The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

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031: Going Stealth: Worksite Wellness that Works with Laura Putnam

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Have you ever thought about how to sneak health and well-being to your employees? What about how to get your Managers to create engaged teams?

Today’s guest, Laura Putnam offers guidance on both of these topics along with incentives, all the infighting within the wellness industry and her advice to wellness professionals. Not to mention, we get a sample of what it’s like to live in San Fransisco and we meet Laura’s cat, Minky.

We start off with Laura telling us how she got from teaching in urban public high schools to starting her own wellness company in 2008. Over the past 8 years, she’s seen a growing emphasis on culture. People are starting to realize that an under resourced check in the box wellness program doesn’t have a big impact on employee health.

Laura often sees a mismatch between what the culture actually is and what the employer says it is. Wellness has to be integrated and part of the larger culture. She uses a couple companies as examples. Johnson & Johnson has been at the forefront of the culture of health movement and they have a willingness to measure what’s working and what’s not. Ideo is another company that has a culture of play and experimentation that’s driven by employees.

As as wellness industry we need to get better at launching and iterating. There’s no way to be innovative without failing along the way.

Laura tells us about her Manager on the Move training and what a pivotal role the manager plays in employee engagement. She trains Managers to:

1.) Lead by example, embody well being

2.) Speak about health and well being

3.) Create the infrastructure for their team to make health and well-being part of their lives.

We talk rewards and incentives and how can you create intrinsic motivation. Incentives can create an immediate jump for short term and simple tasks (filling out an HRA) but don’t help with long term, complex tasks (meaningful behavior change).

There’s no easy shot in the arm that will start and sustain meaningful behavior change.

Key elements to creating intrinsic motivation: understanding that as wellness professionals, we can never get someone motivated but we can create conditions where people are more likely to motivate themselves. Employees needs a sense of mastery, autonomy, social engagement, purpose and play.  Employees need to change and make decisions on their own terms. 

Instead of wellness being a stand alone program, take a stealth strategy. Infuse wellness concepts into non-wellness events (meetings).

I ask Laura what’s right and wrong with the wellness industry. She feels people’s hearts are in the right place. We need to stop talking about disease management and risk factors because they are far off in the future. We should set people up for success with more of a positive spin. Positive emotions open up our creativity.

What do we need to do to redesign our wellness approach? Stop using incentives and focus on creating meaning (takes time/not a quick fix); stop starting with what’s wrong and talk about what’s right.

Finally, Laura leaves us with her tangible tips for well-being at work.

People & Topics Referenced:

Laura is leading a pre-conference intensive workshop at the 2017 Art & Science of Health Promotion called Workplace Wellness that Works: A Smarter Framework for Designing More Effective Workplace Wellness Programs. For more information, visit this site.

Daniel Pink and his book Drive

Barbara Fredrickson and positivity research

Michelle Segar podcast

Tony Swartz and Jim Loer

Laura’s contact info and full bio:

Laura Putnam, MA, author of Workplace Wellness That Works (WILEY, 2015), is CEO and founder of Motion Infusion  whose work has been covered by MSNBC, The New York Times, US News & World Report, Entrepreneur, Business Insider and many others. She is a former urban public high school teacher, international community organizer, dancer, gymnast and now a movement-builder in the world of health and wellness. 

A leading authority on how organizations can promote well-being at work and how leaders and managers can inspire employees to adopt healthier behaviors, Laura is a sought-after speaker and consultant. She was recently awarded the American Heart Association’s “2020 Impact” award and the National Wellness Institute’s “Circle of Leadership” award. A graduate of Brown University and Stanford University, Laura lives in San Francisco with her fiancé.

Wellness Professionals

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