Tag Archives: human resources

HR Focus: Office Gardening

As this blog discusses frequently, access to fresh and healthy foods can boost workplace morale and productivity. USConnect’s fresh vending and Bistro To Go!™ micro markets provide team members with many fresh and healthy options. But what if you could provide even fresher options, like tomatoes that people can eat right off the vine or salads made from fresh-picked lettuces?

Workplace gardening is a growing trend, especially among businesses that prioritize employee wellness. Gardens can feature an array of plants—like colorful flowers, whispering grasses, and sweet-smelling lavender—that soothe the senses of all who visit it. Of course, many workplace gardens focus primarily on team members’ taste buds, growing such produce as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, and herbs. Employees can enjoy fresh-off-the-vine produce and revel in the simple sweetness of just-picked flavors.

Apart from the benefit of the fresh-grown produce, the act of working together on a gardening project provides the kind of teamwork and camaraderie for a fraction of the cost of expensive off-site, team-building retreats. Gardening provides natural shared tasks and rewards, especially after a few weeks when team members can start seeing tangible results of their hard work.

Further, the very act of working outside can have significant benefits for health and productivity.  According to Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School, spending time outside has five distinct positive effects:

  • Increased vitamin D levels
  • Increased activity levels
  • Elevated sense of happiness and well-being
  • Improved concentration
  • Faster healing

A workplace garden can be as simple as a raised bed next to the parking lot or as grand as an acre of off-site farmland. In urban areas, “green roofs” provide the extra benefit of helping to offset global climate change. Employee interest and satisfaction in workplace gardens tends to be very high. Why not start one today?

Diversity in the Workplace: Observing Lent

February 14 in 2018 was not only Valentine’s Day, but it was also Ash Wednesday, the day in the Christian tradition that signals the beginning of Lent. Representing the 40 days that Jesus wandered in the wilderness, Lent is the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday that is a time of reflection, prayer, and sacrifice: sacrifice that many Christians observe by eliminating meat for the duration of Lent, especially on Fridays.

Observing Lent

From a food-service perspective, it’s important to provide a greater variety of non-meat options during Lent. In particular, many observant Christians eat significantly more fish during Lent than any other time in the year. According to Gordon Food Service:

  • 26 percent of consumers say they observe Lent.
  • 20 percent of adults say they eat more seafood during Lent.
  • 41 percent say they eat fish instead of meat on Fridays.
  • Seafood sales can surge more than 20 percent during Lent.
  • On Fridays, seafood sales can surge up to 50 percent (as compared to non-Lent Fridays).

Lent is actually responsible for one of McDonald’s most iconic menu items: the Filet-O-Fish sandwich. The Filet-O-Fish was the 1962 brainchild of an early McDonald’s franchisee, Lou Groen, in Cincinnati who saw sales plummet during Lent in an area that was 87 percent Catholic at the time. Despite McDonald’s founder Roy Kroc’s misgivings, Groen introduced the Filet-O-Fish on Good Friday, and it was an instant hit. The Filet-O-Fish remains a Lent menu special to this day, with many people dubbing this the “Filet-O-Fish season.”

To increase your Lenten offerings, fried fish and shrimp are always popular choices. However, since many people are also seeking a more healthful diet, it’s a good idea to offer some baked, steamed, and grilled options as well. Services like USConnect’s fresh food vending or Bistro To Go!™ micro markets offer choices like tuna sandwiches or wraps, smoked salmon, or shrimp salad. Options like these can help people stay healthy and observe Lent at the same time.

HR Focus: Virtual Fitness

What is the participation rate for your wellness program? Unless your company is one of the rare ones with over 65 percent involvement, technology may help to engage more employees. Specifically, virtual fitness training may provide the convenience and cost-effectiveness that has been missing until now.

The Convenience of Virtual Fitness

Fitness training is one of the many activities that has changed with the advent of the internet. Whereas meeting with a trainer once necessitated physically going to a gym or fitness studio, the internet has enabled real-time audio and video communication between trainers and clients. Virtual trainers work remotely with their clients, creating customized workouts and providing encouragement and guidance.

