Not your father’s health coaching

StayWell Blog

Health coaching today looks different than it used to – and that’s a good thing.

About 20 years ago, telephone coaching was cutting-edge and the height of workplace wellness technological greatness. Health coaches connected with employees by calling their home landline or work phone, offering personalized support, encouragement, and strategies to make healthy changes. You were likely a candidate for coaching if you had one or more specific health risks that aligned with targeted coaching options.

Fast forward a few years and things have changed. A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey on employer benefit trends noted that 37 percent of employers offered health and lifestyle coaching to employees in 2016. This number is quite a bit lower than in the previous versions of that same survey – which includes almost exclusively small- and mid-sized employers – so some news outlets wrote that health coaching was ready to be put out to pasture, so to speak.

It’s true that the younger of your colleagues may never have a landline (or have any memory of seeing one). Even their non-landline phone is primarily used for texting instead of talking. That doesn’t mean, though, that health coaching is fading. After all, health coaching works. It’s still one of the most effective tools we have to improve health and well-being, and it’s considered a best practice in population health management programs. So much so that virtually every StayWell client offers it.

Health coaching delivery has evolved, though, to keep pace with how people interact with information — and each other — in today’s world. Changes in health coaching also reflect employers’ expanding definition of employee health and well-being, not to mention the changing demographics of the workforce.

The age of personalization and convenience
Through years of study, we’ve found that health coaching is most effective when it fits into real life. The spectrum of coaching interactions that StayWell offers today help people find their personal motivation, set realistic goals, learn more about how specific behaviors affect their health, and track their progress to stay on the right path.

• Onsite coaching offers a visible wellness presence in the workplace.
• Digital coaching appeals to people looking for flexibility to meet their individual needs.
• Telephone coaching provides easy access with a human touch.
• Group coaching uses social engagement to bring people together to meet their health goals.

StayWell will also be adding SMS coaching in the near future so people can send a text message to their coach. All of which amounts to one thing: more options for changing lifestyles. Offering a range of creative options for coaching interactions and experiences helps employers engage a greater number of employees, moving them along the continuum of change. That’s something else learned from those years of study.

Part of a shift to health and well-being
We have to keep in mind, though, that this is just one piece of the puzzle. Improving employee well-being requires more than a health assessment, or a big incentive program, or a weight-loss campaign, or even health coaching. Individually, these strategies will not drive lasting behavior change. Employers should continue to embrace a broader definition of health and a comprehensive approach to achieving their employee well-being goals. In particular, we’ve lately see more large employers committed to improving the overall health and productivity of their workforce, with more focus on these key priorities:

  • Improving performance,
  • Improving safety,
  • Raising employee awareness of health risks, and
  • Developing a culture of health over time.

In addition, a recent survey from the National Business Group on Health confirms that employers aren’t backing down on workplace wellness and well-being. Research demonstrates that if you change health risk levels, health care costs follow. Plus, health risk change is an indicator of productivity outcomes, which makes a compelling case for including health coaching as part of a broad-based strategy.

At StayWell, we’re working with employers to successfully navigate the shift to today’s realities, and connect more of their employees to well-being strategies. Our wellness toolbox has gotten bigger and better. Contact your StayWell account executive or to learn about coaching strategies and our comprehensive approach to employee well-being.

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