Flu season is finally ending.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION | FluView Activity Update (Key Flu Indicators)

flu season employee flu shots

According to the FluView report for the week ending May 20, 2017 (week 20), flu activity continues to decrease in the United States. The 2016-2017 flu season is winding down, however flu activity persists in some areas.

Flu-Associated Hospitalizations

As of May 20, 2017, 18,256 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations occurring between October 1, 2016, and April 30, 2017, have been reported through the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network. This translates to a cumulative overall rate of 65.2 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States. This is higher than the cumulative hospitalization rate for the 2012-2013 flu season (44.0 per 100,000), when influenza A (H3N2) viruses also predominated, and is slightly higher than the cumulative hospitalization rate during 2014-2015 (64.1 per 100,000) which also was an H3N2 predominant season.

  • The hospitalization rate among people 65 years and older is 291.1 per 100,000. This is the highest rate of any age group. The hospitalization rate for people 65 and older for the same week during the 2012-2013 flu season was 183.9 per 100,000. For week 17 during 2014-2015, it was 308.8 per 100,000.
  • The hospitalization rate among adults 50-64 years is 65.1 per 100,000. This is the highest hospitalization rate ever observed for this age group since this type of surveillance began. During the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 flu seasons, the hospitalization rate for that age group for the same week was 40.9 per 100,000 and 53.4 per 100,000 respectively.
  • The hospitalization rate among children younger than 5 years is 45.1 per 100,000. During the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 flu seasons, the hospitalization rate for that age group for the same week was 67.0 per 100,000 and 57.2 per 100,000 respectively.
  • During most seasons, children younger than 5 years and adults 65 years and older have the highest hospitalization rates.
  • Hospitalization data are collected from 13 states and represent approximately 9% of the total U.S. population. The number of hospitalizations reported does not reflect the actual total number of influenza-associated hospitalizations in the United States. Additional data, including hospitalization rates during other influenza seasons, can be found at http://gis.cdc.gov/GRASP/Fluview/FluHospRates.html and

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm

Learn more about Provant's employee flu program or contact us today. We are currently scheduling clinics for the 2017-2018 flu season.

Does the amount of sleep impact a person’s waist circumference?

SCIENCE DAILY | European Society of Endocrinology | Sleep loss affects your waistline

sleep at work trouble sleeping

Sleep loss increases the risk of obesity through a combination of effects on energy metabolism. This research, presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Lisbon, will highlight how disrupted sleep patterns, a common feature of modern living, can predispose to weight gain, by affecting people’s appetite and responses to food and exercise.

In the 24/7 culture of the modern world, an increasing number of people report routine reduced quality of sleep and several studies have correlated sleep deprivation with weight gain. The underlying cause of increased obesity risk from sleep disruption is unclear but may relate to changes in appetite, metabolism, motivation, physical activity or a combination of factors.

Dr. Christian Benedict from Uppsala University, Sweden and his group have conducted a number of human studies to investigate how sleep loss may affect energy metabolism. These human studies have measured and imaged behavioural, physiological and biochemical responses to food following acute sleep deprivation. The behavioural data reveal that metabolically healthy, sleep-deprived human subjects prefer larger food portions, seek more calories, exhibit signs of increased food-related impulsivity, experience more pleasure from food, and expend less energy.

The group’s physiological studies indicate that sleep loss shifts the hormonal balance from hormones that promote fullness (satiety), such as GLP-1, to those that promote hunger, such as ghrelin. Sleep restriction also increased levels of endocannabinoids, which is known to have appetite-promoting effects. Further work from Dr. Benedict’s team shows that acute sleep loss alters the balance of gut bacteria, which has been widely implicated as key for maintaining a healthy metabolism. The same study also found reduced sensitivity to insulin after sleep loss.

Dr. Christian Benedict remarks, “Since perturbed sleep is such a common feature of modern life, these studies show it is no surprise that metabolic disorders, such as obesity are also on the rise.”

Although Dr. Benedict’s work has shed light on how short periods of sleep loss can affect energy metabolism, longer-term studies are needed to validate these findings. The group are now investigating longer-term effects and also whether extending sleep in habitual short sleepers can restore these alterations in appetite and energy metabolism.

