not about having the data from your HRA vendor filter in to your disease management vendor. Integration is about the perception from the end user. Health behaviors are complex and do not occur in isolation. Integrated programs that show the relationship between different aspects of health (i.e. an overall health program instead of separate programs for weight loss, stress management or smoking cessation…which are all inter-related) and which provide ongoing and consistent reinforcement of key skills and benefits make more sense and are more actionable in the real world compared with isolated activities.

So perhaps your next true advancement in workplace health is not looking for that next great product or technology that could add another layer or new dimension to your program. Your program may already have too many dimensions. Instead the real innovation might be stripping back some layers and getting to the core of providing a more structured and progressive approach to filling the gaps between your start and end points.

HBD are experts in population health behavior change. Our programs are designed and tailored to fit into our client’s work flow and employee life flow. The result is more sustained engagement (programs average over 80% ongoing month to month participation from the whole workforce without incentives) and high sustainable behavior change across multiple risk areas (our programs average over 65% of the entire workforce improving health behaviors or health risk measures). We don’t rely on gimmicks, just hard work. From stress, engagement and high performance to general health and injury prevention; If you want to learn more about what we can do for you, why not give us a call?

Safety Beyond Compliance

Honored this past week to be invited to speak and share best practices at a European Union OSHA event on effective safety communications and behavior change. It’s always nice to have your work recognized for effectiveness and innovation and to share or collaborate with like-minded people.

In the early days of workplace safety, assessing risk, engineering controls, raising awareness and enforcing compliance made great gains on injury incidence and severity. However, in many industries, while there are still opportunities to utilize technology and continue to implement job controls, injury rate reductions appear to be plateauing, and in some industries, rates are beginning to creep up again. We also continually hear concerns from safety managers about the “frustrating ones”… wondering how they can make a difference on what appear to be silly mistakes and behavioral errors.

As safety has become such an expected and routine element of the modern workplace, the risk of desensitization and “going through the motions” has become an increasing issue. In addition, we face an aging workforce and a younger generation who is, in general, in poorer physical health than the previous generation. That is, the physical capacity of our workforce and resilience to injury is decreased, while we also face new challenges of a more stressed, chronically under-rested and less attentive population.

The structure of workplace health and safety initiatives has never been more critical. While safety has done incredibly well in terms of embedding itself in company culture, where it potentially could still be improved is in the type and structure of communications at those regular touch points. Many safety models have a range of elements – from toolbox talks, to safety shares, tips of the day, audits & observations, annual training revisions and so on – the problem is that many of these elements are independent in nature, or they are campaign based, meaning that they push a singular focus for a short period before switching to a new focus at the expense of reinforcing the previous one. To be stronger from an educational perspective, and to have a greater impact on employee behavior, the structure of these programs and communications could be improved to be more consistent, provide a more tangible value proposition for employees to change (that is, be more purpose driven rather than mainly warnings or reminders of rules).

I think there are incredible opportunities for safety to broaden their perspective and consider more comprehensive initiatives that help address not only work task behaviors and ergonomics, but also improved resilience to injury through promoting meaningful maintenance of physical capacity and meaningful education and mitigation of poor engagement, focus, fatigue, and mental health concerns. Workers on auto-pilot will inevitably cause errors. Workers who come to work in poor physical and mental condition are not only under-productive, but they are at risk. More effective integration or safety and broader elements of health also provide more personal benefit to employees – bridging that gap between personal and professional gain – which are likely to improve their perception of, and engagement in the organization.

I was particularly buoyed by a presentation from a multi-national software company, who is thinking of using worker happiness ratings as a leading indicator of risk. It’s one simple example of how stepping back and thinking beyond traditional engineering, PPE, risk assessments and audits could open the door to more effective interventions.

If you’d like to learn more about HBD’s award winning and industry leading approaches to health and safety behavior change, including programs that achieve an average of 30-60% reductions in injury, hit the “contact” link and send us a note.

Disconnect to Connect

Did you know today the #InternetTurns30? (Just for giggles, here’s the first web page. Go on, check it out, you know you’re curious… It’s OK, I’ll wait). Boy, how our world and culture has changed since then!

