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September 2010 Archives

We know the importance of role models in the lives of children. What about for your employees? How important is it that the executive leadership in your organization engage in the healthy behaviors you are trying to promote?

Implementing a company wellness program, when successful, can result in tangible benefits to the organization including up to 27% reduction in sick days and 26% decrease in health-care premiums. Whether it's a smoking cessation program, an on-site gym, wellness newsletters or any of the creative options now being developed, a wellness program makes good sense for you and for your employees.

However, a recently released research brief gives critical insight into how to avoid wasting precious resources and to significantly raise the probability of a program's success. Researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change, conducting the study for the National Institute for Health Care Reform, concluded that these programs can't simply be "one size fits all" for organizations. And as with any company strategy or objective, successful wellness programs must have key senior leadership involvement or they may fail.

Last month, in the instant polling on our website we asked the question: "Does your CEO participate in your organization's wellness programs?" While this was not a scientific study, the results are interesting in light of the above recommendation.

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It appears that the majority of our respondents (about 60 percent) are not seeing that their organization's wellness program is integral in their CEO's life. Though the reality of participation may differ, clearly an important factor in this is that the executive as its champion must be communicating effectively. If the employees are unaware of or do not believe that the CEO is personally dedicated to a healthier lifestyle and is involved, the opportunity to lead is lost.

Some insightful leaders have been ahead of the curve in understanding the need to personally invest in their program as a role model. John Sall, co-founder and Executive Vice President of SAS, is a regular at the company pool and fitness center. Add to this his annual "Spin for Life" challenge to employees that raises money for the American Cancer Society and creates awareness and support for corporate fitness.

Marc LeBaron, CEO of Lincoln Industries, is another executive who communicates his support for wellness by challenging employees. In this case, those who participate in 75 percent of their wellness programs are invited to a group experience which includes a climb of a 14,000 foot Colorado mountain.

Granted, these executives are exemplary. Your CEO can simply be a participant and communicate that within the organization. Engagement in the development of the program is also key.

To fully realize the value of your wellness program, blend the best of the available ideas and practices which fit your organization in collaboration with a senior executive who can inspire.

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A coworker came back from vacation the other day and was almost unrecognizable. He appeared relaxed, calm and healthy. He had spent the week with his family in the mountains fishing, hiking, reading and spending time together. They had no phone, TV, computers or video games.

Unfortunately, they had some unexpected cold rainy weather and the roof leaked making all their clothes wet. Fishing was a challenge as they couldn’t start the boat’s motor and had to row to get about the lake. Even cooking was a chore as the gas range broke and they had to use an old wooden stove.

To me, it sounded like a series of problems, but it didn’t matter to my friend. He was clearly refreshed and took on his tasks at work with new enthusiasm. In fact, he made significant progress on some old projects he had been bogged down in for quite some time.

If you’ve ever had this experience, you probably understand. There is something about getting away from everyday routines that refreshes us and gives us the ability to tackle problems with new energy - even when the getaway doesn’t go as planned. It isn’t so much what kind of vacation we go on, just so long as it is different from our normal activities. Novel experiences change us. They help our brain grow and learn new paradigms that can be applied in other situations.

However, gaining vacation benefits is getting harder to do. Not only does research show Americans taking fewer vacations, but technology allows us to be connected almost all the time. Colleagues can contact us anywhere, anytime. Without a real chance to get away and have new experiences, we tend to keep using the same models and getting the same results. After a vacation, we come back different and often have a fresh perspective on our old life and can tackle old problems more successfully.

When is your next vacation and where are you going? If you’re one of the millions of Americans who think they can’t afford to take a time out, think again - you may not be able to afford not to. Vacations are good for us and make a world of difference at home and work. Go ahead, take off and have some fun.

Photo Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/thegaffneys / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0