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Posts Tagged ‘Workplace Wellness’

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Most people in the United States Spend 40+ hours at work. And work today typically consists of sitting long hours at a desk in front of  a computer, bent over in forward flexion, necks and shoulders straining to hold the weight of the body up. We’ve traded our active work life (toiling in the fields or doing manual labor) for a sedentary workstyle–which means our bodies don’t get much exercise while we work.  It’s no surprise that obesity and “lifestyle” related diseases are on the rise. Yet what can employers do to combat this trend when the very nature of work is to have employees crank out electronic “work” via computer? Many workplaces are getting creative because they need to get the word done, but realize the costs of not providing movement and nutrition sport for their staff.

Read more to learn how workplaces can integrate and have integrated wellness programs and incentives into the workday:

• Wellness Programs Get Creative from the Wall Street Journal

• Worksite Wellness Program Uses Financial Incentives and Creative Programming to Reduce Absenteeism and Its Related Costs from the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website.

• Health Reform Prompts Employers to get Creative with Wellness from Corporate Wellness Magazine

• Wellness Programs Get Creative from Forbes

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Gentle exercise from EverydayHealth.com

The American Heart Association’s Start! initiative calls on all Americans and their employers to create a culture of physical activity and health to live longer, heart-healthy lives through walking. It offers resources for employers to implement a walking program in the workplace and track employees’ progress in the program. One of Start’s key components, National Start! Walking Day aims to get Americans up and moving for 30 minutes on April 8, 2009. National Start! Walking Day will take place during National Workplace Wellness Week.

Why walk?

There are countless physical activities out there, but walking has the lowest dropout rate of them all! It’s the simplest positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health. Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

There really are so many benefits for such a simple activity!

How To Begin a Walking Program

The AHA offers these steps to begin a walking regimen:
Step 1: Remember that your safety is the most important thing! If you’re a male over 40 or a female over 50, you may want to work with your doctor to set up your exercise program.
Step 2: Get familiar with the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity:

  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activities, 5 days a week
  • Remember that physical activity can be accumulated throughout the day. Three 10-minute sessions is the same as one 30-minute session!
  • If you’re looking to lose weigh or maintain your current weight, aim for 60-90 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day

Step 3: Always measure the intensity of your exercise to know if you’re pushing yourself too hard or not hard enough. An easy way to do this is by taking the talk test:

  • You should be able to sing while working out at a light intensity level
  • If you’re exercising at a moderate intensity level, you should be able to carry on a conversation comfortably
  • If you become too winded or out of breath to carry on a conversation, the activity can be considered vigorous

You can also download this chart from the American College of Sports Medicine and Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which lists physical activities by their level of intensity. Happy trails!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Worksite Wellness Programs Increases Productivity and Employee Retention

This coming week is National Workplace Wellness Week!  And no, it’s not just another Hallmark Holiday,  it’s a government resolution to promote workplace wellness.

History of Workplace Wellness Week

In 2008, the the U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal resolution creating National Workplace Wellness Week. The resolution, which was endorsed by the American Heart Association (AHA), Chamber of Commerce, Partnership for Prevention and many other groups, designated the first full week of April as “National Workplace Wellness Week.” During this week, private and public employers across the country are encouraged to invest in the health of their employees by creating worksite employee health promotion programs, or by sharing their worksite wellness experiences with other employers.