The benefits of virtual training are significant:

  • Customized workouts to meet clients’ fitness goals
  • Costs that are drastically reduced from those of in-person fitness training
  • Increased flexibility for clients who can work out at their own pace and in the time and place of their choosing

These benefits are especially important in the realm of wellness programs, where they can increase participation and decrease costs to the company. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that lack of awareness and inconvenience were the two most commonly stated reasons why employees do not participate in available wellness programs, with lack of employer support also playing a strong role. Survey respondents also cited a desire for programs to be personalized to them, not one-size-fits-all.

In many ways, virtual training seems like a panacea for many problems of wellness program participation. However, more HR professionals know that there’s no such thing as a magic bullet. Virtual training programs are only as good as their trainers, and like in the real world, not all trainers are equally qualified. This makes online training especially risky, since meeting virtually could make it easier for trainers to fake their credentials. Also, fitness training might sometimes require in-person communication for trainers to help clients improve their form on certain exercises where poor form might cause injuries. This is especially true for beginners, who are likely to need more in-person support.

If your wellness program numbers need a boost, investigate whether virtual trainers may help your employees take control and improve their health.

 

 

 

HR Focus: August Is National Water Quality Month

As summer’s hottest month heats up, the country celebrates National Water Quality Month. This month is a time to educate individuals and companies about steps they can take to protect the country’s sources of fresh water.

national water quality month

State, federal, and local regulations govern the wastewater that companies can dump directly into water supplies. These regulations do not provide perfect protection—witness the 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan river—but they prevent companies from deliberately disposing of their waste products into the water.

The more insidious impact, however, comes from the way that people add chemicals to the water supply without even knowing it. This happens through rainwater runoff, when water from rain storms collects in storm drains, bringing with it all the chemicals on buildings and sidewalks that it has encountered along the way. These storm drains then empty into water supplies—still carrying environmental pollutants.

Cities—and the companies that are located there—generate five times more rainwater runoff than forests or fields. The rain washes pollutants like oil, antifreeze, pet waste, fertilizers, and pesticides right into the water supply. To avoid contributing to poor water quality, follow Clean Water Action’s fact sheet:

  1. Don’t use antibacterial soaps or cleaning products.
  2. Don’t put anything except water down storm drains.
  3. Avoid using pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
  4. Choose nontoxic household products whenever possible.

Sometimes water pollution is visible, like in the case of toxic algal blooms. More often, however, poor water quality is not visible to the naked eye. To make sure your office water supply is safe, check where your water comes from with the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “Surf Your Watershed” tool, and buy a water quality testing kit. These standards from the General Services Administration provide good guidelines on making sure your water supply is safe.

Productivity and Nutrition: Making the Connection

It’s not exactly breaking news: nutrition is one of the major factors that impacts employee productivity. One of the seminal works on the topic comes from the International Labour Organization (ILO), which published a study in 2005 linking nutrition to workers’ health and productivity. The report, which took a global perspective on both developing and developed countries, found that poor nutrition can reduce employee productivity up to 20 percent. Both malnutrition and obesity can drastically affect workers’ ability to come to work and perform effectively.

Productivity and Nutrition

More recently, a report from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace found that British companies lose an average  of 27.5 days of productive time per employee per year due to health-related absenteeism and presenteeism. Presenteeism, according to the Harvard Business Review, is when employees show up to work but are not functioning at their optimal levels. Presenteeism is insidious, because unlike absenteeism, it is difficult to detect and even harder to track. Nonetheless, research suggests that it may cost companies up to 10 times more than absenteeism.

Wellness programs may be the answer. Research from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), Brigham Young University, and the Center for Health Research at Healthways suggests that employees who eat healthily and exercise regularly have a 27 percent lower absentee rate and 11 percent higher rate of job productivity than their obese colleagues.