While the internet and technology has opened the door to seemingly limitless opportunities and information; it’s also created overload. Never have we been so connected yet simultaneously so lonely. “Communication” is not the same as social interaction and connection. Connectedness, social interaction, interpersonal relationships and support are all critical to our wellbeing.

Among the thousands of emails, tweets, pokes, swipe rights, news feeds, likes (and not to mention actual work) that people partake in every day, is it really any wonder that companies struggle to get employees to engage with their wellness web portal? #HeckNo

 

Wellness programs structured primarily as a web portal, an app, a device, a challenge, or counting points… or even a seemingly “comprehensive combination” of these things (read: Achieve Incentive Level 1 by doing a screening, logging in to the web portal once, and registering for one challenge; Achieve Incentive Level 2 by doing all of the above, plus do an even more generic challenge, run around the block backwards and chug a glass of water; Achieve Incentive Level 3 by completing all of the above plus learning the secret handshake and… WTF?…Seriously? That is not making me healthy!). At best, they tick the box and provide some resources for the small portion of your workforce who are specifically interested in managing their own health… ahem… sorry, that’s only about 3-30% of your population. At worst, they become a chore, a process employees begrudgingly comply with simply to receive their premium discount. Yes, that’s right – they can actually be dis-engaging (#gasp!).

 

A client recently articulated it quite well:

We soon learned it’s one thing to offer a good wellness program, but it’s another to offer a program that truly engages the workforce. People will go through the motions to gain financial incentives, prizes, or discounted insurance premiums, but simply going through the motions doesn’t lead to sustainable results.

Some think that on-site coaching isn’t effective, or that it’s too expensive (sorry to burst your bubble… it’s cheaper than the hundreds of dollars of incentives you are using to coax people to participate in things that are less effective). Real people meeting employees where they’re at – actually connecting with them, listening, and guiding long-term positive improvement is so refreshing in our modern connected world that it’s increasingly more effective. While tech is often “sexy” and coaching might feel antiquated…(you mean they come and talk to me. with their mouth. more than 240 characters. using full sentences and punctuation. OMG LOL). It shows your employees a genuine level of commitment and care. It also conquers the number one reason why employees don’t participate in wellness programs: a lack of perceived personal relevance. What could be more personal than someone working with you on your own specific goals?

Imagine if more that 80% of your total workforce was engaged in your wellness program – ongoing, without incentives. (Is that even possible? #HeckYes!) Imagine if more than 2/3rds of your workforce were actively improving their health and lifestyle behaviors. That’s what can be achieved when you provide a program where employees actually get inherent value.

 

Programs which are campaign based or comprised of a bunch of individual (but independent) elements will always struggle to gain employee attention, sustain high engagement or lead to anything other than short-term shifts in behavior.

Programs which have a strong foundation in routinely connecting with employees within their regular workflow, checking-in and providing content that’s relevant and progressive will be far more effective at sustaining the interest of employees and influencing more sustainable behavior change.

So while the internet has changed our world in amazing ways, it’s also created a whole host of new-world problems. Sometimes the best way to truly connect is actually by disconnecting. #MindBlown

Interested in learning more about health, wellness, high performance, and safety programs with results that more than DOUBLE industry averages? Check out www.hbdinternational.com. I’d say just PM me if you have questions… but that might be hypocritical given the content of this article… so maybe you should call instead 🙂

Safety Month 2019

The theme for Safe Work Month 2019 is: ‘Be a safety champion’. How will you be a safety champion?

Traditional approaches to safety are often compliance driven. However, stop and think about your most common workplace injuries and accidents. The majority of these are preventable, and strongly relate to employee focus, stress, fatigue, task behaviours, and physical condition. This is why we help you move beyond compliance. We will help you influence safer behaviours and a safer culture, as well as create health and safety initiatives to target your key organisational risks. This is the stuff that has a REAL impact on safety and lives. Are you ready to commit to building a safer and healthier workplace for your staff and colleagues? Below is just a snippet of what you could implement at your workplace to spread the National Safety Month message.

Workshop + action planning session: Choose from a range of topics and take it to the next level with an action planning session so your staff can immediately implement what they’ve learned – this is where the magic happens!

Roving interactive displays: We bring the display to your employees for minimal disruption to their work day. All interactive displays are attention-grabbing, educational and engaging. Your staff don’t even have to leave their work station to benefit!

