5 Aha Moments from the 2016 Corporate Wellness Conference

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My colleague Craig Blumenthal and I just got back from the Corporate Wellness Conference in DC (sponsored by the Employer Health & Benefits Congress). It was my first wellness conference and found it very interesting and inspirational!


Since joining CoreHealth earlier this year, I’m a relative newbie to the world of corporate wellness (with the exception of the insight I gained from my past experience as a benefits broker and HR professional).

Here are 5 aha moments I had:

1. Wellness ROI, VOI, and Measurement - Well, it’s what everyone has been telling me "measuring wellness is complicated."  If only it was easier.  There is no silver bullet.

Typical industry standard is for every $1 invested in wellness, you will reap $3 in savings within 3-5 years, in terms of reduced medical costs, absenteeism, presenteeism, etc. BUT (and that’s a big BUT), you can’t really measure the overall impact to an employee in terms of how overall wellness and well-being impacts a person and his/her family life.

When you lose weight or quit smoking, how do you accurately measure those intangible benefits like improved self-confidence, self-esteem and optimism? How do you put a dollar value to the feeling that you can actually accomplish something powerful that helps you evolve to a better person both inside and out?

For those leaders who focus exclusively on the hard numbers, don’t overlook the power of positively impacting another person’s life. It can’t and shouldn’t be underestimated.  We all need a hand from time to time – additional support, encouragement and guidance on how to overcome the daunting challenges of life. As an employer, you have the power to provide that ‘human’ element to the business by caring and helping.

Aha Moment #1: Employee success stories are equally (if not more) important than just the dollar and cents invested in wellness. You are positively giving employees what they need to be a better person which will ultimately affect how they do their job and positively impact those around them. Share their stories with leadership!

2. The Power of Sleep – It hit me like a ton of bricks when I heard one of the keynotes (sorry, can’t remember which one) say “4 hours of sleep loss equals as much impairment as a six-pack of beer”. No wonder I wasn’t ‘on my game’ after having my kids and returning to work constantly sleep deprived. I knew I was tired but didn’t fully understand what this meant to me in terms of productivity.

I love that millennials are asking for ‘sleep pods’ so they can take a nap.  To have an organizational culture that recognizes, supports (and even encourages) a mid-day recharge is encouraging.  Employers putting an employee’s health first over profit is monumental! Because, we all know that if your employee is well rested, recharged and healthy, they will be more productive both personally and professionally - positively impacting the bottom line.

Aha Moment #2: Getting a good night sleep is essential. 4 hours of sleep loss equals as much impairment as a six-pack of beer! Get your sleep!

3. The Importance of Positive Interactions – It takes 3-4 positive interactions for every one negative interaction. If you aren’t providing regular positive feedback to your employees, you are missing out.  As a former HR professional, having those ‘difficult’ conversations with employees is hard but it sometimes need to be done.  It’s important to frequently encourage, reward, empathize, sympathize and ultimately relate to your employees. It matters! They matter and so do you!

Aha Moment #3: It takes 3-4 positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Remember it and make it count!

4. Personalize Incentives & Rewards – There was some healthy discussion about wellness incentives and rewards.  Change is hard so doing whatever it takes (within reason of course) to get employees motivated to alter their behavior is essential.

I heard repeatedly through the conference that the most successful incentive programs are those that tailor the reward to each employee – oftentimes, the one-size-fits-all reward doesn’t cut it.  What motivates one employee won’t likely motivate another. The more you can personalize incentives and rewards, the more success you will have engaging participants and making wellness programs ‘stick’.

I heard a budget of $549 per employee/per year is reasonable – really it’s a small investment in the most important part of your business… your people. Whether you provide gift cards, t-shirts, extra vacation days, discounted gym memberships or music lessons, financial incentives, discounted health premiums or whatever! – personalize it to make a powerful impact.

Aha Moment #4: Heard this quote “Make rewards so big that it hurts not to have it” provides good perspective on how far you may want to go with incentives.

5. Work & Life are Intertwined – when things go bad at work, they impact your home life and vice versa. I think most of us know this instinctively; however, we still try to keep personal and work issues separate thinking we are weak if we show vulnerability. We try to put on a brave face and charge forward separating the two. But, in reality, it’s not possible.

Business success mirrors the well-being of your employees. When you help employees with home life challenges, you ultimately help business. Speaking from my own experience, I know work and life go hand in hand and am a big supporter of employee assistance programs. It’s such a minimal financial investment (often less than $5 per employee/per month) for such a worthwhile resource.

In my mind, if the corporate culture accepts this and truly supports their employees, it’s an organization I would want to work for and will be sure to tell my friends and family about too.  I’ll be far more loyal to a company that sticks with me during a difficult time. 

Aha Moment #5: Don’t try to separate work and life – you can’t. Support your employees to be successful in both and your organization will reap the rewards.


I may be a newbie to wellness but these aha moments will stick with me as I return to the office feeling engaged, excited and proud to work in an industry that truly cares about people and their physical and emotional health. Some would say I’m naive and idealistic; however, I’m ok with that. I much prefer to believe that most people truly want to help another – it’s good for the heart, mind and soul.


Inspired Perspectives

Finally, this conference was a great opportunity to connect with our network of third-party, best-in-class wellness partners that seamlessly 'plug' into our platform. They included: SelfHelpWorks, Inspired Perspectives and HealthFeed.  We met some great prospective partners too which is important as we continue to expand our network. It was especially nice to meet with several of our customers too.

Be well.


Cindy Danielson has over 20 years of experience in human resources (including group benefits in Canada and the United States), CRM, project management and sales and marketing. Prior to joining CoreHealth, Cindy was a group benefits broker where she got a firsthand view on how corporate wellness and employee assistance programs make a positive impact on workplaces. Cindy has worked in software/technology, insurance and digital marketing and is personally committed to health and wellness.


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