Obesity – scaling up
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one-third of all American adults are obese. This has not always been the case though, with levels rising year on year since at least 1990, when overall obesity was around 15% lower. Although every state faces the obesity challenge nowadays, some have more of an issue than others. West Virginia and Mississippi have the highest rates of obesity (35.17%) with Colorado at the opposite end of the scale where 21.3% of the population is classified as obese. Approximately 112,000 deaths are attributed to obesity each year, with annual medical costs estimated to be as high as $147 billion nationwide. Although obesity is a modern day public health issue affecting nations around the world, it is worrying to consider that America tops the list of most obese countries.
Obesity- the problem for employers
While some employers may feel that obesity is nothing to do with them and that it is up to individuals to manage their weight, taking a hands off approach is not an effective long term approach. Absenteeism associated with obesity currently costs US employers some $8.65 billion every year and with obesity levels ever rising so will this eye watering figure. Reduced productivity is also a major issue according to research carried out by the University of Buffalo and Virginia Tech. They found that obese people needed longer and more frequent rest breaks and were also more likely to suffer a workplace injury. Increased fatigue meant that overall they demonstrated 40% shorter endurance times in their jobs. Obesity also has a sizeable effect on public health bills- now adding at least $190 billion to the cost of national healthcare provision, which is even more than smoking. This clearly filters through to employers’ healthcare costs and the price tag associated with health insurance.
Obesity- taking action
Employers have two main options when it comes to how to get involved with the obesity challenge – they can go it alone or they can become part of broader initiatives. Here we look at an example of each:
Workplace health initiatives- Although there is evidence to suggest that employees want their employers to help them lose weight, taking complete control of the issue would be unrealistic and potentially disempowering. The most sensible approach is to work in partnership with the employee and support their weight reduction journey. D&H Distributing, a North American consumer electronics company, decided to use this type of strategy when it offered employees the chance to share in the purchase of a height adjustable ‘standing desk.’ Designed to address the state of physical stagnation many office workers experience, this desk allows the worker to sit/stand while carrying out their daily tasks. The company also offered a range of other products to encourage and promote fitness such as wearable health monitors and activity trackers. Sharing in the cost of these items meant employees could access them at a reasonable price and both parties get to enjoy the benefits of the results.
Collaborative campaigns- Working with other companies and public bodies can be a great way of addressing obesity. One such region taking this approach is Florida with its Healthiest Weight Florida Initiative. Developed in recognition of the fact that only 36 percent of state residents are a healthy weight this public-private collaboration involves state agencies, schools, businesses, communities and not-for-profit organizations. Examples of employer participation include the introduction of ‘fit friendly’ workplaces, support for Global Employee Health & Fitness Month and allowing de-stress breaks during work. The collective goal is to make Florida the healthiest weight state in America and ‘bend the weight curve by 5% by 2017.’
However employers decide to approach the issue of obesity it is clear that doing nothing is not an option. For the sake of the nation’s future health and economic prosperity this is a battle everyone needs to weigh in on.
The event in Boston was both tragic and traumatic, and, like everyone we know, our eyes were focused there. So we almost missed it when The Hay Group released the news about its latest work-life research. They completed their survey last year and compared it to the 2011 poll.
Fortunately, we caught it – because this research may be the most critical of the year for those interested in improving business results, and we wanted to make sure you didn’t miss it.
Here are a few of the headlines:
Those two go together, and neither is a big surprise. For the past three years, many companies, under severe economic pressure, have ignored their commitment to their employees and done whatever they needed to in order to stay alive, even if it meant too much work for too few people. Understandable. But now it’s time to stop and take a look at how people really feel about working for you. How do you want them to feel?
More employees from companies with good work-life programs believe their employers can attract talent more easily (71% compared to 45% of employees in companies with “laggard” work-life programs).
These two also go together, and demonstrate clearly what an amazing difference good work-life programs can make. Will you be hiring in the coming year? Do you need top talent? How are you planning to attract those who happen to have a life?
Of all the results, one might argue that this is the most critical for anyone who cares about the bottom line. The release points out that if an organization has 10,000 employees, reducing turnover by just 10% over two years would result in savings of $17.5 million, assuming an average salary of $35,000 and an average replacement cost of 50% of salary. Fifty percent sound too high for replacement cost? Of course it depends on the position, but the American Management Association estimates the cost of hiring and training a new employee might actually be as high as 200% of annual compensation. Costs include customer service disruption, emotional costs, loss of morale, burnout/absenteeism among remaining employees, loss of experience, continuity, and “corporate memory.”
And in case you’re wondering if The Hay Group polls enough people to make a difference, a paragraph at the end of the release says their data is comprised of responses from more than 5 million employees working in more than 400 organizations worldwide.
Says principal Mark Royal, “Organizations across the globe continue to ask their employees to ‘do more with less’, leading to increasing dissatisfaction with work-life balance. Employees are working longer hours with more erratic schedules than ever before.” And he adds, “To address work-life balance issues and lessen the workloads of top employees, organizations need to develop fundamental solutions.”
Amen to that!
And last week, the Web was filled with articles about the other side of the story. Best Buy and Yahoo! are taking power away from employees, the power to choose the way they want to work.
