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Worksite Wellness: Strategically Designed

Since 2015, WELCOA has invested in researching and developing their evolved Seven Benchmarks and Well Workplace Process as the foundation for building results-oriented workplace wellness programs. This R&D involved researchers, futurists, and experts in the industry—Jennifer Pitts, PhD shares insights that guided the journey toward WELCOA’s evolved Seven Benchmarks.

Intro:

Since 2015, WELCOA has invested in researching and developing their evolved 7 Benchmarks™ and Well Workplace Process™ as the foundation for building results-oriented workplace wellness programs. This R&D involved researchers, futurists, and experts in the industry—Jennifer Pitts, PhD shares insights that guided the journey toward WELCOA’s evolved 7 Benchmarks.

Worksite Wellness: Strategically Designed
An Expert Interview with Jennifer Pitts, PhD

WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks are the foundation for building a results-oriented workplace wellness program. By using our roadmap in your organization or with your clients, you can provide a credible framework which can be tailored toward organization specific values, mission, vision and goals for wellness.

Since 2015, WELCOA has invested in researching and developing a brand new set of tools for the future of wellness. This R&D involved researchers, futurists, and industry experts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the Human Resources Institute, Edington Associates and Kaiser Permanente.

We analyzed data from over 4,000 organizations between 2008-2015 and the biggest challenges that stood out for organizations were senior-level support, data collection and choosing appropriate interventions. Jennifer Pitts, PhD shares insights that guided the journey toward WELCOA’s evolved 7 Benchmarks.

“For too long, the value of wellness has been measured by a narrow set of success criteria — mostly focused on monetary return on investment. We incorporated a broader, more relevant set of measures and evaluation methods that better capture the full human and business value of a comprehensive approach to supporting employee wellness.”

What research was drawn from when formulating the evolved benchmarks?

Jennifer Pitts, PhD  I have always been interested in understanding the many factors that influence human health and well-being. My education was largely focused on health and well-being from psychosocial and behavioral perspectives. Throughout my professional career, I have implemented and evaluated the quality-of-life and health-related consequences of social support, perceived control, creativity, behavioral economics and patient and consumer engagement in initiatives and programs at the local, state, national, and international levels.

The need to revise the Seven Benchmarks came from a growing body of knowledge and wisdom from many areas of research and a diverse set of disciplines about what influences health. So, when developing the new benchmark items, we synthesized concepts and methods from many disciplines including positive psychology,1-4 neuroscience,5-6 sociology,7-8 anthropology,9 behavioral economics,10-12 and drew inspiration from nature,13-14 architecture,15-16 and human-centered design.17-19 To guide the development process, we created a logic model that reflects a whole-systems view and incorporates principles and practices from these and other disciplines.

For example, to represent strong wellness leadership we were inspired by evidence from many evolving areas of leadership research, including shared leadership,20-21 positive leadership,22-23 transformational leadership,24-26 and servant leadership.27-28

To exemplify effective implementation practices we were guided by evidence from positive organizational scholarship,29-31 implementation science,32-33 human-centered design, organizational development,34-36 and the methods of positive deviance, 37-39 and appreciative inquiry,40-41 along with learnings from many other bodies of knowledge and practice.

To outline a broader approach to designing programs and initiatives that support wellness, we built on the best of what we know about how to support employee health and well-being with programs (wellness and population health management).42-47 We also incorporated evidence-based practices from emerging research in the fields of positive psychology, neuroscience, social psychology,48-50 and infused them with principles from self-determination theory; autonomy, relatedness, and competence.51-53

To help wellness practitioners create cultures, climates, and environments for wellness54-55 we also were inspired by lessons from research in many other fields including sociology, anthropology, social psychology, positive psychology, environmental psychology,56 evolutionary psychology,57-58 neuroscience, and behavioral economics.

Finally, we outlined a broad and engaging approach to measurement and evaluation that blends qualitative and quantitative measures and methods,59, 60, 61 and draws inspiration from health services research,62 design,63 anthropology,64 and the social and behavioral sciences.65, 66

Are the benchmarks “data-driven”? How or how not?

JP  Prior to developing the new benchmark items, the research team from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) helped us review benchmark data collected over decades of use by wellness practitioners. During development, we used cognitive testing methods to obtain feedback from industry stakeholders and to evolve the items to confirm they are understandable and intuitive, and ensure that they cover a broad range of relevant and practical approaches.

What emerging research/information was incorporated that makes the new benchmarks “cutting edge”?

JP  One thing that makes this approach cutting edge is that it is so transdisciplinary. It goes further than connecting dots by helping employer organizations synthesize wisdom from across many bodies of knowledge and practice. It does more than point practitioners to existing commercial and often proprietary wellness or organizational development (OD) consulting approaches or the latest best-selling book. The benchmarks encourage thinking at the systems-level and addressing our own complexity as humans as well as the complexity of our organizations and social systems (families, communities, and society).

Why do you think the benchmarks needed to evolve?

JP  The wellness field, like every field of inquiry and practice, must evolve to remain relevant. The previous benchmarks were primarily focused on wellness programming and did little to promote the broader evolution of healthy organizational cultures and environments. The evolution of the benchmarks is part of a positive progression from implementing wellness and health management programs to aligning whole systems in support of wellness of employees, families, and communities.

How are you hoping this evolution will shape the industry?

JP  The new 7 Benchmarks approach encourages organizations to synthesize knowledge and wisdom from many areas and engage employees and all other stakeholders in designing their own highly personalized approaches. Because it represents a comprehensive process and is built on a framework and logic model, it helps organizations become more strategic about supporting employee health and well-being. The evolved Seven Benchmarks can help employers examine and align all areas of the organization in support of employee health and wellness.

What would the threat have been, from your perspective, if we continued to measure wellness program success using the same set of items/criteria?

JP  For too long, the value of wellness has been measured by a narrow set of success criteria – mostly focused on monetary return on investment. We incorporated a broader, more relevant set of measures and evaluation methods that better capture the full human and business value of a comprehensive approach to supporting employee wellness.

 

What is the 7 Benchmarks Logic Model?

To guide the development process for the new benchmarks, we created a logic model that reflects a whole-systems view and incorporates principles and practices described above. The logic model reflects the total benchmarks process that begins with strategic planning at the organization level, gathering the right people in the right way to support wellness planning, assessing the current state of the organization, developing an effective operations plan, choosing meaningful and context-relevant wellness programming and resources, aligning the organization’s policies, environment, and culture, and measuring progress toward the organization’s vision for employee wellness.

 

Jennifer Pitts, PhD

Jennifer Pitts, PhD

Jennifer Pitts, PhD is one of the founding creators and influencers of WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks. Jennifer’s continued research and support has transformed the Well Workplace Process.

Jennifer is the Founder of the Institute for Positive Organizational Health and Co-Founder of Edington Associates, LLC. She has more than 25 years of health and wellbeing research and consulting experience in academic and applied settings domestically and internationally. Jennifer’s most recent work with the Institute combines insights from systems thinking and complexity science, inspiration from nature, and human-centered design principles to create more compassionate cultures that support flourishing people, organizations, communities, and natural ecosystems. She has a doctorate in social psychology, a master’s degree in experimental psychology, a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences, and completed a 2-year Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA’s School of Medicine.

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