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Three Tips for a Healthier Workplace

Three Tips for a Healthier Workplace

Johnson & Johnson has one. So does Chick Fil-A. Indeed, practically every company in America has an employee wellness program in place, but how many actually measure the program’s effectiveness? Fewer than one quarter, according to a recent study by Buck Consultants. According to the study, 77% of employers in the U.S. offer at least one program to keep employees healthy (think free gym memberships and incentives to stop smoking), but only 23% actually measure the outcomes of those programs.


That’s a mistake, say health-care consultants. “By knowing what types of programs work best, you’ll be able to see how to move the needle in terms of health-care premiums and other benefits of corporate wellness, like reduced absenteeism and increased productivity,” says David Atkinson, vice president of corporate wellness for Cooper Corporate Solutions, a firm which helps companies design programs to keep employees healthy. Make no mistake: There are real benefits to be had by setting up an employee wellness program, and appropriately rewarding employees for their participation. Here are some tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of yours, and rewarding employees appropriately for participating.

Tip 1: Design a Program
Companies that are looking to wellness programs to reduce insurance premiums and absenteeism need to design programs that can be more specifically tied to those goals, Atkinson says.


As an example, when Redstone Presbyterian Care, a health-care facility with more than 400 employees, was hit with a 44% increase in health-insurance premiums, it realized it needed to do something – fast. “We weren’t paying attention to what was going on around us,” says Jim Hodge, vice president of human resources. Specifically, employee obesity, tobacco use, high blood pressure and other health risks were causing the company’s premiums to skyrocket.


Redstone initially responded with a variety of free fitness activities, like yoga and kickboxing classes, that employees could participate in. “We even offered ballroom dancing,” Hodge says. 


Employees received points for completing every activity, and those points were redeemable for cash or merchandise, like fitness equipment. “What we learned was that people didn’t necessarily equate the fact that they were doing these programs for wellness,” Hodge says. 


So Redstone adjusted its program; now, instead of simply participating in exercise classes, they also have to overcome several hurdles in order to participate in the company’s insurance program. Now, employees who want to be insured by Redstone must undergo a health-risk assessment, biometric screening and meet with a wellness coach three times annually. The result? “More of our employees are really paying attention to their wellness,” Hodge says. “Three employees have given up tobacco this year, and countless others have lost weight.” 


The upshot? The company has saved more than $440,000 in insurance premiums, and has managed to hold annual insurance-premium increases to single digits. “We found that really educating people about their health works much better than simply throwing a bunch of programs at them,” Hodge adds.


Tip 2: Offer Incentives
Most employees won’t be eager to stop smoking or lose weight without a little nudge, say wellness experts. Indeed, 56% of companies in the U.S. offer incentives like gifts, merchandise, or reduced insurance costs, for participating in wellness programs. How to find the right incentives for your group?


That depends on how big of a change you’re asking employees to make, says Rich Allen, vice president of group benefits and risk analysis for Cooper Corporate Solutions. “If you’re looking at wellness as a fun thing for employees to do, small incentives such as logoed pedometers, yoga mats, T-shirts and athletic gear will do the trick,” Allen says. “If your objective is to change costs and risk factors for employees, you have to be much more aggressive in the incentives you offer.” 


For example, companies covered by Cigna’s health plan can opt into a program that pays out bigger rewards, such as jewelry and electronics, for completing a series of health screenings or participating in a program to control their diabetes. Other companies reward employees for major lifestyle changes, such as a sustained drop in blood pressure, by reducing the amount they have to contribute to their health-care premiums. In a program Cooper created for NEI, a server company, employees who showed progress in health screenings would pay a discount on their health-care contributions. After participating in the program for four years, NEI had “almost completely eradicated high-risk blood pressure among its employees, and had a 50% reduction in employees with high-risk cholesterol,” Allen says. “That’s a pretty impressive result.”

Tip 3: Measure Results
Companies creating wellness programs to improve the work environment should be able to measure results by simply surveying the population. “Are employees having fun? Do they like what’s happening? Then good, you’re on the right track,” says Smytha Haley, a wellness consultant.


Those who want to track the effectiveness of the program on the bottom line should be prepared to wait about 18 months for a result, Haley says. For many firms, 18 months is the point at which workers’ bettering health begins to cancel out the cost of sponsoring and administering the corporate wellness program.


As a rule of thumb, the average cost to a business is about $3 to $5 per participating staff member per month. “Within three years of the launch you ought to be seeing meaningful savings,” Haley says.

Interested in setting up a Wellness Program?
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Pantone Creates New Wine-Inspired Color

Wine has helped fuel many an artist's creative endeavors. And now, a particular wine is the muse behind a new unique color from the Pantone Color Institute.

Pantone partnered with Valspar Paint and Laithwaite's Wine to develop English Sparkling Laithwaite's Wine. The color takes its inspiration from the shade of Wyfold Vineyard by Barbara Laithwaite -- one of England's most awarded sparkling wines.

Pantone said English Sparkling is "a subtle and stylishly elegant, creamy hue that quietly expresses effervescence and good taste. Young in spirit and timeless in its appeal, this natural off-white shade conveys feelings of spring freshness and modernity. Carrying an undertone of pleasantness and geniality, the inherent warmth of Laithwaite's Wine English Sparkling creates a sparkling yet soothing presence."

