Category Archives: Wellness

The New Wellness Initiative: Financial Wellness

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Today’s guest post is contributed by Mike Kasecamp, QPFC, QKA.

Many employers today are already offering wellness programs. We are all familiar with them — if you meet certain criteria during the year, it typically results in discounts to your insurance premiums and it gives employees a better understanding of their current health situation. Most of these programs show great results and ROI for the groups that are dedicated to the programs and encourage their employees to participate. It is just like anything in life really, you get out of it what you put into it.

Now, a new buzzword centering on wellness initiatives has emerged, financial wellness. As someone who preaches financial wellness on a daily basis, it is not a surprise to me that this concept is starting to gain traction.

Stress is one of the key factors in most unhealthy individuals and financial tension can be one of the leading causes of stress. Financially stressed workers are generally not good for business. Employees who bring their financial woes to work with them tend to be less productive, less engaged, and even raise employer health care costs. If employers who offer a wellness program really want to maximize ROI, they may want to consider a financial wellness program to complement their initiative.

What is a Financial Wellness Program?

To understand the program, let’s first define what financial wellness means. Financial wellness, from an employees’ perspective, is a state of financial well-being, where they:

  • Have minimal financial stress;
  • Have a strong financial foundation (little or no debt, an emergency savings fund, and are living below their means);
  • Are following a plan that puts them on track to meet future financial goals (i.e. retirement, college savings, etc.).

From the standpoint of employers who are offering financial wellness programs as an additional employee benefit, the programs must meet the following criteria to qualify as a true financial wellness program:

  • Delivering unbiased financial education that is focused on changing employees’ financial habits and behaviors, and helping them make informed financial decisions and create strong financial plans. Pairing this with an advice component can make for a comprehensive program, but solely having financial representatives sell employees insurance, mutual funds, or manage their assets is not a financial wellness benefit.
  • Holistic and comprehensive, meaning that it covers all aspects of financial planning, from serious debt issues to advanced estate planning and wealth protection, so the program can help all employees in a workforce, not just those who fall into a certain demographic. Also, the program should integrate all employer benefits and providers so it is a seamless program from an employee perspective.
  • Personalized and employee focused so that the programs start with the employees’ financial issues and provide guidance around their specific needs, rather than attempting to simply educate them on financial terms or specific financial services. Personalized financial wellness programs are tremendously successful at driving behavioral change because they provide direct guidance tailored to the person’s individual needs, as opposed to a “one-size-fits-all approach.”
  • The program must be a process, not an event. Employers would never expect employees to exercise once or eat their vegetables for a week and immediately improve their health. The same idea applies with finances. Financial wellness programs, by nature, provide multiple channels and ongoing access to financial coaching so that employees have the support and accountability they need to not only make one-time changes, but ultimately develop financial habits and behaviors that become part of their lifestyles.

Why Should an Employer Care?

This is an important question–What is in it for the employer? A lot of the same reasons an employer would start a wellness initiative apply to financial wellness programs. Educating your employees and helping them reduce financial induced stress has a tremendous impact to the employer’s bottom line. Here is a link to a study that was conducted to measure the ROI & impact of implementing a financial wellness program.

Takeaways

Some of the biggest takeaways that I found from reading this case study are:

  • The average annual per employee benefit cost savings from a financial wellness participant compared to a non-participant is $271.50
  • Participants of these programs pay off credit card debt, increase their contributions to their retirement plan, set up an emergency savings account, and even start saving additional money in IRA’s.
  • Employee absenteeism is significantly reduced.
  • 100% of financial wellness users contribute to their employer sponsored retirement plan.

In conclusion, employers who believe in and sponsor wellness programs should immediately consider adding a financial wellness component if they are not already doing so. The impact from these programs can be felt immediately and are valued by the employees who use them. Contact your benefits consultant to find out if a financial wellness solution is right for you and your company.

Mike Kasecamp is a Retirement Plan Consultant at CBIZ. He can be reached at ckasecamp@cbiz.com.

BMI is the SAT of Wellness Programs

By:          Zack Pace, SVP, CBIZ Benefits Consulting
Emily Noll, Senior Consultant, CBIZ Wellness Solutions

Emily Noll, CBIZ Wellness Solutions

Emily Noll, CBIZ Wellness Solutions

Our corporate wellness program is outcome based. For example, if we achieve certain results from bio-metric testing, including cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, and Body Mass Index (BMI), we pay less per pay for our health plan coverage. If we don’t achieve the results’ targets, we can alternatively earn credits through participation in health coaching or other lifestyle improvement programs.

As you’ve read elsewhere, it’s arguable that simply taking height in inches x 703 divided by one’s weight in pounds squared is the best indicator of wellness. Nevertheless, the BMI calculation remains a popular component of wellness programs.

Our on-site screenings were just last week. Afterwards, I stopped by Emily’s office for a quick chat:

I blurted out, “It’s official: CBIZ says I’m very overweight and borderline obese.”

Emily looked up from her computer screen, laughed, and asked, “Are you talking about the BMI test again, Zack?”

“Yes, and I just ran the math. To drop to a perfectly “normal” weight per this calculation, I would need to lose almost fifty pounds. I haven’t weighed that much since I was in the 7th grade!”

Emily smiled and said, “Zack, you need to look at the BMI calculation as just one indicator of your health, not as the single litmus test. Remember, one limitation of the test is not every single human has the exact same build. I’d wager that your waist circumference is in the healthy range. Aren’t you still exercising regularly?”

“Yes, I jog and lift weights almost every day. The irony here is that I’m easily going to meet our Wellness Program’s requirements for the Active Athlete Designation. And, what’s even crazier is that if I stopped lifting weights, I’d easily drop 15 pounds, which would significantly improve my BMI score!”

