The #1 Concern for Wellness Coordinators

We recently surveyed hundreds of wellness coordinators to learn what their primary concerns are regarding their wellness programs. Not surprisingly, participant engagement was cited as bigger than all other concerns combined. Why? An investment in a wellness program is only worthwhile if employees actually use it.

Data from 2014 survey conducted by Mobile Coach LLC

Data from 2014 survey conducted by Mobile Coach LLC

Another reason participant engagement is a concern is because it has proven to be difficult to achieve. Different organizations have different employee cultures, which make it difficult to rely on boilerplate solutions. Further, budgets are scarce and ROI remains elusive, which makes an already challenging task that much more difficult. It’s no wonder that the situation leaves many wellness coordinators scratching their heads.

Companies that do report strong engagement numbers typically have had to pay for their results. Add a significant financial reward (or penalty) and you’ll see a jump in participation in an HRA (Health Risk Assessment) or biometric screening. But these one-off activities don’t always translate into the lifestyle behavior changes that are necessary to reduce healthcare costs over time. Healthy behaviors lead to healthy lifestyles–which will lead to a lower risk profile in your employee population. Paying employees to participate in a single event or even a series of events during one year has not definitively proven to correlate with reducing healthcare costs.

So what does the future hold? Is it all doom and gloom for employee participation and wellness programs? We say the answer is “No” and, despite the frustrations wellness coordinators feel today, we predict a bright future for employers being able to positively impact the health of their employees. Here are some of the bright spots:

1. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is educating the nation. The healthcare choices being offer to employers, individuals, and families to navigate through the ACA is generating a virtuous cycle of better solutions. The smarter that people become in managing healthcare costs, the better the options will be that providers are offering. And, as more choices are presented to healthcare consumers, they’ll see that “getting and staying healthy” is the most appealing path. Therefore, wellness tools and programs that help consumers be healthy are going to become very attractive.

2. Technology is ever improving to create more usable products to help consumers. From wearable devices to mobile apps to coaching tools like ours (Coach Alba), technology will help a consumer diagnose, react, plan for, and measure the benefits of healthier choices.

3. There are multiple parties that care about your health. Aside from yourself and your loved ones, there are others that are morally and financially invested in helping you stay healthy. From your employer to your insurance company, these entities will continue to invest time and money into getting your attention and helping getting you engaged in wellness activities.

As employee engagement improves, we anticipate a halo effect on the other concerns that wellness coordinators cited in our survey. With improved engagement comes better data to measure ROI, leadership will be forced to be more informed, and employees will be more keen to react to communications regarding wellness. Expect to see better results in the coming years and with those better results, a growing marketplace for anyone passionate about health and wellness.

13 Places to Find Great Wellness Ideas Online

Whether you’re managing a low-key wellness program for a few employees or partnering with major wellness providers to oversee thousands of employees, it’s always nice to take inspiration from industry trends and learn what others are doing.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best places online to find news, ideas, and advice about running an employee wellness program. Some come from the viewpoint of an HR business lens, others from personal health and health technology–but hopefully all of them will offer some unique insights to help in your efforts.

Wellness in Business

1. Employee Benefit News

Employee Benefit News focuses on a range of responsibilities that are generally managed by HR, Benefits, and Wellness executives. The publication consistently offers great content about a broad variety of topics and generally focuses on the latest trends.

2. Human Resource Executive online

Another great publication for insights regarding Human Resources responsibilities. They have an entire section dedicated to Benefits and they also organize the popular Health and Benefits Leadership Conference.

3. Inc. Magazine – Human Resources

Inc. is known for its business expertise and actually has an entire section devoted to HR. The topics range broadly but often emphasize specific ways to create a better working environment for employees.

4. MobiHealthNews

Mobile Health News always has the latest updates on technology (specifically mobile) that is being used in wellness. This includes companies that are just barely starting and major health companies that are offering new products. Their email newsletter is a great resource.

Health and Wellness for Individuals

5. New York Times – Well Blog

6. Time Magazine – Health

7. Wall Street Journal Health

The New York Times, Time Magazine, and Wall Street Journal are all incredibly well-respected publications and their health sections are no exception. They tend to focus on the most interesting trending topics in health and wellness but offer great resources to get motivated or become more curious about the ways that the health of our culture impacts the workplace.