Healthy Heart Screens: Healthy employees are safer workers, with much lower injury risks. Join the dots between health and safety by booking Healthy Heart Screens for your workforce. It only takes 15 minutes.

Ergonomic assessment options: Choose from 15 minute comprehensive ergonomic assessments, deskdrop coaching including a 5-point workstation check or a workshop + ergonomic assessments combination. An ergonomic work station set up = lower injury risks + higher productivity.

Senseless safety expo: A fun and interactive safety exhibition. When it comes to safety, there are no second chances! Staff will learn how to stay switched on, protect their senses and stay on top of their safety at work.

Brain chemistry – the implications on safety and risk taking workshop: Your staff can learn how their individual brain chemistry influences their health, their safety, their likelihood of taking risks and the strategies they can put in place to reduce safety risks.

Plan for a safer, healthier workforce with a National Safety Month service now. Be a safety champion! Contact us today to book in one of the above services or to discuss what would be the best fit for your workforce.

Your brain on food

Let’s look at the link between nutrition & mental health. Let’s call it food for thought! See what we did there 😉

 

Did you know?

Nearly two thirds of those who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit every day, compared with less than half of those who do report daily mental health problems!

Studies have also shown that when people take probiotics, their anxiety levels, perception of stress and mental outlook improve, compared with people who did not take probiotics.

Research also shows that people who eat more unhealthy and junk foods are at increased risk of depression.

Let’s look at the following food rules for good mental health.

 

To have the best shot at feeling good mentally and physically, follow these key rules when making food choices:

  1. Food from a farm is probably good for you; if it comes from a factory it probably isn’t.

  2. Does it rot? If it doesn’t, it’s unlikely to be good for you.

  3. Does it have a brand? If so, it’s unlikely to be good for you.

  4. Would your great-grandmother have recognised it as food? If not, it’s unlikely to be good for you.

 

What do you think about these ‘rules’?

 

If you’re ready to take action, here’s one nutrition change you can implement immediately to improve mental health outcomes:

 

Research has shown that countries with high rates of depression consume lower amounts of fish. Let’s look at some simple ways to add a few serves of fish to your diet each week:

  • Salmon – steam with mixed herbs, bay leaf, lemon wedge and sliced red onion. Serve with a crunchy salad and boiled potatoes.

  • Trevalla – place your grilled fish on a wholegrain bun, complete with salad.

  • Flathead – steam with ginger, garlic, shallots and a little sesame oil.

  • Sardines – mash in a bowl with a little vinegar, serve on toast with sliced tomato and cracked pepper.

Are you keen to learn more? Could your workforce benefit from education around how they can prevent poor mental health? (tip: EVERYONE can be healthier, mentally)

Research tell us that mental health conditions present substantial costs to organisations. However, through the successful implementation of an effective action to create a mentally healthy workplace, organisations, on average, can expect a positive return on investment (ROI) of 2.3. That is, for every dollar spent on successfully implementing an appropriate action, there is on average $2.30 in benefits to be gained by the organisation.

How can we best help you? Speak with us about your unique needs and challenges, and what you’d like to achieve. We’d love to help you make a difference to your organisation.

Contact us today.

Body Mechanics: Joining the dots between lifestyle, health & injury risk.

How does your lifestyle & health make you more – or less – likely to suffer an injury?

 

Lifestyle factors, physical capacity and resilience to injury are all linked. See below for a selection of examples of this link: 

  • Strength & flexibility: inadequate flexibility leads to stiffness, poor posture, back problems, movement limitations, fatigue and higher risk of injury.

  • Excess weight: 1kg of extra weight equals 3kg extra pressure on your knees, increasing the rate of wear and tear and putting you at greater risk of injury.

  • Nutrition: prevent fatigue and improve concentration on the task at hand by eating small, frequent meals throughout the day.

  • A person with sleep apnoea = 7 times more likely to have a car accident.

  • Obesity increases the risk of injury, including an increased probability of slips, trips and falls and musculoskeletal injury. Sleep apnoea increases road injury risk and is strongly associated with obesity.

  • Poor posture: this places extra pressure on your spine, increasing your risk of back injury (such as a slipped disc).

  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes results in an increased risk of blurred vision, black spots and holes in vision.