Available as paint from Valspar, the new hue could harbinger forthcoming color trends in the apparel world – something promotional product distributors whose clients have fashion-forward tastes and audiences will want to be aware of.

"English Sparkling is more than just a new shade of Valspar paint. Like every bespoke color we mix, it's about eternalizing a personal feeling, a moment in time, a memory," said Kasia Wiktorowicz, marketing communications manager at Valspar. "For us, this color is reminiscent of a warm laughter-filled summer's evening, enjoying an English Sparkling wine with close friends and family."

The new hue is also serving to promote English sparkling wine, elevating it into the official pantheon of color terminology in a manner akin to continental rivals like "burgundy" and "champagne."

"Just as burgundy and champagne are very well-known terms for colors, it's now time for English Quality Sparkling Wine to take center stage," David Thatcher, CEO of Laithwaite's Wine, was quoted as saying. "Creating an official color is a great way of acknowledging the ever-growing popularity of the English wine industry around the world."

Minnesota Twins & Princes Estate Launching Merch Line

Purple Rain is going to fall during Minnesota Twins games this baseball season.

The Twins have struck a deal to sell Prince-branded merchandise throughout the year at their stadium in Minneapolis – Target Field. Items, which will include hats, shirts, pins, patches and balls, will go on sale at the Twins home opener on April 5th. The StarTribune reported that the co-branding deal could be the first of its kind for a Major League Baseball team.

Why the Twins and Prince? Simple: The international best-selling musical artist was from Minneapolis. "Along with our fans, we look forward to celebrating the legacy of a man who brought an international spotlight to our great city," Twins CEO Dave St. Peter told the StarTribune.

For the second year in a row, the Twins will also host a special Prince Night. During the June 8 game against the Los Angeles Angels, additional Prince merchandise will be on offer. Game attendees who purchase a Prince Theme Night package will receive a Twins/Prince co-branded hat.


Attribution: Minnesota Twins

Perhaps most interestingly for Prince Night, there will be a special giveaway – inflatable purple guitars in the shape of Prince's famous symbol that will also display Twins branding. During the 7th inning stretch, the 10,000 folks lucky enough to have scored the limited edition guitar giveaway will be encouraged to stand and illuminate the item – a show of remembrance and respect to the hometown musical genius who passed away in 2016.


Attribution: Minnesota Twins

Who knows, the inflatable purple guitar could become a sought-after bit of merch. After all, the umbrellas the Twins provided fans on Prince Night in 2017 were being offered for as much as $220 on eBay.


Attribution: eBay

For those curious about the nuts and bolts of the co-branding deal, it seems that Delaware North Sportservice, the Twins' retail provider, negotiated it with Bravado – the company handling the merchandising and branding for Prince's estate. The word from the Twins is that Prince's family is cool with the merchandising.

The Bobblehead Tax: Cincinnati Reds Court Case Could Impact Promo Industry

The Cincinnati Reds, Ohio tax officials and branded game-day merchandise like player bobbleheads are at the center of an intriguing court case that could send reverberations throughout the promotional products world.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to consider an appeal from the Reds. The Major League Baseball team argues that state tax officials have no legal basis to demand the payment of $88,000 in taxes tied to Reds-branded promotional products that the team provided to fans on game days between 2008 and 2010. The Ohio Department of Taxation, however, is doing just that, saying the Reds owe the levy.

The Reds contend that they're entitled to a resale exception/exemption because they're reselling the items as part of advertised ticket sales. Ohio law exempts companies from paying tax on items they buy to resell.

Lawyers for the Reds explained their position: Team officials identify certain games on the schedule they suspect fans won't be as interested in attending. To beef up ticket sales to such contests, the team advertises – and then provides – bobbleheads, player cards and other Reds-themed memorabilia as part of a fan's ticket purchase. "The price paid for the ticket includes consideration for the promotional item," Reds attorneys say in a court filing. "Accordingly, the Reds purchase of such items is exempt from tax since the items are resold to game attendees."

Ohio tax officials take an altogether different view. They say the Reds didn't resell the promotional items as part of the ticket price, but rather gave them away for free to increase interest in games. As such, the state tax commissioner contends that the promotional items should be taxed because the Reds bought the products to be distributed as freebies and are not, in fact, part of a ticket sale.

To support their position, tax officials say that the ticket price for each particular seat is the same throughout the season, whether a promo item is offered or not. Furthermore, not all patrons are guaranteed that they will get promo merch for a game in which it's advertised because supplies are limited. Relatedly, if a game attendee decides she doesn't want, say, a bobblehead, then her ticket isn't discounted. Given all that, the state Board of Tax Appeals denied an appeal from the Reds.

"We conclude that the Reds have not provided this board with competent and probative evidence in support of the position that it does not owe the assessed tax," board members wrote in their ruling. "It is the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals that the decision of the tax commissioner must be affirmed."

The Reds decided to appeal to the state Supreme Court. There the case rests, awaiting an initial hearing.

Depending on how the court rules, the case could have sweeping implications for the promotional products industry. Should the court side with tax officials, will teams and other businesses in Ohio be discouraged from investing in branded merchandise for game-day promotions and, indeed, other events because they don't want to pay taxes on the items? Could an Ohio ruling in favor of the tax commissioner's findings influence other states to enforce similar actions? Stay tuned.

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