The two stories illustrate perfectly a dichotomy in the workplace today. Ms. Sandberg says take the power into your own hands, and Best Buy and Yahoo! remind us that even if you do, it can be easy to lose it.
It’s true that in some companies it’s not only possible but encouraged for employees – women as well as men – to take the lead in making their jobs more important and their lives more livable. But there also are companies that seem to be managed as though it’s 1975, and employees who seem helpless to effect change.
How do we get the power, for instance, to choose workplace flexibility?
It takes the kind of initiative that Sheryl Sandberg is calling for. It must be done with the energy one saves for a new and exciting project, by demonstrating that flexibility brings results. Instead of begging for it to better manage our lives, we must be ready to show – and keep showing – that it works to accomplish the company’s goals.
It is possible that at Best Buy, after 10 years, people were taking ROWE for granted, leaving out the “results” piece of Results-Oriented Work Environment. A strong focus on setting goals and measuring, producing and comparing results means there will be no reason for ending it unless goals consistently fail to be met.
If you haven’t changed to a goal-based approach to management, you may never be able to justify flexibility. And if you once implemented it but have recently relaxed or slacked off or given up regular checking, you may be missing the evidence that you’ll need in order to do so.
If you’re a manager, giving new life to your staff may mean reinvigorating the process of setting regular, measurable goals for all workers and tracking results on a regular basis. That means asking the right questions of the right individuals – workers on flex schedules or teleworking, support staff and coworkers. How could we make it easier to accomplish your goals? Is your current arrangement working for you? Is it helping you to do your best work? If not, what could be improved? How might we work together to improve our results?
If you’re an employee on a flex schedule or teleworking, it may be up to you to re-energize the process. Use the recent publicity to create an opening for the conversation. Suggest an exciting new project to your manager, one that ensures meeting the company’s goals. Request a meeting to make sure you’re in agreement about those goals and re-set them if appropriate – making sure they include an observable behavior or product, measurable criterion and a due date or deadline. And remind your manager about how technology is helping flexibility pay off for the company, making you available whenever you’re needed.
Research shows that organizations with more flexibility have lower voluntary turnover and more satisfied, engaged, motivated and productive employees. Now is the perfect time to take power into your own hands and prove it works for your organization.
The payoff for you may be somewhere in the future – a raise or a promotion – or it may simply mean having the evidence that will allow you to keep the arrangement you love.]]>
The application is out for both “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” and “NAFE’s Top Companies for Executive Women.” (No, I don’t have a problem with subject/verb agreement—it’s the same application, with just a few extras you need to complete in order to apply for both.)
As always, the application is more than 60 pages long, and includes a 2,500 word essay for each of the awards. So although it’s not due until March 9, it’s never too early to start planning your attack:
1. If you haven’t already gotten a copy of the application, go to http://wmmsurveys.com/100BestReg.html to read the rules and download it now.
2. Start assembling your team:
3. Once you have a team in place, waste no time in getting everyone a copy of the application and planning a first meeting to run through it together. There are bound to be some stumpers among the questions and you’ll want to give yourselves plenty of time to figure out how to address them.
Three Keys to a Better Submission
1. If you’ve applied before, chances are you’ll start your process by filling in the application with last year’s answers. (You can’t do this for usage and demographic data, of course, but lots of questions just cover what your company has to offer.) While this makes absolute sense as a starting point, don’t let it lull you into complacency. There are two possible truths about last year’s answers:
If last year’s answers failed to get you on the list, you’ll want to review them all to ensure they were accurate in every possible way. Does nobody, across the whole company, offer the program or policy being asked about? Does that program you call, say, “Career Steps” include a mentoring component you forgot about? Of course you need to be truthful in your submission, but you also need to consider each question carefully, with the goal of getting to “yes.”
If last year’s answers got you on the list, see above. You can’t assume what was good enough last year will be good enough again. The bar is ever higher as companies add programs and innovate on existing ones. (Think about it: when the Working Mother list was first published, corporate elder care programs didn’t even exist.) I’ve seen companies fall off the list, despite submitting pretty much the same answers as they did the year before.
2. Whether or not you’ve applied before, don’t forget the little programs. Some companies are run as tightly as the army, with everything flowing from Central Command. Employees at these companies have access to the same programs and policies even if they work remotely from an island off Alaska. (If you’re with one of these companies—good for you—you can answer “100%” to every question about employee access!) Other companies have different policies on telecommuting, depending on whether you’re in accounting on the 7th floor or IT on the 3rd.
Make sure you know what all your work-sites and business units are doing. There may be some wonderfully innovative stuff going on in a particular area and nowhere else. It’s not cheating to include these programs, as long as you make it clear that they’re local. (Since Working Mother nearly always asks about access, you don’t generally have to go out of your way to make this point.)
3. Gather data even if it isn’t asked for. The folks at Working Mother love data. If you’ve got some good stats about your programs and policies—especially if usage has been on the rise—you’ll want to be sure to include that in your essays. So as you turn your team loose to start sleuthing for answers, make sure they know to follow up on every clue.