  • Fatigue: can result in a lack of alertness, slower reactions to signals or situations, and affect a worker’s ability to make good decisions.

 

What lifestyle prescriptions would be most effective for you – and/or your workers – to improve physical capacity and resilience to injury? (If you’re not sure – we’re here to help!)

Numerous research studies consistently show that worker health and wellbeing is closely linked to productivity, risk of injury and business costs. It’s time to take action.

One of our health and injury prevention solutions is ‘Body Mechanics’. It involves a fun, engaging and different way to look at the body that works to improve health, physical capacity and task specific techniques to reduce injury risk.  Let us know if you’d like to find out more about how this program could work at your workplace!

Effective Ergonomics: Ergonomics beyond compliance

Effective Ergonomics is more than just ergonomics. It is part of a program and suite of materials we have developed that looks to join the dots between key health risk factors and the impact they have on how a person works.

 

We know that by outlining simple and effective changes to workstation set up, employees can prevent musculoskeletal pain and improve performance. However, this goes beyond your standard ergonomic assessment/program (ie. chair set up, phone use, availability of foot rests). 

 

We consider factors such as hydration, movement, nutrition and stress because the research has shown us that they have a considerable impact on work performance. For example:

  • Regular breaks: research recommends that computer based or seated workers take a 1-2 minute break to stretch and mobilise muscles, for every 30 minutes of sitting they undertake.

  • Nutrition: brain glucose is depleted approximately every 2 hours. Hence the correlation between regular small amounts of nutritious food and efficient cognitive function and energy levels – both of which can impact posture, ergonomics and movement compliance.

  • Hydration: low water intake is associated with increased levels of dehydration, which can be linked to joint-related problems and fatigue

 

For a quote or more information on how we can help you achieve better work performance and reduced ergonomic-related injuries at your workplace, contact us today.

A look at the health of Australia’s FIFO workforce

How can you make 14 x 12-hour consecutive shifts in a hot, dirty and isolated work environment attractive? How about a six-figure salary, meals, accommodation and every third week off with a plane ticket home? It’s a start, but what effects will such a demanding schedule have on a worker’s health and personal relationships?

 

FIFO work schedules

Fly-in and fly-out (FIFO) work schedules became popular in the 1990s as a way of attracting skilled workers to the industry, with over 40 mining operations Australia wide (majority in Western Australia and Queensland) adopting the idea. Fast-forward to 2019 and the odds are you know at least one person living this lifestyle.

It’s certainly a cost effective option for mining organisations in comparison to establishing and maintaining remote residential communities for their employees. FIFO employment is often promoted as a way of improving the quality of life of employees by allowing the freedom to live in urban communities rich in culture and resources for their families.

However, there is much controversy over who wins and loses with FIFO arrangements. Regional governments air concerns on the impact to regional communities. For example: workers utilise local infrastructure whilst on site, but contribute little to the local community life. Is the opportunity of maintaining work in the mines with an ability to live in urban areas is contributing to rural population decline?

There is also the popular notion of getting ‘sucked in’ to a FIFO lifestyle. Individuals entering these projects with a short-term plan of working hard, making good money and then moving on become accustomed to living within inflated salary ranges and can find it difficult to get out. They end up instead choosing to tolerate isolated working conditions in order to meet their financial obligations, an idea referred to as the ‘golden hand-cuffs’ in a report in The Australian newspaper. 

Therefore, we should consider – what are the costs of being trapped in a work environment you do not wish to remain? How does that dissatisfaction translate to mental wellbeing? What are the impacts on relationships and physical health of demanding work, separation from family and social networks, increasing fatigue and emotional drain?

The health status of workers

The health and wellbeing of workers has challenged the Australian mining industry for almost 70 years, yet it has never found itself in such an exciting position; poised at the brink of becoming a true leader in promoting a healthy workplace.

Historically, health and lifestyle consequences range from physical to emotional and social. Strains on interpersonal relationships may be the most obvious downside of FIFO work. Although such work environments may bring employees closer, these relationships cannot replace the interactions with friends and family outside of the workplace.

Below is just a small a snapshot of some of the health issues facing a FIFO workforce:

  • Two-thirds of FIFO workers report moderate or high levels of dissatisfaction with the time available for social and domestic activities.

  • 23% strongly agree that their work had a negative effect on their families.