8. Greatist

Greatist in a newer online publication dedicated to all-around wellness from nutrition and exercise to mental health. It’s an excellent publication you can share with employees that are looking to be healthier.

9. TedMed videos

Many people are familiar with the inspirational Ted Talks speech series. TedMed is the same thing with an emphasis on healthcare and wellness as they affect culture and society.

Linkedin Groups

If you haven’t joined any groups on LinkedIn, they can be a great place to ask questions, make connections, and see the latest industry news. Here are some of the top ones we follow.

10. Corporate Health and Wellness

11. Wellness is a Business Strategy

12. Digital Health

13. Corporate Wellness

What are your other favorite online wellness resources? Let us know @coach_alba on Twitter!


Workplace Wellness: 10 Activities You Haven’t Tried

Most employees have become used to the same old wellness activities year in and year out. To help you freshen up our Wellness Calendar this year, here are some unique twists on old ideas.

1. Lunchtime classes taught by fellow employees

Trying to drive employee engagement in your wellness initiative? Give some of your fellow coworkers a leadership opportunity in guiding lunchtime classes/discussions. Paying professionals to teach one hour classes each week can get kind of pricey, and odds are that there are individuals in your company right now who have, if not the same expanse of knowledge that a professional has, at least enough knowledge on a specific topic that they could share with others valuable information on how to become emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially fit. Give your employees the opportunity to share what they’ve learned about wellness, and you might be surprised at the vast amount of knowledge you have available right in the office.

Cost: Free

Putting the idea into action: We would suggest sending around a sign-up sheet to see both what your employees are interested in learning about, or sharing their knowledge in. Once the sign-up list gets back around to you, set up the lessons to occur as often or as infrequently as you’d like.

(Hint: Some employees may be hesitant to sign up, but if you directly ask someone to share a small presentation on what they’ve learned, most will agree to help out. Also, incentives are always a great way to increase participation.) 

2. Compile a library of Alternative Exercise Equipment

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “A library of Exercise Equipment? Aren’t you just talking about a gym?” Well, not exactly. What we’re proposing is providing an accumulation of exercise videos (with each video’s accompanying exercise equipment ) AND/OR alternative desk-sitting equipment. One library is focused on increasing wellness outside of the office (via video-led exercises), while the other promotes wellness AT the office by helping employees engage their body more while working.

Cost: Ranges from Free-$10 per employee

Putting the idea into action: Try to collect a variety of exercise videos, like Hip Hop Dance, Yoga, Insanity, Jillian Michael’s, etc. If any exercise equipment is needed for the video, make sure you have it on hand for your employees to check out as well. In the other library, make sure you have several standing desks, treadmill desks, exercise balls, kneeling chairs, etc. available for your employees to try while they’re at the office. In either library make sure to instill a check-out time limit and fine if the material isn’t turned back right away in order to ensure the library’s collection won’t decrease over the year.

(Hint: If you don’t have the funds readily available to go out and purchase anything, ask your employees if they would be willing to lend their videos/equipment to the library for their fellow coworkers to try out.)

3. Start a regular health cook-off and distribute each cook-off’s winning recipes 

You may have seen variations of this activity, but it’s definitely an idea worth repeating since good nutrition is key to a healthy lifestyle. Also all cultures enjoy a gathering around food, so you can be assured that this activity will be a big hit. Incentivize participation by giving out a prize to the best recipe shared each month, then compile each month’s winners into a Company Recipe book.

Cost: Ranges from Free to $5 per employee

Putting the idea into action: Give each month’s potluck a theme, like Summer Salads, Winter Greens, etc and allow your employees go wild with their interpretation of the theme. Hold a taste-testing and have everyone vote on their favorites to know which recipes to include in the Company Recipe book. Then go as cheap or extravagant as your budget permits when distributing the recipe books out. If you would like to offer a hard copy, but don’t have the funds to do so in your budget, offer to sell them, or do a fundraiser.

4. Set aside a Tennis Shoe Consultation day

Ever wondered if professional running shoes are worth the cost? Wonder no more! Ask your local running shoe store if they’d be willing to provide a consultant to help you and your fellow coworkers understand the difference a good running shoe can make. Odds are the store manager will jump at the chance to share their knowledge (and their product) with your employees. Who knows, maybe you can even negotiate a deal for all those who purchase a new pair of shoes after their consultation!