Workplace Wellness Statistics

The American Heart Association offers a handy fact sheet with some alarming statistics on workplace wellness:

· Health care costs in the United States doubled from 1990 to 2001 and are expected to double again by 2012

· Chronic illnesses affect more than a third of working-age Americans and the costs associated with chronic diseases account for approximately 75 percent of the nation’s annual health care costs

· Over 130 million Americans are employed across the United States and since a significant part of their day is spent at work, comprehensive, culturally sensitive health promotion within the workplace is essential to maintain and improve the nation’s health

· Nearly 60 percent of employers’ after-tax profits are spent on corporate health benefits. An estimated 25-30 percent of companies’ medical costs per year are spent on employees with excess health risk. That contrasts to three decades ago when only seven percent of corporate profits paid for health costs

· Addressing risk factors early can make a difference. For example, $5.6 billion in heart disease costs could be saved if one-tenth of Americans began a regular walking program

· Employer spending on health promotion and chronic disease prevention is a good business investment. Programs have achieved a rate of return on investment ranging from $3 to $15 for each dollar invested with savings realized between 12 and 18 months

National Workplace Wellness Week starts on April 5th and offers a new approach to some old stubborn problems that employers and employees face related to costs, health, productivity and morale, to mention a few. This information can help any company and can help them to take action to conquer their own health and wellness issues.

Get Well With Working Well Massage

One way to help employees reduce stress, increase productivity and computational skills and reduce muscle tension is to bring in Licensed Massage Therapists from Working Well Massage to give staff members a short chair massage.  Massage is an easy, cost effective way for employers to kick off or inject new energy into a workplace wellness initiative.

If your company already has a workplace massage program, tell us what you like about it! How has it benefited you?

if your company does not provide employees with massages, ask your Human Resources Department to look into it. You, and your fellow staff members, will be glad you did! For information on setting up a workplace wellness program including massage therapy, go to our website.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Once again, Life-Sized Business has a great post I want to share about creating a workplace wellness program. If you are an employee that has a wellness program at work, ask yourself if your HR staff or management has followed the advice from this post.  you are an HR staff person or manager, read on for Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin’s advice on what makes a workplace wellness program more effective. And remember, wellness programs are only as effective if the employees make good use of them!

5 Tips: How to Increase Employee Engagement with Workplace Wellness Programs

The key to a successful workplace wellness program is employee engagement. The reverse is also true. That is, one way to increase employee engagement is a successful wellness program.

Yesterday we were in a client’s break room, waiting for a meeting room to open up , and I noticed several flyers on the bulletin board about various wellness offerings. I was surprised by my initial reaction, which was, “Who would sign up for those?”

Why did they strike me as loser offerings? Because they seemed preachy and goody-goody and completely devoid of anything fun. One sounded like the school nurse was going to take you through a lecture on the five food groups. I’m not suggesting that wellness should be a barrel of laughs, but a good program creates energy and involvement. The more employees you can get to participate, the stronger your program will be.

An effective wellness program will do more than just increase productivity because people feel better and have more energy. It also gives co-workers a chance to do something together that’s unrelated to their usual work roles. It equals the playing field, so to speak, in a way that lets junior employees spend some time on an equal footing with those who rank above them in the company hierarchy. It will also build relationships between people in different departments, which helps smooth the way to better teamwork and increased collaboration.

So how do you create a wellness program with plenty of employee engagement? Here are five tips:

1. Ask the employees what they want. Particularly in a small company, you can solicit input from the group. You can do a survey, if you want, but it might be easier just to ask people about their wellness concerns. Are they looking for ways to find time for exercise? Do they really wish they could quit smoking? Are they trying to eat healthier?

2. Get their help in constructing the program. Give some influential employees ownership of developing the program. If the group wants a yoga class at lunch, let an employee track down a good yoga instructor willing to do a class in the conference room. If they’re interested in a buddy-system diet, let an employee research South Beach vs. The Zone vs. WeightWatchers.

3. Make sure management joins in. The top level people in the company need to suit up and show up. If you give the impression that the boss is too busy for exercise, for example, employees might interpret the fitness program as something meant only for those who aren’t as serious about their work. Besides making it clear that you’re committed to wellness, it adds extra motivation for participation, at least by those employees who want more chances to rub shoulders with the boss.

4. Add an element of competition. Put together a contest with some level of cash prize, or a free day off, or something employees will see as worth their while. Look for a way to compete that doesn’t automatically give an advantage to the fittest among the group. For instance, instead of a contest to see who can bench press the most weight, compete on who can complete three workouts a week for the most weeks.