  • Sleep quality for FIFO workers is significantly worse than their non-FIFO counterparts.

  • 26% of FIFO workers could not recall any available mental health support services onsite.

  • A small WA study found that FIFO workers had higher rates of obesity than the national average and that more than 80% of them were at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

  • A study that looked at the health of workers and their partners found that both workers and partners reported poorer sleep and nutrition quality for on-shift periods compared with off-shift days. Both workers and partners exercised less, smoked more cigarettes and took more physical health medication.

  • Numerous studies show sleep disturbances, substance abuse (including alcohol) and chronic fatigue affect as many as two-thirds of our FIFO workers.

  • Employees working night shifts or shifts longer than 12-hours report higher rates of fatigue, drug and alcohol abuse, and psychological distress. This translates to HUGE impacts on the quality of their work performance, and how safely they can do their job.

Future progress

To the mining industry’s credit, since 2005 there has been an encouraging shift to manage employee fatigue by shortening longer shift cycles. In 2006, the Council for Minerals and Energy in Western Australia reported a rise in the proportion of companies moving to 8 hour shifts, and no companies using shifts longer than 13 hours. These organisations can expect significant returns via improved employee productivity and work satisfaction.

Could these gains in productivity and work balance be further enhanced by promoting better physical health and lifestyle behaviours?

In short – absolutely!

 

Improving the health, focus and vitality of a mining workforce has a huge potential to impact the sustainability of one of Australia’s biggest economical export sectors. It has been demonstrated that men involved in FIFO work are clearly able to identify aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including consumption of a healthy diet, regular physical activity, relaxation and good-quality sleep. However, few maintain such practices in their own lives, citing perceived lack of time, fatigue and stress as barriers.

 

There is emerging evidence that elite workplace health promotion companies are capable of driving widespread improvements of lifestyle behaviours across many industries. Due to advances in communication technology and streamlining of contact modalities, it is now possible to actively engage a working population, empowering and nurturing them through the process of modifying their health and lifestyle.

Evidence shows us that single, stand-alone awareness programs, training or health assessments do not provide long-term or sustainable improvements to health or safety behaviours.

Comprehensive programs that foster an environment which facilitates sustained positive change and continually reinforces healthy choices have been shown to be most effective.

 

FIFO operations provide a unique opportunity to address a workforce historically challenged at maintaining their physical and mental wellbeing.

These settings inherently create a captive audience allowing unprecedented access while at work and at camp. As new projects break ground, organisations should consider taking this opportunity to help develop a healthier, more productive, more satisfied and ultimately more sustainable workforce in order to optimise their human assets.

Isn’t it time we broadened our scope and definition of health and safety?

Let health and safety not merely mean absence of accident and disease, but rather optimal vitality and wellbeing. Through education, encouragement and follow-up we can empower workers with the knowledge and the means to improve their lifestyle behaviours, making them healthier, happier, safer and more productive – at home and at work.

Health by Design are leaders in designing and implementing effective workplace health, injury prevention, and high performance programs. With a focus on working with clients to create engaging programs which successfully help employees change their behaviour, we are well placed to provide programs which will positively impact a business’ workforce costs and performance outcomes. Contact us to learn about how Health by Design’s award winning programs may be able to help you and your team.

Little wins, BIG results

A common mistake many people make: Assuming small changes don’t add up.

The underlying assumption is that your achievements need to be big to make a difference. Because of this, we always talk ourselves into chasing a big habit! “If I want to lose at least 10 kilos, I need to start busting my butt and working out for 90 minutes a day!” Sound familiar?

If you look at your current habits, however, you’ll see a different picture. Nearly every habit you have today, good or bad, is the result of many small choices made over time. It is the repeated pattern of small behaviours that leads to significant results. Each day we make the choice to become one percent better or one percent worse, but so often the choices are small enough that we miss them.

Small changes add up to big wins!

50% of heart disease can be prevented with good nutrition & moving regularly. With the right help (you can’t just tell people what to do!), good nutrition and moving regularly isn’t hard to achieve. But the impact is HUGE!

A little change: five serves of fruit & vegetables a day = big results

  • 20% lower risk of heart disease & stroke

  • 35% reduced risk of lung cancer

  • 25% reduction in risk of premature death… to name a few.