Dr. Christian Benedict says, “My studies suggest that sleep loss favours weight gain in humans. It may also be concluded that improving sleep could be a promising lifestyle intervention to reduce the risk of future weight gain.”

 

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170522081109.htm

 

Why workplace financial wellness programs are hot.

FORBES | Kelly Hannon | Why Workplace Financial Wellness Programs Are Hot

Most Americans are seriously anxious about their finances. It’s not simply the raw fear of outliving their money, but a more urgent yearning to sleep at night without money stresses and to have a sense of financial security. Employers, I’m pleased to say, are increasingly taking note.

The recently-released eighth annual Employer-Sponsored Health and Well-Being Survey from the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments found that 84% of 141 large- and mid-sized companies surveyed now have financial wellness programs, up from 76% a year ago.

Money Angst Across America

financial planning financial wellness

It’s hard to say precisely what’s spurring the interest, but a myriad of factors are pushing employers to pay attention. For starters, numerous surveys have trumpeted the bad news blues about employee money angst.

For example, PwC’s 2017 Employee Financial Wellness Survey of 1,600 full-time employed adults said that 53% of employees are stressed about their finances. Those who are stressed are more likely to be distracted by their finances at work, miss work due to their personal financial issues and cite health issues caused by financial stress.

And a new Paychex survey of 1,000 full-time employees discovered that most felt the most important job incentive was regular bonuses — that ranked higher than paid vacation and health insurance.

The Tricky Part for Employers

Employers seem to want to help employees with their financial concerns, but figuring out the right solution is tricky.

That’s what I learned Tuesday at Double Bottom Line: The Business Benefits of Employee Financial Well-Being, a compelling panel discussion and roundtable in Washington, D.C. from the Aspen Institute’s Financial Security Program and Economic Opportunities Program, along with Prudential Financial. (Prudential announced a $5 million partnership with the Aspen Institute to provide employers with new financial-security tools and resources for their workers. I applaud that effort.)

“We believe it is a crisis,” Andrew Sullivan, president of Prudential Group Insurance, told the Aspen Institute audience. “Employers have the responsibility and the opportunity to solve this, though, and they want to.”

The Aspen Institute dialogue, led by Ida Rademacher, executive director of its Financial Security Program, focused on ways financial well-being in the workplace can improve the bottom line for employers and employees. It also covered employer-based solutions to reduce financial stress and improve the financial health of employees.

The Time Is Right for Financial Wellness Programs

In my opinion, the focus on workers’ financial wellness couldn’t come at a better time.

Not only are employees increasingly picking up the tab for rising health care expenses, they’re taking on the risk and responsibility for their financial security through 401(k) and other retirement plans. Not everyone wants to — or can afford to — hire a financial planner for guidance.

Over the years, I have been gobsmacked by the number of colleagues, family members and friends who sheepishly ask me how they should divvy up their 401(k) allotments. These are folks I would expect to have a good grip on their personal finances. But they’re overwhelmed by their 401(k) options and are paralyzed about making bad choices.

The Big Concern: Unexpected Money Shocks

Employers have an opportunity to step in and offer much-needed guidance. But I think they should be helping workers with far more than where to put their retirement contributions. Many workers are desperate for help navigating day-to-day money issues like debt and building emergency funds.

As Clint Key, research officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts said at the Aspen program, the overwhelming majority of people are mostly seeking financial stability for their families, not economic mobility. All it takes is one financial shock — like a car breaking down or an unexpected illness — to destabilize a household, Key said. “Four in ten households don’t have resources — in terms of savings or credit or even within their social networks — to help them pay a $2,000 expense,” he noted.

Experts at the Aspen Institute gathering talked about devising ways to create employer-sponsored savings accounts — kind of like emergency-fund 401(k)s — that would let employees automatically divert a portion of their paychecks into easily accessible savings accounts to help build emergency funds.

Some employers are offering video games and mobile apps to help employees learn about essential personal finance topics from saving to managing debt, according to Amanda Hahnel, associate innovation director at Commonwealth, a firm that develops and markets these kinds of products.

Why do employers increasingly care about helping workers achieve financial security? Simple. Financial distractions cost companies’ money.