Although companies can’t force employees to maintain healthier lifestyles, they can make it much easier for them to do so. Offering discounts at health clubs and creating pre-, post-, and mid-work exercise groups are great ways to encourage physical activity. And providing healthy food options and detailed nutritional information helps employees make good eating choices. That’s why USConnect’s The Right Choice…For a Healthier You™ program gives employees the information and options they need to make good nutritional decisions.

Employee productivity comes down to the choices of each employee, but armed with the right research and some great food choices, HR departments can improve productivity across the board.

 

 

 

What Do Millennials Want? Fresh and Healthy Options.

HR Focus: Engaging Millennials in the Workforce

For the past decade, attracting and retaining Millennial workers—those born between 1981 and 1997—has been the focus of HR departments across the country and even the world. According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, Millennials enter the workforce later, prefer to communicate and work electronically, demand purpose from their work, and expect a decent work-life balance.

Mary Faulkner, head of talent at Denver Water, notes that rather than measuring “employee satisfaction,” as they used to, HR departments are now more interested in measuring “employee engagement.” This emphasis on engagement reflects concern about Millennials’ loyalty and their willingness to jump ship to find a better or more fulfilling job. A recent Deloitte survey found that a majority of Millennials expect to leave their companies before 2020, and a 2014 Gallup poll found that Millennials are the least engaged group of employees in the workplace.

But how to create engagement? The Deloitte survey found that work/life balance is the most important aspect that would make Millennials stay at a job, but for HR professionals, it can be challenging to provide this balance in a cost-effective way. USConnect’s Bistro To Go!™ fresh food kiosks, with their easy connectivity to the USConnectMe app, provide the kind of lifestyle complement that Millennials crave. Fresh, healthy food choices are a must for most Millennials, and USConnect’s The Right Choice… For a Healthier You™ program makes sure these options are front and center. To satisfy Millennials’ craving for connectivity and visual learning, USConnect’s staff nutritionist provides interactive videos on issues relating to health and wellness.

 

 

What Did 50,000 Steps at #SHRM16 Look Like?

At the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) annual conference last month, the SHRM Foundation teamed up with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) What did 50,000 steps at SHRM look like?and Fitbit to host an epic step contest. In honor of the SHRM Foundation’s 50th anniversary, participants were challenged to walk 50,000 steps in three days.

What makes the SHRM Foundation’s Step Challenge so exciting and exemplary is its inclusivity. Although fitness-tracker company Fitbit was a partner in the challenge, participants did not need a Fitbit device to participate. Those who had one could use it; others could download the free Fitbit Mobile Track, and anyone who had their own device could use that and report their results. This flexibility allowed a greater number of people to join in the challenge: a whopping 3,500 participants!

Ashlee Smith, director of development for the SHRM Foundation, notes that it wasn’t the number of steps that mattered; it was the camaraderie and how participants felt supported and encouraged. For companies looking to increase employee health and wellness, such a step contest provides an excellent model for how to get and keep people involved. Smith notes three factors for success that any organization can replicate:

Ensure that everyone can participate

Choose a challenge that doesn’t exclude people who don’t have a specific product, and consider setting different step goals, so that everyone can participate.

Encourage and build a community

The Step Challenge hash tag, #SHRM16Steps, gave all participants an opportunity to talk about the challenge and celebrate their hard work. Additionally, participants using the Fitbit app were added to a team where they could chat with other teammates and encourage each other. This type of camaraderie is crucial to encouraging a sense of teamwork and fun competition.

Plan the celebration(s)

Every step (pun intended) of the SHRM Foundation Step Challenge was meant to be fun and encouraging. Participants could pick up badges and ribbons to show their completion of 15,000 and 30,000 steps, and then all participants received a Step Challenge medal at the end of the challenge. Company-wide challenges could end with a victory party featuring healthy foods and some sharing of ideas for healthy living.