Cost: Free

Putting the idea into action: A quick online search, or stroll around a shopping mall will reveal your local chapter of Running Shoe Goodness. Give them a ring and set up a date and time for one of more of their representative to come out along with any necessary equipment (like a treadmill). Since our feet’s shape tends to change throughout the day It is recommended that you meet with a consultation either after a long run, or at the end of the day. With that in mind feel free to coordinate this activity with a Company Walk or 5k to help your employees find the best sneaker for their feet.

5. Begin a healthy snack “dish”

With the exception of Costco, very few stores will allow you to open up their products and try them out. How do you know you will like it if you don’t try it? Well with this activity you can help remove that doubt from your employee’s minds by sharing samples of healthy snacks from their own grocery store!

Cost: Ranges from $.10 to $2 per employee

Putting the idea into action: Check out the local grocery store and pick up the items you would like to share for the week. Consider 100 calorie snack options, fiber bars, pre/post-workout shake mixes, a variety of veg/fruit dips, etc when deciding what to bring to the office. When you start to run out of ideas, ask your employees for other healthy snacks they’d like to try, or consider registering for a healthy snack subscription box.

6. Once a month provide a free stocked breakfast bar for employees

414939826_8aff0eaa1e_bThey say that breakfast is the most important meal of day, and it’s clear why when you think about some of it’s benefits (i.e. higher metabolism, lowered cholesterol, lowered blood pressure, increased energy and memory, I could go on and on). But the fact is there are those in your office who think that they are too busy, or not hungry enough, etc. to eat breakfast in the morning. And while their excuses may sound reasonable, they truly aren’t if there’s anything you can do about it.

Cost: Ranges from $.10 to $2 per employee

Putting the idea into action: Once a month (or more if you’re feeling really generous), set out a variety of breakfast items (based on your budget size). If your budget is on the smaller side try putting up an oatmeal or pancake bar, with a variety toppings. (Some possible oatmeal toppings: honey, white or brown sugar, fruit and milk; for the pancakes: jam, peanut butter, syrup, fresh fruit.) As both oatmeal and pancakes are incredible inexpensive you’ll be able to get a lot of bang for your buck -particularly if you invite your coworkers to bring any topping of their choice to share.

Old City-Stations of the Cross-597. Promote Gardening

When, as a whole, the nation is eating less than 3 servings a day, what can you do to increase the fruit/vegetable consumption of your office? Well, one way you may go about it is by offering free fruit/vegetable seeds to those interested in cultivating their own fruits and vegetables.

Cost: Ranges from $.50 to $5 per employee

Putting the idea into action: Pass out individual packets or buy in bulk and divy out the seeds with planting tips. Worried that the seeds won’t be put to use? Create an office plot where all those in the office can work together on a garden. Don’t have the space for a full on garden? Place potted plants near the office windows for employees to use for herbs, leafy greens, etc.

8. Employee-run Wellness Activity Vote 

181196330_091389234a_bWhat’s the easiest way to get your fellow coworkers involved in the annual wellness initiative? Why a company-wide submissions/vote for that year’s wellness activity of course! Everyone wants a wellness plan personalized to them and their tastes, and through this activity you can give them the chance to experience just that.

Cost: Ranges from Free to Whatever you want to spend on Incentive Prizes

Putting the idea into action: This activity can go one of two ways: either have everyone choose from a handful of options that you’ve already selected or keep the options limited to those submitted by the employees themselves. If you would like to add another aspect to the selection feel free to add a design contest for the exercise tops you will be passing out at the company wellness event.

9. Supply access to a weekly healthy veggie subscription box/basket2829983233_4fd6c70ef3_b

Another way to ensure that your employees are able  to consume the recommended amount of fruits/veggies a week is to assist them in signing up for a fruit/vegetable subscription service, like this one. With your help they could start receiving a box of local, seasonal produce on a regular basis.

Cost: Ranges from Free to $20 per employee enrolled

Putting the idea into action: This activity could also be done one of two ways: First off, if you don’t have the funds to assist in the subscription purchase itself you can volunteer the grounds of your company for the pick-up/arrangement of the fruit/vegetable purchases. If the pick-up can also be arranged to happen on a work day then the fruit/vegetable packages can be sent home with the employees at the end of the work day. The Second way this activity can be accomplished is to assist in all or part of the subscription costs of each employee that wishes to participate. If you also participate in the service you may think about sending out recipe ideas that would include some of the less common fruits/vegetables that show up in the package.