“Employers get it,” said Diane Winland, manager of PricewaterhouseCoopers. They know that employees stressed about their finances are more likely to take time off to deal with them and are much more likely to take hours every workweek to deal with them, she reminded the group.

What Kind of Financial Help to Offer?

The conundrum is how deeply to go in providing help and what kind of help to provide.

The low-lying fruit, according to the Fidelity/National Business Group on Health survey, are the popular seminars and “lunch-n-learn” programs — 82% of employers surveyed said they expected to offer these in 2017. Nearly three-fourths (74%) will offer tools for key financial concerns such as mortgages, wills and income protection. And 71% expect to offer resources to support emergency savings, debt management and budgeting. Just a quarter of employers plan to offer student loan counseling or repayment assistance.

Personalized financial counseling is growing faster than online solutions, according to “Optimizing Financial Wellness for a Diverse Workforce,” the latest study from Financial Finesse, a provider of financial-wellness programs. That’s because counselors can readily adapt to different types of employees in highly diverse workforces.

2 Possible Stumbling Blocks for Financial Wellness Programs

I see two potential stumbling blocks, though.

For companies, there’s a fear of lawsuits from employees and retirees for divvying out advice that didn't work out or for not adhering to a financial fiduciary responsibility and legal requirements.

For employees, there’s the very real concern about privacy. As NerdWallet.com’s Dayana Yochim, a moderator at one of the Aspen Institute panels, pointed out: “Employees don’t want boss man mixed up in their business. There’s wariness about privacy issues in the workplace.”

1 Big Upside

The way I see it, however, there is a huge upside for employers who can find ways to walk the line of providing financial guidance for their workers.

Aside from potentially increased productivity and less absenteeism, this kind of benefit can build goodwill that can not only attract new employees, but help retain workers as well.

And for employees struggling with personal finance stresses, any help is worth exploring.

 

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/05/18/why-workplace-financial-wellness-programs-are-hot/#1b07465913f8

Mid-day breaks and their effects on work.

MINDFUL | Jill Suttie | Why You Should Take a Relaxing Lunch Break

According to a new study, we concentrate better and feel less stressed when we purposefully detach from work and enjoy a real break.

I know the importance of breaks in a workday. The science clearly shows that taking a cognitive timeout helps us to work better and feel better, and personal experience confirms that.

But, still…

Like many Americans, I sometimes find myself working right through lunch.

I get lost in my work, or I think, Hey, if I just finish this project, it will be out of my hair and then I can relax.

Relax at work

But a newly published study [by lead researcher Marjaana Sianoja in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology] suggests this is the wrong approach. It turns out that taking a deliberate break from work with a short walk in the park or a bit of mindful relaxation can have powerful effects on our end-of-day concentration, stress, and fatigue.

In this study, participants in cognitively demanding fields—such as public administration, education, engineering, and finance—were randomly assigned to either take a slow, 15-minute stroll in a park (without much physical exertion) or do 15 minutes of mindful relaxation exercises during their lunch breaks every workday for two weeks. The relaxation exercises consisted of progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and paying attention to thoughts and sensations in a non-judgmental way. Both groups were instructed beforehand on how and where to take their walk or mindfully relax.

Before, during, and after the two-week experiment, participants were “pinged” twice a week near the end of their workday and asked to report on how well they were able to concentrate at that moment, and on their stress and fatigue. In addition, they filled out a short questionnaire every night, asking how much they enjoyed their lunch break, and if they were able to detach from work during it or not.

In analyzing the results, lead researcher Marjaana Sianoja and her colleagues found that when individuals did the mindful relaxation or took a walk, they showed significant decreases in end-of-day stress and fatigue, as well as better concentration at work, compared to days when they took regular lunch breaks. Mindful relaxation was particularly helpful for stress relief, even more so than walking in the park.

Because these results occurred in a naturalistic setting, they are particularly promising, says Sianoja.

“These two restorative activities have benefits on well-being in a real work setting—as compared to laboratory settings with only student participants—and the benefits are observable some hours after the lunch break,” she says.

Why did the experiments have these benefits? Theoretically, walks in nature can lead to “attention restoration”—recovery from cognitive overload after intense focus—while also being enjoyable, while mindfulness can increase our positive emotions, relieve stress, and boost focus.