That’s a small price to pay for big results. It’s also only a small habit to change/make for a big payback.

 

Are you ready to learn more about our Little Wins, Big Results services?

You could start with an interactive workshop, interactive display, health promotion material or a full program – completely customised to suit the needs AND budget of your workforce.

 

Contact us today if you have any questions or you’re ready for some BIG changes at your workplace.

Run a workplace challenge/competition and reap the benefits of healthier, happier employees

Health by Design have created and developed a wide range of workplace challenges, designed to engage your employees in positive health behaviours.

Competitions encourage team work, camaraderie, improved culture, all while having a positive impact on one’s health.

Two of our most popular challenges are the “Walkabout Challenge” and the “Healthy Habits Challenge”.

The “Walkabout Challenge” is a team based physical activity competition where teams make their way along a virtual track of your company’s choice e.g. West Coast to East Coast, Sydney to Perth, The Great Ocean Road, Melbourne to Alice Springs, The Murray River

Track, Perth to Broome.

Walkabout challenge online preview

The competition length can of-course be selected to suit company needs and logistics.

The competition can be run and managed on or off line depending on what best suits the participating employee group. The inbuilt activity converter on our online system allows competition participants to participate in physical activities other than just walking, such as riding and cycling.

 

The “Healthy Habits Challenge” is designed to encourage employees to practice healthy behaviours, the Healthy Habits Challenge can be run as an individual challenge or team based challenge.

Healthy habits challenge resources

Healthy habits challenge resources

Each employee is asked to:

• Start performing a new healthy behaviour

• Stop performing an existing unhealthy behaviour

• Keep performing an existing healthy challenge

Points are awarded according to how well you stick to your chosen ‘start’, ‘stop’ and ‘keep’ habits. The competition is designed to run for one calendar month.

If you’d like to learn more about how easily you can implement a workplace challenge/competition for your workforce, get in touch today!

Obesity & injury risk: joining the dots

Obesity and injuries each have their own significant burdens on society, and the workplace is no exception. But what about the link between the two? Let’s delve a little deeper.

The increasing and strong prevalence of overweight and obesity across Australia has huge impacts on our workplaces. Put simply, overweight workers are less productive, need more time off and they are more prone to injury.

This is obesity by the numbers:

  • 2 in 3 adults are overweight or obese.

  • Obesity is linked to over 4 million lost work days each year.

  • Overweight employees are 15% more likely to suffer a workplace injury. For obese employees, this figure rises to 48%.

  • The probability of being absent from work increases with increasing body weight. Overweight workers are 32% more likely to miss work, obese workers are 62% more likely and the morbidly obese are more than 118% more likely to miss work than their healthy weight counterparts.

 

The link between obesity & injury risk – why it needs to be a priority for your workforce:

 

For every kilogram you are overweight, 3 extra kilos of pressure is placed on the knees.

 

Obesity accelerates wear on the joints limiting the body’s amount of movement and agility. Obese workers will often experience difficulty squatting and climbing stairs. This is because the force on the knees is about three times a person’s body weight with walking – when other activities such as running or climbing stairs are undertaken, the forces can reach six to 10 times the body weight.

 

Can you afford for your staff to have difficulty squatting and climbing stairs? Unfortunately, these are basic activities that need to be performed daily for a large percentage of the population, but 2 in 3 of these people will be doing it and be at high risk of sustaining an injury.

Being overweight or obese also restricts your physical capacity by reducing mobility and flexibility, which leads to a higher risk of injury compared to healthy weight workers without these physical capacity limitations. Research states that the probability of falls, trips or stumbles, and resulting musculoskeletal injury, rises with obesity. This is at least partially attributed to the way obesity negatively affects balance and postural stability, increasing the risk of falling. There is also evidence that obesity increases the risk of certain work-related injuries such as musculoskeletal disorders, heat stress, transportation accidents and vibration- induced injury. Alarmingly, protective clothing and equipment may be less likely to be worn by obese workers, or be less suitable for them because of poor fit or reduced availability, potentially leaving the worker vulnerable to injury. Or, obese employees may simply be less likely to wear protective equipment such as gloves and goggles because it is uncomfortable. This is a huge risk that could ultimately cost a life or significantly reduce quality of life due to catastrophic injury.