5. Create a collaborative goal. If your group tends to get a little too competitive, choose a goal they work towards together. Maybe after the employees collectively walk or run 10,000 miles, the company donates $1,000 to a worthy cause. Or let the collaborative goal benefit the employees more directly. After they lose so many pounds as a group, you’ll hire a massage therapist to give chair massages on Friday afternoon.

Read the Entire blog post at Life-Sized Business blog here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

From time to time I come across a blog that is well written, has great info and coves areas of wellness that pertain to my readers. Recently I came across the blog, Life-Sized Business written by Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin.  I liked one of her posts so much I want to share it with you (with her permission and proper credit to her blog of course!) Enjoy!

Small Business Strategies: Starting a workplace wellness program might be easier than you think

By Elizabeth Baskin

What can you do in the new year to improve employee morale and productivity without spending a ton of money?
Easy answer: start some level of wellness program in your office. If you’ve ever considered doing something like that, this might be the perfect time.

Wellness programs allow you to give employees something they find meaningful without handing out big pay raises.
Many small companies froze salary increases last year. In others, employees watched people in their company lose their jobs, and were understandably meek about pushing for their own salary reviews. But don’t think that means they’re not thinking about what they give the company for what they get. A workplace wellness program can be a very good way to let employees know you value their contributions.

Of course, it’s also the beginning of a new year.
The perfect time for fresh starts, healthy new habits and lifestyle improvements. Your employees are probably already thinking about what they can do in 2010 to be healthier. A wellness program can help support them in their individual goals. It’s also a powerful way to bring new energy into the workplace.

How do you do it?
You don’t have to build a company gym or pay for an on-site spa chef (although you could). Think in terms of providing flexibility (time) or resources (access). You can pick one element of wellness, like fitness or stress management or healthy eating and focus your program around that area. Or you can put together a small smorgasbord of wellness offerings. Here are a few examples:

• Allow employees extra time for lunch two or three days a week so they can fit in a walk or a run.
At Tribe, we tell employees they can put up to three hours a week on their time sheets for exercise during the workday. We’ve found that whenever someone manages to fit in a workout or  yoga class during the day, they’re likely to come back to the office with a good idea or solution for something they’re working on. If nothing else, their energy level is higher that when they left.

• Use one of those empty offices for a meditation room.
Move the desk out and put a small couch or a comfortable armchair in there instead. Or just put out a few yoga mats or some big floor pillows.  Add a few meditation CDs and a CD player, and you’re good to go. If employees feel comfortable spending 20 minutes meditating in the middle of the day, alone or with a coworker, that can go a long way towards reducing stress levels.

• Put a bowl of fresh fruit in the break room, and stock it weekly.
When employees hit that pre-lunch or mid-afternoon slump, being able to skip the vending machine and grab an apple or banana instead can be a highly appreciated perk. Supporting wellness in the office can actually come down to some very simple (and inexpensive) changes.

The biggest thing employees are looking for in a wellness program is a way for the workplace to support them in living a good life.
As a business owner, you do that by providing meaningful work and fair compensation. But lately, many companies have been asking employees to work harder without the hope of a big, fat salary increase. Especially in this economic environment, one of the best things you can do for your employees is to provide the flexibility and resources for them to take care of their own health.

Read Elizabeth’s Live Sized Business blog here.

Workplace Massage
Of course, an easy and cost-effective way to show your staff you care about their health and well being AND give your company a productivity boast, is to offer workplace massage. Working Well Massage provides massage to corporate clients in and around the Chicago area. Contact us today for a customer proposal for your workplace.

Who is Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin and Why Should We Listen to Her?

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin is the CEO and Creative Director of Tribe, Inc., a branding company working with national and global clients like UPS, Chick-fil-A and Coca-Cola Enterprises.

