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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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New Swag Collection Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Hocus Pocus

In a Nutshell
  • • Hocus Pocus is a family-friendly Halloween movie that has become a cult classic.
  • • Released by Disney, the merch collection gives fans a fun way to take new joy in the flick.
This merch will cast a spell on you. And it comes just in time for those summer-heat-weary folks (me) starting to crave cozy sweaters, carved pumpkins, and a little cool-weather autumn fun.

The branded merchandise in question is a new collection of promotional products from Disney celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hocus Pocus, a family-friendly Halloween flick. While the movie wasn't a box office hit when released in 1993, it has grown in stature over the years. Indeed, it's now widely watched during the fall in the lead-up to the annual Trick-or-Treat day. Tapping into the movie's latter-day popularity and the current pop penchant for all things 90s', Disney released the Hocus Pocus collection, which includes a journal, spirit jersey for women, T-Shirts, pin set, coffee mug, faux leather bag and more. Here's a look at the merch!


The Sanderson Sisters! Female fans of Hocus Pocus are going to dig this T-Shirt depicting the movie's entertaining antagonists – the witch sisters Winifred, Sarah and Mary. Image from ShopDisney.


This spookily attractive journal references the version of "I Put a Spell On You" that actress Bette Midler leads the singing of in her role as Winifred in a popular scene in Hocus Pocus. Image from ShopDisney.




The Hocus Pocus Spirit Jersey for women references the black candle that plays an important part in the film. "Hocus Pocus" is printed across the shoulders on the back. Image from ShopDisney.


You can start each morning with a little magic with this Hocus Pocus coffee mug. Image from ShopDisney.


The Hocus Pocus Faux Leather Bag is by Loungefly. Image from ShopDisney.


While much of the 25th anniversary merch is aimed at women, male fans weren't left out. This tee helps them express their Hocus Pocus fandom. Image from ShopDisney.


The official pin set. Image from ShopDisney.

Lastly, kudos of The Walt Disney Archives for preserving the below. The costumes are not part of the swag collection, of course, but they're a neat bit of pop culture history that just might put a smile on your face.

Child Prodigy Inspires T-Shirt Brand

From the tip of Walter Champion IV's pencil a hippo roars to vibrant life.

Walter Champion IV takes time to hand-sign cards that are sent out with each T-shirt order.

The quick strokes and strategic scribbles combine to form a drawing that's deft and detailed – an image that exudes the energy of the alpha animal it represents. The artwork becomes that much more impressive when you realize Walter was four when he drew it. Even more impressive still when you learn the hippo penciling was the inspiration for a T-Shirt brand that has Walter, now 6, installed as creative director.

Juvenile Virtuoso, as the nascent line is called, features Walter's hippo drawing on several styles of T-shirts. It's just the beginning of a tee collection Walter's parents say is aimed at revealing the hidden talents of child artists and supporting a worthy cause. The brand is also a testament to the power of imprinted T-shirts to convey powerful messages with layers of meanings.

"T-shirts are experiencing a renaissance," says Walter's mom Adepeju Champion, who started Juvenile Virtuoso in March with her husband, company president Walter III. "People are using them to display thoughts and feelings and affiliations with different ideas. We wanted to highlight the really beautiful things kids are capable of."

To that end, Juvenile Virtuoso expects to hold three or four new T-shirt releases annually. Child artists will create the graphics. Walter IV will play a lead role in selecting which designs make it onto T-shirts, and occasionally contribute additional designs of his own. A portion of sales will benefit Arts For Healing, a nonprofit organization that provides art therapies for individuals with disabilities. Children affiliated with Arts For Healing will be among the contributing artists. The next release is scheduled for August.

"We want to use T-shirts to do something bigger than just make money," says Walter III, who, like his wife, is a physician. "The whole concept is to encourage kids to pursue art, to show why that's important and what they can do with their abilities. Also, we have a child (Walter's brother William) on the autism spectrum, and we're passionate about supporting a charity like Arts For Healing."

For Walter IV, it's a thrill to see his art on T-shirts, and to view pictures of people wearing his tees on Instagram and Facebook. "He's just amazed that people like what he does," says Walter III. So much so, in fact, that Walter IV takes time to hand-sign cards that are sent out with each T-shirt order in a high-end gift box that also includes Juvenile Virtuoso merch, such as a branded pencil.

"Drawing is something he's used since preschool to calm down his nervous energy," says Adepeju. "All the positive reaction he's received has been a real confidence-builder." Walter IV draws every day at a table in the family home. Animals are his favorite subjects. "Drawing makes me happy," he says.

For now, Juvenile Virtuoso is in the startup stages. Nonetheless, the venture has garnered growing media attention, and Walter III said it's possible that partnerships with retailers and larger-scale production could be pursued. Whether or not that happens, though, the Champions will be happy if Juvenile Virtuoso does some good and inspires children – including their son – to use the potential they possess.

"My favorite part is seeing what our son is going to do next," says Walter III. "I just want to be part of his vision."

Photos
The young artist creates designs like these every day.

Shakira Removes Necklace Resembling Nazi Symbol From Merch Collection

In a Nutshell

*Shakira and Live Nation, the company that reportedly designed the controversial necklace, stopped selling the $9.95 piece in the wake of criticism.

*Live Nations said the symbol was based on pre-Colombian imagery and carried no racist intent.

Branded merchandise from pop star Shakira was at the center of controversy because of its use of a symbol that some criticized for bearing a striking resemblance to imagery used by Nazi Germany.

Neither Shakira nor the design's creators intended a connection to the Third Reich or modern day Neo-Nazis. Still, a necklace the singer was offering as part of the merch collection in support of her current Road to El Dorado Tour featured a design similar to a black sun, or sonnenrad. Ancient cultures had used the sunwheel image, but the Nazis appropriated it, inserting a swastika into the inner circle. As German publication Bento pointed out, the mosaic symbol appeared at the Wewelsburg Castle in Germany that later became a home base for Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler and his infamous Schutzstaffel. Twitter users latched onto the connection, and there was public outcry.

Some thought the criticism was overblown.

Live Nation, the events company that reportedly designed the necklace, apologized in tweets.

The necklace had been selling for $9.95, but is no longer available. For promotional products pros, perhaps the lesson here is: Make sure you and your clients fully understand the layers of meaning attached to the graphics, symbols, and logos you put out into the marketplace.

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