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Employee Wellness Program Challenges

What Is Missing In Your Employee Wellness Program?

Recently Eliz keynoted the Biz Times Wellness Summit and facilitated roundtable discussions about “What’s Missing In Your Wellness Program” with HR professionals, CEOs, and wellness providers.  These discussions resulted in insights on challenges facing employers and best practices beneficial to anyone managing an employee wellness program.

Employer Challenge: Overcome Stigma To Supply Mental Health Resources

One of the themes of the Summit was mental health and addiction.  This theme carried through to the roundtable discussion as we addressed how to overcome stigma to supply mental health resources. Two insights in this area include:

  • Managers need a way to start supportive conversations about mental health and addiction. Managers are often provided with training and even scripts to have supervisory conversations about attendance, performance, and discipline. Most, however, receive no training in starting a conversation about mental health.  The stigma of mental health is often a barrier to discovering when employees would benefit from assistance.  Develop scripts and training to start supportive conversations about mental health and addiction is essential.
  • Employee Assistance Programs must be highly visible. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) often seem like a well-kept secret.  Employees need regular reminders of the benefits available to them.  Whether it is a visit to a lawyer or the opportunity to talk with a mental health professional, these services need to be communicated regularly.  Having a physical presence of the EAP is important.  Providing education programs on mental health, addiction, and other EAP services is essential to visibility as well.

Employer Challenge: Low participation or engagement in wellness programs

Many of the companies attending the summit struggle with engaging more than 30 to 40 percent of their employees in their wellness programs.  Three insights from the roundtables include:

  • Wellness programs must be led from the top down. Eliz shared in the keynote stories of wellness programs defeated by inconsistent communication from leadership.  For example, a “leave work at work” theme encouraging employees not to answer emails between 7 pm and 7 am is easily defeated by a boss emailing at 11 pm.  Also, leaders have to share personal experiences to place importance on wellness efforts.
  • Wellness programs must be flexible enough to serve different locations, job categories, fitness levels, and environments.
    Managing a wellness program to serve employees in multiple states or vastly different job workspace is challenging.  For example, the needs of warehouse employees are different than the needs of business office employees.  Using an evaluation tool, such as Eliz’s stress study, to discover needs across the organization is essential to providing programs to serve different populations.
  • Wellness programs must be assessed regularly. Surveys are often the best tool to examine the success of wellness programs.  Best practices involved allowing employees to sample wellness offering and then choose programs to fit their needs and goals.  Incentives to encourage participation were also suggested as a best practice.  One organization rewarded participation in programs throughout the year with a playing card.  At the end of the year, the employee with the best poker hand won a prize.

Employer Challenge: Negative work environment is overshadowing wellness efforts.

As Eliz’s keynote demonstrated, often the largest source of stress is the work environment.  Offering yoga at lunch or access to cooking classes can’t address this problem.  Best practices from the group for addressing negative work environments include:

  • Employers must shift communication, interaction, and even location to address negative environments.
    • Using an improvisation game such as “Yes and…” can be useful to shift negative attitudes at the beginning of a meeting.  If everyone speaks and is encouraged to be collaborative before any work discussion begins, people are more likely to contribute to the conversation, and the outcome is more likely to be positive.
    • Changing the way interaction happen can also have a positive effect.  Having a meeting while standing can speed up communication, avoid one person monopolizing the discussion, and keep the group on topic.  Having a conversation while walking side-by-side can add emotional cover during more uncomfortable situations as eye contact is diminished.
    • Shifting locations changes interactions as well.  Holding meetings outside of the regular workspace can reset communication patterns.
  • Employers must recognize employees with rewards of real value.
    Employee recognition efforts only work if the employ values the reward.  A trinket might hold value for one employee and be an annoyance to another.  Some suggestions of “real value” included extra vacation days, early release Fridays, and late start days.  One organization uses a program which encourages employees to nominate team members who are then rewarded with things which benefit the entire team.  For example, an outstanding employee can earn a catered lunch for the whole team.

Employer Challenge: Change in the workplace is overshadowing wellness efforts.

Undergoing change often creates stress in a work environment.  Addressing the change head-on is often essential before progress on wellness initiatives can be made.  Insights from the roundtables include:

  • Employers must clearly communicate the end goal of the change consistently and often. Without the end goal, the frustration of change, especially technology changes, can overwhelm employees.  One announcement will not be enough, regular reminders of the reason for the change will keep the focus on the big picture rather than the daily frustration. During times of change employees often fragment their focus onto small details and lose sight of the goal. Conversations about “why we do what we do” on personal and organizational levels reset the focus as well.
  • Employers must allow employees to grieve what is lost.  Loss of comfort in familiar routines, technology, or people often results in anger.  Adjusting to something new naturally requires letting go of what is known.  Acknowledging and allowing time to process this loss speeds adoption and lowers stress.
  • Employers must celebrate incremental progress towards goals.  Any large change consists of smaller steps.  By celebrating short-term milestones, the change seems more achievable and success more possible.  These celebrations also offer a reprieve from constant stress.

Employer Challenge: Starting or reenergizing a wellness program:

Many of the attendees came from smaller organizations searching for ways to integrate a wellness program.  Best practices included:

  • Employers must assess the unique needs of their organization. Wellness programs should be tailored to address the causes of job stress in the organization.  Using a tool such as Eliz’s job stress study or internal surveys allow employers to create opportunities for impact.
  • Small employers should take advantage of grant opportunities.  The State of Wisconsin offers grants for companies with 50 or fewer employees to start wellness programs.  Contact your local American Heart Association for assistance in finding your state’s opportunites.
  • Download AHA’s resources:

The Biz Times Wellness Summit Roundtables were a wealth of wisdom and lively conversation.  For more information on Eliz Greene’s Employee Wellness programs and Job Stress Research visit


Heart Month Cover Story

Heart attack survivor and motivational wellness speaker Eliz Greene is featured in the cover story of the February 2017 Queen of the Castle Magazine.