Patiently, Emily paused, leaned forward in her chair, and explained, “The SAT Test isn’t the best predictor of College GPA, either, you know. It’s just one indicator. But, like BMI, it remains very popular for various reasons, like availability of a national standard and ease of measurement. That said, Zack, I don’t think you need to worry about your result. I bet you know plenty of successful people that didn’t score off the charts on the SAT, right?”

“Yes, I do. Wow, Emily – that’s the perfect analogy! Is that original thought?”

“Of course.”

“We should write a blog post about it!”

“What would we call it?”

“BMI is the SAT of Wellness Programs!”

You can reach Zack on zpace@cbiz.com and follow him on LinkedIn & Twitter.

You can reach Emily on enoll@cbiz.com and via LinkedIn.

Eating Our Own Cooking: Our Six-Week Steps Challenge!

By Maria Harris

Do you know how many steps you take daily? Not many people do! And, unless you have a job where you are on your feet most of the day or regularly exercise, many people fall short of the 10,000 recommended steps per day. Those especially at risk for not meeting the steps goal are those who are desk-bound and locked into their computer for several hours a day.

As an intern this fall with the CBIZ Wellness Solutions team, my co-intern and I were tasked with creating a wellness activity to get our fellow CBIZ employees to be more mindful of moving and increase their physical activity. This is a very busy time of year for us, and so the CBIZ leadership team wanted the wellness activity to also provide an opportunity for our staff to support each other and have some fun. After all, a known benefit of exercise is stress relief!

With the goals in mind, we enlisted the help of a small employee committee to design the parameters of the program. We decided to implement a six-week Steps Challenge using the FitBit Zip, a clip on activity tracking device that wirelessly syncs with a free app. Participants who earn a certain amount of steps each week, starting with 35,000 and increasing each week over the challenge period, will be entered into a weekly raffle.

fit bitAs the Washington Post [article link] recently pointed out, wearable devices, such as FitBits, Jawbones, Omrons, and Fuel bans, are increasingly popular at workplaces. Wearables promote awareness of how active or inactive you are during the week and inspire individuals and teams to do more. We chose the Zip device for our challenge because of its solid reviews and moderate price point. Even though setting it up is fairly intuitive, we held a couple of webinars to ensure people were connected and ready to start on time. One report on wearables indicated that consumers are much more willing to adopt technology if an institution paid for it. Knowing this, CBIZ felt it was important to foot the bill in order to maximize engagement. The Zip is about $60, but, Fitbit offered us a 15% employer discount on orders of 100 or more.

We announced the challenge a month in advance of the start date, and to our surprise, more than 120 employees signed up! Contrary to consumer reports that some employees are concerned about the security and privacy of these devices [article link], we didn’t receive a single question during sign up about confidentiality. We proactively provided a “Frequently Asked Questions” document to potential participants addressing this topic so it seems that did the job in easing concerns, assuming there were any.

Almost immediately, there was an exciting buzz about the office—we suspect that was related to the competition aspect of the program. In addition to individual weekly steps goals, we also invited staff to form teams of up to six participants. We asked that they pick a team captain and a team name—some of the best names include Holy Walkamolies, The Red Hot Chili Steppers, and Fit 2 Retire. Approximately 95% of the participants joined a team. In the initial communications, we highlighted the benefits of joining a team, including moral support and the chance to win additional team prizes.

A couple of weeks before the challenge launch date participants were strategizing with each other and enjoying friendly banter with other teams. My co-intern and I were thrilled to see employees, across three CBIZ offices, come together on a common fitness goal. Some participants are even getting together outside of work hours to walk/run in a local 5K to earn their daily steps. Mostly, it’s a beautiful thing to see our colleagues laughing with each other amongst the pressure and demands of Fourth quarter deadlines and travel that are inherent in the open enrollment season.

As of this week, we have just completed week one of the challenge, but we are off to an excellent start. By the end of the challenge, each participant will have walked over 120 miles in six weeks; likely a big improvement for many of us who, pre-challenge, rarely stepped away from our desk. The first participation report shows that individuals and teams are even exceeding the steps goals that we set, some by 300%, so we may have to consider upping the ante!

Do you think a wellness challenge using an activity device could work for your company? Based on what we have learned so far, below are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Enlist a handful of employees at the beginning to provide input on the program parameters.
  2. Allow ample time for communications, as well as for ordering and shipping devices. In October, FitBits were backordered for 4 weeks. (Note: all communication with FitBit was via email, and it wasn’t the fastest!)
  3. Cover the cost of the activity device or subsidize as possible. If you don’t have a budget for a device, ask if your health plan has pedometers that can be donated. Otherwise, be sure to include a list of free apps that track activity or provide a manual tracking sheet, with guidance on how to convert activities, like swimming or gardening, to steps.
  4. Educate participants on how to connect the device and maximize its features. Most devices sync to a website and/or a smart phone app, which may also have tools such as a diet tracker.
  5. Keep tracking results simple; we asked participants to report total weekly steps to the wellness interns, who are keeping individual’s step counts confidential.
  6. Allow individuals to participate on teams and empower them to work together with the opportunity to complete a weekly team task for bonus steps. The teams’ weekly steps are calculated as an average steps per team member.
  7. Let people know that the challenge is open to all and that accommodations can be made regarding the goals and activities to fit their needs.

Employees can improve their exercise habits with a little support from technology and their peers. Our CBIZ colleagues have quickly shown this to be possible by rising to our Steps Challenge, and helped to demonstrate the power of a simply organized wellness effort. In the spirit of competition, I challenge the next group of CBIZ Wellness Solutions interns to help our team sustain these new healthy behaviors!