Indeed, Sianoja found that the enjoyment experienced during walking and the greater detachment from work during mindful relaxation seemed to account for participants’ increased well-being and concentration later in the day. Though she’d expected strolling in nature to produce greater detachment from work, it was apparently less effective than the mindfulness practice in this regard.

Still, she says, “Both of these activities should shift the attention away from work-related issues quite efficiently and offer a break completely free from demands if compared to a regular lunch break.”

Because of the practices’ differing effects, Sianoja recommends that people take breaks incorporating mindful relaxation on days when they experience high work demands, and thus need to detach from work, and park walks when they long for a change of scenery and more fun. Her experiment didn’t allow for choice, but she believes that choosing one’s preferred activity may produce even stronger benefits.

Though Sianoja did not look at benefits to the organization, she also suggests that taking breaks like these could have a positive impact on productivity.

“Park walks and relaxation exercises were related to increased concentration in the afternoon and thus might have potential in maintaining productivity throughout the working day,” she argues.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that workers benefit when they take a restorative break mid-day. So, put on those walking shoes and head to a park or meditate at lunch—even if you only have 15 minutes.

 

Source: https://www.mindful.org/take-relaxing-lunch-break/

What will wellness be in only a few short years?

CORPORATE WELLNESS MAGAZINE | DEAN GRIFFITHS | APRIL 11, 2017 - Well-being is a $3.72 trillion industry, according to new research released by the Global Wellness Institute. With people living longer and our pace of life only getting faster. Keeping healthy is now a full-time job within itself. On the flip side of this, statistics predict that the number of people who will suffer from one of the leading causes of disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and depression is only going to increase.

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The latest trend in well-being? We're seeing dollar signs - but it's not what you think.

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL | TINA REED | APRIL 11, 2017  - Most companies already have smoking cessation, physical activity challenges and biometric screening on their radars when it comes to employee wellness perks. Some have even begun encouraging sleep and offering egg freezing. But what about help with money?

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How do you cultivate a healthy workplace?

FORBES | MELISSA THOMPSON | MARCH 22, 2017 - Entrepreneurs, whether in the early stages of startup or driving the ongoing momentum of longer term growth, know that one important factor for success is true – keeping employees’ spark alive so they can be healthy and engaged in the often high-pressure workplace. Businesses that can maintain a healthy workplace in a consistent and sustainable manner, often avoid burnout of staff and support people that grow great companies.

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What's the trend in new approaches to employee well-being? Hint: Zzz.

CORPORATE WELLNESS MAGAZINE | ROBIN BOUVIER | Paying Employees to Sleep at Work May Be Good for Business

“Worksite wellness” is once again under fire. A Health Affairs blog in January 2017, entitledBuilding A Culture Of Workplace Health: More Complicated Than Offering Workers Money To Be Healthy,” has suggested that “workplace health promotion programs, founded exclusively on providing financial incentives for achieving targeted health outcomes…is not all that is needed to create a healthy workforce.” This likely comes as a surprise to many employers who expected to reduce health plan costs by keeping healthy employees healthy.

Robin Bouvier, a Vice President on Aon’s Health Transformation Team, presented on a panel discussing best practices in corporate sleep strategies sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation at the 8th Employer Healthcare & Benefits Congress (EHBC) last fall. Aon’s Health Transformation Team provides well-being consulting to organizations in order to improve the health and performance of their workforce. They help organizations develop, operationalize and measure the impact of well-being strategies based on the business results that are most important to company leaders while focusing on the lifestyle behavior changes that are most important to the workforce.

“Recruitment and retention is a major business metric that organizations need to be measuring as part of their well-being strategy. There is a lot of turnover, especially in the Millennial population,” according to Bouvier.

Research conducted by Gallup reveals that there is a strong link between employee engagement, well-being and the likelihood of someone seeking out a new job. Organizations are struggling both to retain top talent and to quantify the impact of their wellness programs using health plan claims. In a workforce with high turnover, employees simply are often not on the health plan long enough for the employer to demonstrate a change in utilization or health risks and are thus unable to show a return on investment (ROI).