 

Is it your industry? Does the job promote obesity?

Research continually tells us that shift work can contribute to obesity due to the disrupted sleep and eating patterns which characterise this work type. Any job roles that are sedentary in nature, such as office jobs and truck/taxi driving, also promote obesity if employees do not have opportunities to exercise – and/or the education and awareness of the importance of exercise and healthy eating. In addition to this, job roles which involve meeting deadlines and working under time pressure may also encourage weight gain if employees do not have time to prepare healthy food or take time out to exercise. Nor does this consider the impact of stress on one’s health, which can also significantly impact waistlines.

If you consider yourself to be in a high risk industry, or you agree that 2 in 3 Australian workers being at risk of injury due to their weight is too high – then get in touch today to discuss the many options e have available. Our workplace services are customised to each workforce, ensuring the biggest impact on health and lives changed for the better.

 

Email [email protected] to get the ball rolling on improved health, safety & injury outcomes for your workplace today.

Self care during the Coronavirus outbreak

The outbreak of the Coronavirus may be very stressful for some people, and be impacting your or those around you in various different ways.

 

Thankfully, despite the extraordinary circumstances we currently find ourselves in, there are still a number of things you can do to support yourself and those around you:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories – including social media. Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can be upsetting, and increase feelings of fear, panic and anxiety.

  • Take care of your body. Make the time to take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs. Consider these your ‘essentials’.

  • Make time to unwind. Find the time to do activities you enjoy.

If you are in self-isolation, quarantine or social-distancing, Lifeline Australia recommends the following strategies:

  • Perspective – try to see this time as unique and different, not necessarily bad, even if it something you didn’t necessarily choose.

  • Connection – think of creative ways to stay connected with others, including social media, email and phone.

  • Be generous to others – giving to others in times of need not only helps the recipient, it enhances your wellbeing too. Is there a way to help others around you?

  • Stay connected with your values. Don’t let fear or anxiety drive your interactions with others. We are all in this together!

  • Daily routine – create a routine that prioritises things you enjoy and even things you have been meaning to do but haven’t had enough time. Read that book, watch that show, take up that new hobby. Try to see this as a new and unusual period that might even have some benefits.

  • Limit your exposure to news and media. Perhaps choose specific times of day when you will get updates, and ensure they are from reputable and reliable sources.

If you would like to distribute a mental health resource to your staff or team during this time, please feel free to email [email protected] to request a copy of our ‘Self-care during the Coronavirus’ handout.

Navigating mental fitness during COVID-19

There is a real, current challenge for people and companies in staying ‘mentally fit’ right now. But where there is a challenge, there is also a huge opportunity for organisations.

Our experience and research tells us that:

  • 50% of your workforce is healthy and coping at the moment – let’s keep them here.

  • 30% of your workforce is vulnerable. They could go in either direction – let’s ensure they move in the right direction.

  • 20% of your workforce have a diagnosed mental health condition- i.e. depression or anxiety – they need positive support now more than ever, concurrent with clinical treatment.

 

The mental health needs of workforces across Australia (and the world!) are rapidly expanding with the stress of COVID-19. But many need help with HOW to do this. They aren’t alone in being unsure how to navigate this new workplace health challenge, and they certainly don’t have to navigate this on their own. We’re here to help, with a range of services that can be implemented immediately – even if the workforce is largely working from home or restricting site visitors.

Having already dealt with the immediate physical risks associated with COVID-19 (i.e. the basics of removing people from crowded office spaces, improved hygiene processes and limiting face to face contact etc.), many organisations are now considering how they will meet their obligation to provide an ergonomically/physically safe work environment, as employees set up workspaces from home. The aim here is obviously to mitigate against ergonomic injury risk to employees and subsequent (costly) WorkCover claims. We have remote, online ergonomic options that meet this need.

Organisations are also now considering their obligations to deliver a “mentally safe” work environment for their employees. In part because it is their legal obligation, but also because they are particularly mindful of being able to deliver business continuity during and beyond the current circumstances we find ourselves in – and this requires healthy, operational staff.

In Australia, employers have a duty under workplace health and safety legislation to provide and maintain (as far as is reasonably practicable) a safe workplace. In addition, employers have a duty to monitor the health of their employees, which extends to risks around employee psychological and mental safety. We can assist organisations in meeting these obligations – it’s one of our areas of expertise.

