Thursday, October 27, 2011

Co_Health Recap: The Social Wellness Episode 2011

UPDATE:
Bob Merberg (@wellwork; the Employee Wellness Network) was kind enough to create and share a MindMap of the last #co_health chat ... If you're a visual learner, you'll want to check it out.  Thanks, Bob!!
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It was a freewheeling time on last week's #co_health chat.  After a pretty solid series of "special guests," Fran and I decided to return to our usual format - focusing on the "social" aspects of wellness in the workplace.  As an overall summary, I'd go out on a limb and say that making wellness social is still high on the priority list of our members, but that we're still in the very early stages of true innovation in this space.

Fran was driving the @co_health account this month, and kicked things off with the first question:

T1: How are you making wellness social?

@jmcnichol led us off by noting that her organization has begun to use facebook as the center-point for sharing wellness info with their employees and their families.  This is pretty significant, as it's one of the rare corporate wellness initiatives I'm aware of that has recognized the importance of their employees' families in carrying wellness through to all aspects of their lives.  She also encourages employees to guest-post on her blog about their wellness experiences - which allowed them to share their experiences with family and friends inside and outside the organization.

Fran indicated that her clients were using, at various times and measures, offline social challenges, blogs, podcasts and twitter on behalf of their wellness programs ... 

@michellewjames noted that within her workplace (Intel), employees were using an internal social networking tool focused on wellness ... but reminded us that the wellness+social equation doesn't necessarily revolve around technology - and that one of the most popular social wellness initiatives were employee walking groups - delightfully low-tech!

@MarkFrisk also noted that, no matter how you're approaching wellness, it's more important to focus efforts on improvement rather than just participation.

We then moved on to
T2: For those using social media tools, which are you using?  And how did you decide which one(s) to lead with?

Fran noted that most of her clients tended to look at where employees were already congregating and interacting - often facebook or twitter - and start from there.  Not surprisingly, the group's consensus here was around the fact that social wellness is a new enough topic that we're in the "low-hanging fruit" stage ... that our initiatives were focused on the places where we can get the most impact for the least investment and risk.

T3: How have leaders supported your efforts? Have they embraced them or been skeptical (or worse)? 

@FitnessFleet noted that in his/her experience, leaders had been extremely supportive, and focused on working in partnership with others to bring wellness solutions into the workplace.  There seemed to be a pretty big variety of experiences here, though, with leadership ranging from active engagement (executives visibly joining walking groups and funding special wellness initiatives) to generally ignoring wellness ... thereby allowing it to "fly under the radar."

The conversation then evolved into one about metrics ... which at this point seem to be almost exclusively based either a) # of participants and/or b) number of reads/listens of wellness materials.  Most agreed that these are necessary baseline metrics, but expressed desire to become more sophisticated over time to actually measure changed behavior and improved health in addition.

T5 (Fran skipped T4): Have you segmented your audience, using different tools and approaches for different groups?

Much of the "segmentation" that's been employed to date seems to revolve around special program offerings for people with specific chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes) or lifestyle choices (e.g. smoking cessation).  And there was interest in using a Prochaska-esque model of readiness for change to use different messaging and programs - but I don't think that any of our members were doing so at this point.

There was also a divergent conversation thread that emerged and is worth noting related to the linkage (or not) between open enrollment and wellness programs.  A number of our members have begun to use social media and collaborative tools around open enrollment and benefits choices, and fran suggested that OE might make a good gateway to start using social tools and methods for wellness also.  As @jmcnichol astutely noted, though, open enrollment is a once-a-year thing ... and wellness is 24/7.  The implication being that the messaging around them is just different.

We closed with T6: What roadblocks to Social efforts are you experiencing?

The biggies that I called out were that, in many cases, employees were pretty sensitive about any health data being shared on open channels, and perhaps more damaging, that corporate digital security practices caused most social channels to be blocked.  Fran noted that many employers were battling with the "where do we begin" question as well as a concern about how much of a time commitment would be involved.  And @jmcnichol noted that her biggest challenge was just in getting people's attention - they're subject to a veritable firehose of data every day.


To close: It should be noted that we're in the midst of a very interesting opportunity with MeYou health.  As you know, we believe  very strongly in the smarts, passion and commitment of the #co_health gang ... and we'd like to parlay that aggregation of awesomeness into something really special for our members.  We'd like to see this group weighing in on new programs, new services, new technologies and new business models focused on wellness in the workplace.  We've had a number of opportunities in our nearly two years of existence (including a rather successful foray into crowdsourcing innovation led by CoHealth-er @CarolHarnett (BodyShocktheFuture Contest).

We've now found another opportunity that we think is worth our (read: your) time with MeYou health.  As you learned if you tuned into our September episode (Health Games) with Trapper Markelz, there are some potentially paradigm-shifting activities going on that we'd like to be a part of.  MeYou has a health program that they're allowing us to pilot  - LEARN MORE AND SIGN UP HERE NOW! MeYou Health/CoHealth Social Health Pilot 

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