Monday, April 28, 2014

Workplace Wellness Program

Employees spend an average of almost nine hours a day at work – more awake hours than any other place – so it seems logical that employers would want to develop a workplace that encourages and promotes healthy behaviors.
Effective workplace wellness programs can help improve an organization’s culture and change lives. Companies can also benefit from lower turnover rates, fewer absences, increases in productivity and higher job satisfaction.
Decades after the launch of the Wellness Council of America, one might think the steps for getting a wellness program off the ground are easy – give employees a gym membership or stop bringing in sweet treats.Still Indian firms are not yet so convincing on the same.
However, it’s not that simple. Lack of engagement, a shortage of leadership support and complicated incentives all have the potential to derail your wellness program before it starts. Here are a few tips about how to build a successful workplace wellness program and some things to avoid.
  • DON’T rush into a wellness program. 
  • DO take your time to develop a formal strategic plan with measurable goals. Without a plan, you will always be reacting to the pressure of the day instead of focusing on specific objectives. 
  • DON’T launch a wellness program without any support. 
  • DO partner with as many employees and departments as you can. Consider recruiting employees for a wellness committee to help you reach across the entire company.
  • DON’T forget about getting buy-in from management.
  • DO include senior management as visible participants in the wellness program.
  • DON’T leave people unsure of how the program works.
  • DO communicate consistently and often.
  • DON’T call it a Human Resources project or initiative.
  • DO position the wellness program as something much bigger. Think about how the program will strategically impact the business and how it plays a role in your culture.
  • DON’T forget about the night shift. 
  • DO provide night shift workers the same access to wellness events and programming as the day shift. 
  • DON’T stop the wellness program because it hasn’t saved millions of dollars. 
  • DO have realistic expectations. Behavior change takes time, and most wellness programs do not see a positive ROI for at least 18 months.
  • DON’T view data collection as unimportant.
  • DO collect data on your employees’ health status. Biometric screenings are a great way to collect objective data.
  • DON’T select programs that are not relevant to your workforce. A smoking cessation program, for example, will do little to impact costs if smoking and its related illnesses are not cost-drivers for your health insurance plan.
  • DO focus on the health issues and concerns of the majority of your employee population. 
  • DON’T forget to address employee privacy. Some employees may ask, "What do they need that information for? Can they fire me because of my poor health?”
  • DO stress repeatedly that personal health information is confidential.
  • DON’T assume you need a large budget. 
  • DO be creative in identifying free activities to improve employee health. Things like walking meetings or healthy potlucks can help promote a healthy workplace without breaking the bank.
  • DON’T build a complicated wellness program. If employees don't understand wellness offerings or don’t know how to participate, they will get frustrated and give up.
  • DO keep it simple and straightforward. 
  • DON’T be negative or insult employees.
  • DO show your employees they are valued. You want your wellness program to demonstrate that the company cares about employees’ health, not give the impression the company is coercing them to take a Health Risk Assessment.
  • DON’T put your wellness program on autopilot.
  • DO run regular reports and assess how your wellness program is improving employee health. Your program should evolve with your employees.
  • DON’T build a wellness program with only the intent to decrease health care costs.
  • DO look at the bigger picture.

Wellness can have a profound effect on your company culture, turnover rates, recruitment efforts and overall productivity. Follow these do’s and don’ts and your workplace wellness implementation will go so smoothly, that you’ll wonder why you waited so long to get started. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Critical Thinking: Educating Competent Citizens

We are becoming increasingly aware of the need to analyze the enormous amount of information we receive every day.  This information helps us in our cognitive development and participates in the construction of our patterns of perception of reality. In the case of children and young people, these patterns are in continual development.
Critical thought is a cognitive process that proposes the systematic analysis of information, opinion and statements that we accept in our daily life as valid or true. It is a basic skill for a competent, free and responsible citizen.
It is not about questioning every information we get everyday, it is about being critical with the information that is relevant to us when we make up an opinion about something.
To educate an individual in critical thinking implies educating him or her in the ability to make decisions. It implies that students do not accept opinions or statements as valid without submitting them to their own analysis and as such, to their consideration, based on their knowledge and on other opinions or information that enables them to form their own criteria about what is true or false.

Education in Critical Thinking Implies…

  • Reflection. We should ask ourselves about the information we receive.
  • Analysis. By using our own knowledge and other data we evaluate information and arguments that reinforce or question ideas.
  • Acquisition of information. By contrasting and collecting data from other sources we can, in many cases, confirm or reject the information we have analyzed.
  • Creativity. This is stimulated by the need to associate ideas and knowledge with the purpose of building up our arguments.
  • Structuring arguments. Learning to build up cases on a solid foundation in order to support the criteria we have constructed.
  • Decision making. Learning to take decisions based on our own criteria.
  • Commitment to our own opinions and arguments.
  • Debate. The ability to explain and defend our ultimate criteria and contrast it with other criteria that may be as valid as our own.

Cross-curricular Connected to Education in Values

All these capacities have a clear relationship with the underlying value based educational objectivity of our system, given that these values are ever present in a world  that is increasingly technological and, for some, in process of dehumanization.
In working with students, critical thinking encourages and promotes:
  • Humility to accept criteria that is not their own.
  • Courage to defend their own criteria against others.
  • Responsibility to contrast and take into account the appropriate information.
  • Commitment to filtering out and separating valid from useless information.
  • Respect for the group and for the individual when the time comes for debate and contrasting ideas.
To educate an individual in critical thinking is to educate him or her to be capable of governing or controlling their own personal and professional life and to be able to find answers and solutions to problems. It is the road to forming critical and responsible citizens who are capable of confronting the challenges of the future.