She also developed the Starter Cards deck titled “Start Your Own Company,” which takes the gigantic task of launching a business and breaks it down into 52 manageable steps, one step per card. (You can read a recent news story on the cards here.)

She is the author of “Hell Yes! Two Little Words for a Simpler, Happier, Life,” and of a book on women entrepreneurs titled “How to Run Your Business Like a Girl: Successful Strategies from Entrepreneurial Women Who Made It Happen.”

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

I like to think of myself as not only a good massage therapist but also a good judge of massage therapists. I’ve had thousands of massages and given thousands of massages. As the owner of a wellness company, I interview many massage therapists and receive regular massage myself. Often, when clients travel or move out of town, they ask me how to find a good massage therapist.

It’s a question very similar to “how do I find a good dentist or a good doctor”. Since massage is a personal service, my first impulse is to say, ask your friends and coworkers who they go to and start there. But then, we’ve all had referrals to service people that our friends liked that were not a good fit for us. (One person may like a deep massage and you may like a lighter touch or vice versa. One person’s fantastic hair stylist may be great for that person but be unable to cut your style of hair well.)

Before you search out massage therapists, take a minute to think about what you want from a massage experience. Then when you call different therapists or massage centers, ask questions to make sure you get the massage therapist that best fits your needs.

Good questions to consider:

1. Are you going for stress relief or pain relief or both? Swedish massage or “relaxation massage” tends to be best for stress relief. Deep tissue or therapeutic massage tends to be best for pain relief. If you have a specific injury or chronic pain pattern, you will want a massage therapist with skill in relieving muscle pain, not just in relaxation therapy.

2. What’s your budget for massage?
Can you afford a weekly full hour (prices ranging from $65 to $120) or only mini-sessions (like the 15-20 minute $1 per minute chair massages offered at Whole Foods and similar places). If you have a chronic neck and shoulder pain, it’s often more cost effective to get weekly 20-minute massages than a one hour once a month.

3. Do you want someone you can go to regularly or just on a pamper yourself basis?
Spas tend to charge the most for massages and tend to be the place people go for pampering. However, some independent massage therapists may be able to offer you better prices and a really personalized pampering experience. Spas charge the most but they will give you the whole pamper yourself experience. However, if you want a regular massage your best bet is to find a good practitioner that is reasonably priced. If you can’t afford an hour regularly, try chair massage for 15-20 minutes if you want more frequent upper body massages.

4. How much do you care about the quality of the massage?
If you just want someone to pamper you and rub oil on your back while you relax and snooze away your stress, you don’t need someone with extensive experience or medical massage training. If you want someone to help you recover from an injury or deal with a chronic tension issue, you will likely want someone with a good deal of experience and skill working with similar conditions. Make sure you massage therapist meets minimal licensing and certifications standards if you want more than just relaxation massage!

5. Do you want the whole massage enchilada: the robe, slippers, the soothing music and spa environment? Or do you care more about the environment or more about the actual massage?

For the slippers and robe, go to a spa like Urban Oasis or Exhale in Chicago. For a great therapeutic massage, it’s more important to find a good practitioner. Use the locator services below and then speak with the therapist about his or her skill before you commit to the appointment.

Massage Locator Services
My top sources for great massage therapists are massage locator services (versus Google or any other search engine). Massage therapists that register with these services must meet minimum standards of training, normally 500 hours or more and have graduated from an accredited massage school.

One of the best is the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals massage practioner site here.

Massage Today also has a great service as well here.

Insider Pages is a review site that provides user comments about massage and spa services.

How Do I know if My Massage Therapist is Qualified?
In the State of Illinois, Licensed Massage Therapists are required by law to have at least 500 hours of training and graduate from an approved school. You can look up your therapists to see if he or she is licensed at this site. This site will also display a Y or N to indicate whether the massage therapist has ever undergone disciplinary action by the state of Illinois’s Department of Financial and Processional Regulation.