10. Organize regular “Make it Better” meetings13603172745_65ff09b22f_b 

Our last wellness activity suggestion is one that can be combined with any other activity you choose. This activity targets the health and wellness of your company and product, by inviting all those who keep it to running to attend a brainstorm of all the ways the company, office space and products can be made even better.

Cost: Free

Putting the idea into action: You can organize the meeting to be an open forum where any and every one can attend, or a semi-formal meeting where the department heads get together with their department’s insights. However you go about it, these meetings will help bring you greater insight into how your business is operating and how your product is effecting others.


Image Credits: University of the Fraser ValleyslgckgctrazomfreakElvert BarnesAndrea_44, musicfanatic29Steve PaulDr. Abdullah NaserNick SaltmarshMaryland GovPics

The Ultimate Guide to a Successful Wellness Launch

Not long ago, I spoke to the benefits administrator of a major international corporate law firm. We were discussing the wellness benefits that the firm offered, and I suggested a new idea that had worked well for some of our other clients. She let me speak for a few seconds but, before allowing me to finish, interrupted: “But that would never work here–I could never get anyone to participate!”

Since that phone call, I’ve worked to launch many other wellness programs and learned that she was partially right–there are always some people that will refuse to participate in corporate wellness initiatives. But more importantly, I’ve learned that often the success of a particular corporate wellness activity (e.g. Walk-a-thon, fitness contest, lunch and learns, etc.) isn’t always based on what the activity is. Often, the success of an initiative is based on how it’s promoted.

So, how do you make sure that your wellness “marketing”–the posters, emails, announcements, etc.–will be a success?

Continue reading

Plan a healthy lunch with a coworker each day


When trying to change, friends can either be your greatest enemy or your greatest asset. Letting someone else know about your goals and getting their help might be the extra boost you need to really stick with your plan. Having a coworker especially help you will ensure that you stay accountable to your plan. And hey, who knows, maybe you’ll inspire them to make their own change, too!

Some ideas for using this strategy:

  • Take turns making and bringing lunch. Making lunch can be a chore, but once you get everything together and start working, it’s only a little extra effort to make a second portion. Taking turns back and forth will save time and help keep both of you committed to your plan.
  • Pick someone tough. You want your lunches to be enjoyable and with someone you like, of course, but pick a friend who will actually hold you accountable. Accountability is a key to lasting change, and picking the right person could make the difference between success and failure.
  • Beware of restaurants. It’s time consuming to make meals, and the temptation to just skip it and go out to eat will come quickly. It’s not wrong to go out to eat, but it can be dangerous to your weight loss goals. Be careful to pick a healthy restaurant beforehand and check the menu so you know there’s something there for you and so you don’t make a bad decision in a crucial moment of hunger. Again, picking the right person to help you will be key to keeping up your willpower.

Other tactics similar to this one:

Sources: The Oz Principle Blog

Image credit: nan palmero

Plan meals to be combo of low cal & filling


One of the hardest parts of going on a diet probably is dealing with the hunger between meals. However, it is possible to stay full while reducing your calorie intake. All you need to do is fill your plate with foods that are filling and low in calories.

Some ideas for using this strategy:

  • Include water-dense food. Increasing the proportion of water-dense food can help you stay full longer. However, it doesn’t mean you should drink meal replacement drinks or fill yourself up with just water instead. Solid food is always more filling than liquid. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables to stay full longer.
  • Go whole-grain. If you have the option to choose, always go whole-grain. Whole grains are nutrition dense, and more importantly contain a lot of fibers which help curb your appetite. However, we’re not talking about the processed snack food. Aim to increase your intake of minimally processed whole-grain foods, such as brown and wild rice, bulgur, oatmeal, spelt, and quinoa, as well as whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Start with a salad and a broth-based soup if you are not sure how to plan a filling meal. A large amount of vegetables will be sure to curb your appetite. Also, broth-based soups have fewer calories than cream-based soups, and its water content will give you a feeling of fullness.

Other tactics similar to this one:

Sources: WebMD, Cooking Light, Shape

Image credit: Holly Williams

Related article: Energy Density and Weight Loss