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Practicing What We Preach

by Mike Sullivan Cubic Health | November 17 2016 | 1 Comment

A funny thing starts to happen when you work in a world of health data and assess disease-state trends for other groups of employees on a daily basis—you start to reflect on your own situation. It’s like the days of walking to a hospital and seeing staff huddled outside of the doors smoking in the cold winter weather. It makes you question the credibility of the people rendering a service if they present a “do as I say but not as I do” approach.

At Cubic Health, we reflected on this as a company. How will people take any of our ideas around health and wellness seriously if we don’t act in the same manner? It was a bit of a wake-up call to be more proactive in our health and well-being in the workplace and really reflect on the trends in the claims data for groups of people that move further and further away from optimal health.

Health in our Office

Reflecting on our experience to date, below are a few things we’ve learned. None of this is rocket science but it has proven to be true in our workplace.

  • Workplace health starts with balance. At Cubic Health, we think that having healthy lunches as a team or organizing fitness challenges is hypocritical if people feel over worked and are in our office for long hours. We needed to focus on working smarter and not harder. That has been the most challenging barrier to overcome in terms of driving a culture of health and wellness in our office. Working smarter means deconstructing what we are doing that we don’t need to be, making investments to automate what could be automated, reorganizing teams and responsibilities and managing projects more effectively. All of that is much easier said than done; however, it has definitely made the greatest positive impact for us. The Cubic Health team has time to go to the gym, participate in sports in the evenings, get out to go hiking on weekends, etc. Nothing can happen without proper balance.
  • Leadership is key. If our management doesn’t get involved and lead the charge, how can our workplace health have any success? If there’s zero buy-in and active engagement from the top of Cubic Health, credibility is shot and any momentum will soon be lost. Our office took on the fitness challenge of running a 10K race every spring and what kept everyone motivated to train was that the oldest people in the office had the fastest times. The competitive juices start flowing when the people with kids are beating the millennials with fewer excuses to avoid training!
  • Having both a competitive and recreational aspect to workplace health. The whole office loved the competitive nature of some of the activities and challenges we set up because it would lead to good-natured bragging and endless jokes. We also noticed something interesting would happen at the same time: the rest of the group that wasn’t gunning for the office trophy/bragging rights would take on a more recreational approach. They felt a desire to participate in an activity or challenge to obtain a personal best or to crush a personal goal because they saw others involved. There was no pressure to achieve a specific outcome because participation alone was already success.
  • Avoiding sabotage is critical. The old saying goes that however long you schedule a meeting for, that’s how long the meeting will run. The same rule goes for junk food in the company kitchen; whatever quantity of unhealthy food is brought in and shared with the office is the exact quantity that will be consumed as though it's the last remaining food on earth. As we began to focus more on health and wellness, a culture change began to emerge. It turns out that none of us can resist a 2kg bag of Costco chocolate almonds, which can be consumed in less than four hours without anyone noticing at the office. If we don’t buy a 2kg bag of chocolate almonds to stock our own kitchen, why would we do so for the office? That has had a big impact on our work-week eating habits. No more chocolates, baking and all other sugary snacks in the office because none of us need the temptation.

Finding Balance

All of this being said, as I write this blog, I recognize we, at Cubic, need to keep the momentum going and find the next challenge internally to re-energize the team. Much like a fire that needs a new log regularly to stay viable, we need to keep actively engaging in this space of health and well-being in the workplace. If we can maintain balance between work and home, continue to have the longest-serving team members set the tone, ensure inclusiveness with both competitive and recreational activities and avoid sabotage, then we should continue to see success. What initiatives are you and your colleagues working on in your work setting? Share what’s working well in the comments below!

Mike Sullivan

As president and co-founder of Cubic Health—a leader in benefit plan sustainability management—Mike uses detailed analytics and his background in pharmacy to design more cost effective and robust benefit plans for his clients. Despite his crippling fear of all forms of dance, “Sully,” as he is quite originally called, is the one you want on the floor when you have a truckload of benefit plan usage data to analyze. Because you never really know when that skill will come in handy.

Gillian W. ASEBP | November 21 2016 12:53 PM
Awesome blog, Mike! This really resonated with me - especially the chocolate almonds! As we approach the holiday season, I like the idea of starting new traditions that still say "we're celebrating" but that don't solely include foods that aren't good for us.