How can we help? We have programs that address the things we can control, i.e. sleep, nutrition, movement, caffeine, alcohol, mindfulness etc. This will help employers meet their obligations to keep the 50% well, while also being scientifically proven to improve the health of the health of the 30% and 20% of your workplace. This latter category is made up of vulnerable and unwell people. We address your obligations via a total population approach.

You might have an EAP program in place. But now is the time to be proactive about mental health, not simply reactive. Usage rates of EAP’s in some industries are as little as 2-3% and average rates hover around 5-6%. Yet 20% of the population will have diagnosed depression or anxiety each year. This is BEFORE considering the mental health impact of COVID-19 and its associated isolation:

  • Lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes per day

  • Loneliness and isolation can be twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity

  • Along with contributing to depression and suicide risk, loneliness can also lead to heart disease, diabetes and dementia

How is your organisation supporting its people through COVID-19? Let’s get proactive together, because the mental health of your workforce cannot be ignored and it’s your legal obligation. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

How to keep a remote team connected during COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed a lot of areas of everyday life, for a lot of people. A huge amount of us are now working from home, without the usual opportunities for social connection due to not being ‘at the office’ (or your usual place of work), as well as due to the government restrictions in place to help us stop the spread.

A global health crisis and a resulting change in work arrangements has the potential to create tremendous stress and anxiety for you and those around you.

Feeling lonely can increase the risk of depression by 15.2%(1) and can be linked to poor health behaviors, poor sleep, and poor immune function, leading to a potential greater risk of COVID-19 infection, as well as a cold or the flu. According to a Workforce study, isolated employees are often less productive, make poorer decisions and are less committed to their employers.(1) 40% of lonely workers feel less productive, 38% make mistakes and 36% report getting sick more often(2). Can you afford these outcomes for your remote team and colleagues?

Below are a few effective strategies that you can implement in a short space of time in order to take action against reducing these employee health and productivity risks.

  • Ensure everyone has access to platforms that allow for social connection. This could be a WhatsApp group, Zoom meeting software, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc. There is an abundance of software available that allows for video conferencing; the key is to make sure everyone knows how they can access it. Of equal importance is to ensure they have access to a camera and microphone. In some circumstances, this will be built into a laptop, for others they may need to have a separate device purchased.

  • Organise a daily/weekly catch up. If you’re at work, it’s easy to go and chat to someone at their desk or as you pass them on the way to the photocopier or kitchen. Working from home takes away this luxury. If your team or colleagues are working remotely, set up regular online catch-ups. This provides a good opportunity to check if anyone is experiencing any IT or work-related issues and/or to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing. If nothing else, it allows the opportunity to see another face and someone to talk to. For some, this might be the only time they get this human interaction. With remote teams, communication can be more challenging and things can get lost in translation, therefore it’s important to be crystal clear about duties and responsibilities. A weekly catch up with your team certainly supports this.

  • Be available and supportive. Everyone is feeling the strain of this “new normal”. It’s going to take some time to adjust to this change. A good question to frequently ask is how can I help you be more productive and feel more connected?” As well as making sure your team and colleagues know you’re available if they need support, you could set up an employee engagement survey (if you don’t have one in place already) to understand the general mood within your remote workforce. Upon receiving feedback, you can act accordingly.

  • Schedule time for Q&A. Regular check-ins can go a long way to make people feel included and valued, plus gives them the opportunity to raise any questions they have that they might normally ask you at your desk. These scheduled check-ins help employees maintain their productivity levels and feel less disconnected.

  • Host a workplace competition. Build & promote health, keep connected & boost morale with an online competition. This could be range from seeing who can increase their daily step count by the highest percentage to voting on the most delicious ‘at-home’ lunch recipe of the week. Competitions encourage teamwork, camaraderie, and improved culture, all while having a positive effect on an individual’s health.

How have you been staying connected and supporting your team during COVID-19? If you’d like some help or advice on how to look after employee health & mental wellbeing, contact us today to find out how we can help.

Sources:

1 – https://www.workforce.com/news/workplace-loneliness-is-sad-for-people-and-bad-for-business

 

2 – Workplace Loneliness Report – A future that works, Dr Lindsay McMillan