USConnect is proud to help HR professionals promote a healthy workplace. For more on “Making the Connection: Healthy Food, Healthy Workforce,” check out our staff nutritionist’s new video!

Happy stepping!

 

Make it Easy: Healthy Eating Choices Boost Employee Wellness Programs

Healthy Food, Healthy Workforce

Want a healthier workforce? Let health and wellness take the front seat by offering employees easy choices for a better lifestyle!

Making the Connection: Healthy Food, Healthy Workforce!The need for employee wellness programs is well documented, especially in the area of health and fitness. The sedentary nature of office work lends itself to job-related obesity, which can raise healthcare costs and reduce productivity. In addition, a 2015 CareerBuilder survey shows that work-related stress significantly raises employees’ tendency toward obesity. However, nutrition also plays a major role; many respondents reported eating at their desks, snacking, or eating out/takeout as contributors to weight gain.

These benefits of employee wellness programs are also well documented:

  • Decreased healthcare costs
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Improved productivity
  • Reduced worker’s comp claims
  • Improved employee morale
  • Reduced turnover

The Right Choice… for a Healthier You

USConnect’s The Right Choice… for a Healthier You® program helps employees make better choices at mealtimes and for snacks, with per-serving nutritional guidelines for fresh food products that meet our healthy standards. Managed by USConnect’s staff nutritionist, these guidelines follow the recommendations of a number of leading medical health agencies for the prevention of chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. USConnect’s Bistro To Go!® Kiosks make fresh, healthy options available every day to help combat the poor nutrition that often accompanies office work.

In early 2016, USConnect introduced its USConnectMe app, which puts healthy eating right at the tip of employees’ fingertips. The app, which incorporates the USConnectMe loyalty program, gives users not only the chance to review The Right Choice for a Healthier You® options, but also access The Right Choice for a Healthier You® videos. These videos feature tips and recipes from our registered dietician and are only available to employees at businesses that partner with USConnect.

One of the most frequent reasons that employees don’t take advantage of their companies’ health and wellness programs is that it’s too much work. USConnect’s The Right Choice for a Healthier You® program makes it easier for employees to make better choices, and helps your health and wellness programs to be a success.

 

What Are the ROI Benefits of Offering Healthy Food Options?

Healthy Food Options Are Crucial to ROI on Wellness Programs.

Are there ROI benefits to your company offering your workforce healthier food options? Absolutely!

Workplace wellness programs have come a long way since their post-WWII introduction. Initially offered only to the executive suite, wellness programs expanded exponentially after Johnson & Johnson showed how their wellness program improved their company’s bottom line in the early 1980s. In the past several decades, more and more companies have implemented wellness programs to reap the benefits that Johnson & Johnson first saw: reduced healthcare costs, increased productivity, better retention, and higher employee satisfaction.

Implemented properly, a corporate wellness program can indeed have positive results. Quantifying those results, however, can be difficult. In fact, proof of return on investment (ROI) has become something of a holy grail for many HR professionals: elusive and possibly mythical evidence that may or may not exist. That’s why many organizations now try to go beyond simple ROI to a more holistic understanding of the full value of their wellness programs.

In most cases, wellness programs bring a host benefits that are less tangible than just reduced healthcare costs. Successful companies cite “a culture of health” or “the employee positivity factor” to identify the way broad-based wellness programs improve their organizations. The Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) released a report in 2015 that showed that business leaders saw the following priorities as influenced by health:

  • Productivity
  • Performance
  • Employee engagement or morale
  • Benefits cost reduction
  • Safety

Most successful wellness programs include a nutrition component. For the best results, the programs need to inform employees to help them make healthier eating choices and also make those healthier eating choices available. USConnect’s Bistro To Go!® kiosks keep fresh foods in stock at all times, prepared with the freshest ingredients at one of our regional culinary centers. Employees are encouraged to make healthier food selections by choosing The Right Choice … for a Healthier Youselections, which have been designated by USConnect’s in-house nutritionist.