So how can employers improve the well-being of Millennials? According to the 2016 Consumer Health Mindset Study[*], conducted by Aon in partnership with the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company, the well-being activities most important to Millennials in their personal lives are spending time with family and friends, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and balancing work and personal commitments. Sounds like the typical worksite wellness program, right? Wrong. According to Aon’s 2016 Health Care Survey, the two most common focus areas in employer wellness programs are exercise and nutrition.

Even when worksite wellness programs are offered, the Consumer Health Mindset Study found that 76 percent of employees encounter hurdles when it comes to making healthy choices. The top hurdles are time and money.

This equation may appear to be the perfect storm when it, in fact, creates an ideal opportunity for organizations to take a new approach to the well-being of their workforce. From an organizational perspective, Bouvier offers these suggestions:

  1. Commit to the business results that really matter to your company’s leadership and that have the greatest impact on organizational success. These should form your mission and strategic goals.
  2. Assess employee interests and needs when determining your focus areas. Incentives become a key motivator when employees are asked to do things they don’t want to do, or that are not their top priorities. Supporting employees in addressing the well-being activities that are most important to them may be all the motivation they need to take action.
  3. Think beyond the program. If employees perceive that they don’t have the time or money to make healthy lifestyle behavior changes, incorporate healthy activities into the work environment and culture.
    • Increase movement during the workday with standing desks, walking meetings, stretch breaks and by promoting the use of the stairs instead of elevators.
    • Change the nutritional values, portions, and costs of foods available in your cafeteria and vending machines to promote healthy options, and institute catering policies that limit company-sponsored meals to healthy menus.
    • Take full advantage of the built environment to create spaces for socializing, rest and relaxation – including napping and meditation rooms. Employees are entitled to take breaks and should be encouraged to do so throughout the day in order to optimize their energy levels and productivity.
  4. Move away from a traditional ROI model (based on health plan cost savings) to a VOH – or value on health – model that incorporates such metrics as productivity, retention, employee engagement, job satisfaction and other business results that may have a more meaningful impact on your bottom line results.

“The goal is not only for employees to bring their best self to work but for their employer to support them in bringing their best self back home at the end of the day. That is really when we start to see the impact of total well-being on business results,” said Bouvier.

Source: http://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/others/employees-sleep-good-business/

Adult obesity: what can employers do?

WELLNESS WORKS HUB | STUDY: CONTINUED INTERVENTIONS — VIA PHONE — HELPS WITH WEIGHT MANAGEMENT - Among the tactics of a well-run workplace wellness program can be various types of coaching around health concerns, including managing one’s weight. Now a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows the “efficacy of a weight loss maintenance program compared with usual care in obese adults.”

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Workplace wellness + business success: what are employers saying?

FACILITY EXECUTIVE | Survey On Workplace Wellness Points To Productivity - A recent survey of corporate real estate executives at large corporations conducted by CoreNet Global and CBRE Group, Inc. found that when a company focuses on employee health and wellness, workers report increases in engagement, retention rates increase, and absenteeism declines.

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Heart disease costs employers and employees: What workplace interventions work?

MOBI HEALTH NEWS | HEATHER MACK | Study: Workplace wellness programs focused on cardiovascular health may reduce prevalence of disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and most people are already on their way towards that fate: 99 percent of the population has at least one of seven cardiovascular health risks.

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Is your CEO also a Chief Health Advocate? Find out why they should be.

ASSOCIATIONS NOW | MARK ATHITAKIS | STRATEGY SESSION: CHIEF HEALTH ADVOCATE. Employee wellness often starts in the C-suite. The health of an organization begins with the tone at the top, it’s often said. That can be equally true when it comes to employees’ health.

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Should you add wearables to your well-being program?

Corporate Wellness Magazine | Anne-Marie Kirby | Do Wearables Actually Advance Corporate Wellness? A lot of people are looking at their wrists these days and the gesture usually has nothing to do with checking the time. Instead, they’re consulting their wearable device to find out how many steps they’ve taken, stairs they’ve climbed, calories they’ve burned or even their blood pressure.

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Does meditation really help employees manage stress?

LiveScience | Rachael Rettner | Meditation Really Does Lower Body's Stress Signals. Meditation may help the body respond to stressful situations, according to a new study that took a rigorous look at how the practice affects people's physiology when they're under pressure.

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