Sound like a lot of work? It is. But getting on one or both of these lists is a rich reward. If you’d like some help with this process, from consultation to roll-up-my-sleeves information gathering and writing, just let me know. And check back for upcoming blogs with more tips.
You may have noticed that our new Website has a little different focus—we call it organizational wellness. Why? Because we think those two words are now key to workplace success.
What do they really mean?
Here’s how researcher and consultant Dr. Joel Bennett explains the term: “Traditionally, a lot of energy goes into treating individual employees, while neglecting the health of the organization as a whole. We do a good job of treating an individual, and then we send him or her right back to a ‘sick workplace’… a place with low morale, negative supervision, or poor safety, for example. Instead of treating just the trees … organizational wellness looks at treating the entire forest.”
We agree. While traditional health and wellness looks at caring for the health of individuals, organizational wellness looks at creating a different kind of health – a healthy and successful workplace – one where employees are engaged, satisfied, productive and effective. If you happen to be a manager who wants that for your organization, we’re suggesting you concentrate your efforts on six components. Here they are, along with a few suggestions for using each to make positive changes.
1. Stress reduction and resilience
Hold a series of focus groups or small group lunch ‘n’ learns with your staff on the subject of stress and resilience, asking these questions for starters: How high is your stress level? How is your work contributing to your stress level? What can we do as an organization or as a business unit to help you alleviate stress?
Look at relationships, work demands, career and development, control, management practices and individual characteristics.
Take a closer look at your own qualities as a manager. Rate yourself on a scale of 10, with 10 being the highest, in each of the following areas: trust; expressions of appreciation; rewards; interest in employees as human beings; career opportunities; and development and training.
Examine workloads. Do you feel pressured to demand more work from your staff than you know is reasonable? Meet with your staff in teams to discuss how the work might be redesigned and duplicative tasks eliminated in order to lighten the workload.
Offer our stress-reduction training, “From Stress to Resilience.”
2. Work-life integration
Ask your staff how they would rate your organization in the area of work-life balance. Ask for five suggestions for improvement and implement as many of them as you have the power to do.
Check to make sure your organization offers resources for the care of ill dependents. Ask your staff if they’re aware of other programs offered by other employers that your organization might offer.
When major tasks are assigned, check to make sure the scheduling works for the employee. Ask if any personal issues are likely to present a conflict, and if so, be willing to work creatively to resolve the conflict.
Let your staff know that you’re aware that they are human beings, with full lives outside of work and important personal responsibilities to handle. Begin to notice how you approach situations that involve conflicts between work and personal life. Resolve to give employees’ personal responsibilities more respect.
3. Supportive management
Begin to ask employees for input and feedback before making decisions that would affect their work.
Bring up the topic of respect in a staff meeting and tell your employees of your intention that people, including you, will treat each other with respect. Discuss what that would look like. Ask your staff to assess whether you have shown respect for their ability to handle personal responsibilities, and put their feedback to work in your management style.
Give positive feedback often. Acknowledge at least two employees daily for jobs well-done. Express confidence in your staff’s abilities, both generally and specifically.
Encourage independence. Help employees learn from their mistakes, encourage them to make decisions on their own.
Clarify goals, make sure they have the necessary training and expertise, be available to answer questions, and let them do the work themselves from start to finish.
4. Flexibility and telework
Make sure all your employees are aware of and understand all the flexible work arrangements that are available in your organization. If flexible work arrangements are new to your staff, create at least two pilot projects to test how goals might be accomplished working flexibly.
Begin to manage as though flexible work arrangements are business strategies that can help you meet your organization’s goals. Let your staff know that you are now open to proposals for flexible or remote work arrangements.
Set clear, measurable goals that will make it possible for staff members to work flexible or remote work arrangements.
Take your eye off the clock and put it on results, and request that your employees do the same.
5. Organizational values alignment
Determine whether areas like work-life, wellness and flexible work arrangements are represented in your organization’s core values. If not, create your own set of core values in which they are represented and let your staff know these are your core values.
Ask your staff to list what’s most important to them and then help you link their lists to the organization’s values.
List the behaviors you feel are most critical to supporting your organization’s core values. Present the list to your staff, asking them to assess how well they exemplify these behaviors. Ask them for a commitment to improve in areas they agree need strengthening.
Examine your performance appraisal system and make sure it’s aligned with your organization’s core values.
6. Results-focused performance management
Make a commitment to managing by results. Create a pilot project if the concept is new to you. Work with each employee to make sure he/she is clear about the results they’re intended to produce, and how they (and you) will know success when you see it. Be sure they have the tools and training needed to do their job well and the autonomy to make their own decisions.
Meet with each employee involved, and together, determine the desired results and the most appropriate way to measure them, considering coworker surveys, customer surveys, other external sources or internal systems that track transactions.
Determine with each employee the kind of support they may need to be successful and how often meetings and communication should take place. Keep an ongoing work plan that will allow employees to see where they stand relative to expectations.
Make sure there’s a payoff for employees who meet their goals and fulfill expectations.
That’s it. From time to time we’ll use this blog to make other suggestions. And if you have any that have worked for you that you’d be willing to share, email me at Susan@wfcresources.com –