Other states vary in requirements. Some states do not require a license at all and allow municipalities to regulate massage. For example, in California, there is no state license. Hours of training required vary depending on the city. So some therapists in Northern California only have 100 hour of actual massage training! The Truth About California Massage Licensing here. However, at the other end of the spectrum is New York State, which requires 1000 hours of training. New York Licensing Requirements here

Still Unsure, Try a Sample Massage
Lastly, if you want to try a sample massage, your best bet is to try a chair massage at Whole Foods Gold Coast or Lincoln Park in Chicago. Or at a local health food store or mall. You can get a few minutes of massage, determine if the therapists fits your needs, then ask for his or her business card to set up a longer massage!

If you have questions about Chicago area massage therapists, feel free to contact Working Well Massage here!

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

I have had to eat a “healthy” diet for most of my adult life. As a young girl, I ate as much junk food as my peers and my body rebelled. By 20, I could not eat any white or processed sugar because I was hypoglycemic. I developed migrane headaches from chocolate (a former childhood love) and fermented foods like sharp cheeses and wines. White bread made me sick, so I had to switch to whole grain bread even before it was marketed as whole grain bread. Through the years my body let me know, anything overly processed, overly sugared, overly salted, or overly fat was going to give me stabbing pain in my head, my abdomen, or just plain make me sick and exhausted. I am the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to food. But in many ways I am a lucky person. I haven’t been able to eat the typical American diet and I don’t have a lot of the typical American diseases. (such as obesity, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes)

I don’t tell you this to get accolades or say I am so great. No, my healthy diet was mainly by default in the beginning. I liked the junk food. I just couldn’t handle it. Later, as I read more and learned more, I ate healthy by design. Having grown up on Rice Krispy Treats, all things Nestle, Rice a Roni, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Skippy Peanut Butter, McDonald’s and Wonder Bread, I know what it’s like to try to wean off the processed foods and try to eat vegetables, fresh fruit, healthy grains, like brown rice, and be satisfied. In my case, I had a crash course in changing my diet. Still, it took a while to adjust to new tastes and learn how to be satisfied with less added sugar. But I can tell you IT CAN BE DONE! and your health and well being is worth it.

But How do you Know What’s Junk Food and What’s Healthy Food?
According to Margie King of the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner, the NuVal nutritional scoring system may be the ticket to simpler healthy eating. The NuVal system will analyze more than 50,000 food items found in a typical grocery store and assign a value of 1 to 100 to each item. The higher the score, the more nutritious is the food.

The system is the brainchild of Dr. David Katz, an Associate Professor at the Yale University School of Public Health, and the Director and founder of Yale’s Prevention Research Center. Dr. Katz is an expert in nutrition and preventative medicine, the author of several books including The Flavor Point Diet, a syndicated health columnist for The New York Times and a medical contributor for ABC News.
Read more from Margie King of the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner here

Dr. Katz says our taste buds are malleable and we are teaching them to crave salt and sugar. Eating added sugar in non-dessert items in everything from pasta sauce to breakfast cereal causes our taste buds to crave sugar much more than we normally would. In the video, he talks about how there is as much sodium in many breakfast cereals than your diet should be. It’s well worth the 4 minutes to watch Dr. Katz talk about how our diets are modified by the food supply and how we can retrain our taste buds to enjoy healthier less salty and less sugary foods.

Link to Dr. Katz’s video “Rehab Your Taste Buds: Getting Hooked on Wholesome Foods”

As American’s look to health care reform, there is a growing buzz about food system reform as well. Some say health care reform won’t work without reforming our nutritional system. The Nu Val system is one attempt to give us tools to reform our diets so we don’t NEED as much health care intervention. It’s Prevention versus Disease Treatment. And that sounds pretty sweet! Read Why Health Care Reform Requires Nutrition Reform by Margie King in the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner

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