In the article, written by Jenn Chapman, Eliz shares the story of surviving a heart attack while seven-months pregnant with twins and he mission to inspire women to pay attention to their heart health and manage stress.


“What’s really interesting and alarming is that 7 out of 10 people report they are highly stressed at work. Stress is a fascinating chemical reaction in our body , which makes our blood pressure, and heart rate goes up. Blood actually gets stickier which is good for survival. We need that burst of energy to deal with crisis but eventually when that crisis pass we are supposed to be able to recover, but because we live at this high stress all the time we don’t have time to recover and the cortisol level builds and builds,” Eliz says.

And that’s where most women find themselves. Luckily, Eliz message to her audience is one of hopqueen-of-castle-cover-eliz-greenee. There are proactive steps that all women can take.

“I am often asked to present on work-life balance and yet if I’m honest with myself I am constantly figuring that out. I don’t think I’m alone. The idea that work and life are supposed to balance each other out doesn’t work because they don’t happen separately,” she shares.

“It’s not that we can’t manage our homes it’s just all blended together. We can do things to clarify priorities and protect time to recover from stress, but it take a cultural change to make a real difference. I think that is possible,” Eliz says.

So when that work email pops up on your phone when you’re at home watching TV with the kids, whether you respond to it or not, your mind will begin processing the message. Ultimately taking away the divider from home and work life and thus the stress rises.

One of the most common effects of stress is added weight around the mid section. The most efficient way to process cortisol out of the body is to sleep but studies show that very few women get enough sleep. And so the cycle of busy and stress continues.

“We eat away at the margins of the day to get stuff done. But yet sleep is the most efficient way to get rid of our stress. We have to be working not just for our family but also for our quality of life that makes it worth it. If we work so much we don’t see our families, we missed it,” says Eliz.

Read the entire article



Twin Cities Go Red Keynote Speaker

Join Eliz for The Trouble With Busy!

Twin Cities Go Red Lunch and Learn

January 13, 2017

Minneapolis Convention Center

  • 9:30 am – Registration, exhibits, health screenings, demonstrations and silent auction
  • 11:30 am – Lunch & Learn program featuring Keynote Speaker Eliz Greene – learn about the real causes of job stress and how we all need to take on the trouble with busy to reduce stress, get more of the important things done, and feel better about all of it.
  • 1:15 pm – Adjourn

Register here by January 3!

Heart Attack And Pain Interview

Eliz Greene shares insight coping with heart attack and surgery pain

In this interview with Dr. Paul Christo, Eliz discusses taking even subtle discomfort seriously and how to deal with heart pain after a hearth attack and surgery.


One of the strategies for dealing with chronic heart related pain  shared was to find ways to distract yourself.

“Getting outside of my head, and often outside of the house, were necessary as I healed from surgery.”

However, we shouldn’t distract ourselves from the clues our bodies send to let us know when something is very wrong.

Here are 7 tips to tell if it is heartburn or a heart attack causing your pain from Eliz’s Women’s Wellness Blog

Eliz Greene survived a heart attack at age 35 while seven months pregnant with twins. Her down-to-earth strategies to manage stress and improve heart health are used by thousands of busy women all over the world. She is a great fit as a Women’s Leadership Speaker and Women’s Wellness Speaker.  Find out more at


Busy and Stressed Entrepreneur Podcast

Is Busy Just The Way Things Have To Be?

Listen to Eliz Greene’s interview on the Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do Podcast with Thom Singer.

Thom and Eliz discuss the problem with busy, the health impact of stress, and Eliz’s research.  She shares tips to manage stress, create positive work environments, and just plain feel better.

Thom’s podcast was recently named one of the top programs for entrepreneurs.

Click the logo to listen:






Thom Singer is an expert in audience engagement and is also Eliz’s co-host for the Conference Talk Show.

Please help with the Job Stress Study

After working with high performers to improve heart health and manage stress for more than a decade, wellness expert Eliz Greene discovered there isn’t enough data about the specifics of the job stress environment and how it impacts men and women differently.

This led her to embark on a multiphase research project to explore this important topic.

The study is currently in the first phase, collecting data about job stress.  A broad base of responses from all ages, genders, and job categories is needed.

How can you help?

Please take three minutes to complete this simple survey about job stress.

Click here to take the Job Stress Survey

The larger the sample of respondents, the more significant the results will be.  No personally identifying information is collected.  Job Stress Survey
The second phase will explore job stress in specific companies and associations. She is looking for organizations to partner with her on the study as well as companies who have created positive work environments to use as case studies. Several health care organizations and associations have already joined the study.  She is seeking companies in varied industries to increase the validity of the study. These organizations will receive detailed reports about their unique job stress environment and there is no cost to participate. If you know of a company or association that would be a great fit for the study, please fill out the contact form.

Click here for the contact form

Eliz Greene is a heart health journalist and motivational wellness speaker specializing in serving women in business. Her humor and personal stories of recovering from a massive heart attack while seven-months pregnant with twins illustrate simple strategies for health and success participants can fit into an already busy day. Her Heart of Wellness Video Program is making a difference in employee health around the country:

“I went into this thinking how inconvenient it would be to find a few minutes a day to watch these videos. After all, I’m sure most of us have heard these topics before by other wellness programs or even our doctors. However, once I started, I came to appreciate the approach. The calm and relaxing way the topic was relayed, actually helped me process the information better. Reminding me “I Will Because” kept me focused on my purpose. The best part, my blood pressure has improved!” City of Bryan, Texas Employee

Click here to start your own path to the Heart of Wellness today!