HealthScaping NorthWest

Creating healthy, vibrant communities

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Live to Work, or Work to Live?

Make Life Work

I was delighted to learn earlier today that The Huffington Post, BlogHer, and the Center for American Progress have launched the Make Life Work campaign!

Make Life Work

Exciting News!

This could be the turning point for our nation, and a boost for all of us trying to heed our forefathers’ call to pursue that inalienable right: happiness. With an emphasis on flexible workplaces and leave policies that reflect the realities of modern families, these three powerhouses are well-equipped to lead us to a better way to work. Check out the campaign and how you can get news, become an advocate, and share your story on BlogHer.

Just this weekend, I had the good fortune to witness Guy Kawasaki interview Arianna Huffington at the BlogHer14 Conference in San Jose.

She spoke with heart and humor about her vision for a healthier, happier American workforce. Her tips formed the nuts and bolts of any good chronic disease prevention or workplace wellness program: get enough sleep, meditate, eat healthy, and be active. She spoke with wisdom and humor about these human needs, which are so basic and yet so difficult to accommodate in the modern economy.

High-powered leaders and barely-making-it employees alike are increasingly burning out from always being “on.” So many suffer chronic stress from unpredictable shift work schedules, sleep deprivation, lack of sick leave, and less-than-living wages. These conditions can have devastating effects on performance; Arianna Huffington herself collapsed due to sleep deprivation two years into the making of the Huffington Post, injuring her cheek and requiring stitches. That would certainly be a wake-up call for anybody. She shared how she has changed her habits, and detailed her vision for a workplace culture that supports employee wellbeing. And, hey, if she can now get 8 hours sleep a night 90% of the time, so can the rest of us!

It may take a little help from the top, however.

Fortunately, employers have begun to realize that healthy workplace policies are good for the bottom line. Huffington writes about this in her book, Thrive. Though slanted toward the debilitating stress experienced by even high-powered employees, she asks us all to take a good look at our definition of success and suggests we add a “third metric” alongside wealth and power: wellness. Her book lauds several top-employers that have decided to prioritize employees’ health: doing the right thing for employees is also the right thing for business. Happier, healthier employees are more loyal and more productive… and accrue less expensive health care needs. And that’s a winning situation.

What are your thoughts on work-life balance? How do you manage stress at work?



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HealthScaping at Work: Support Breastfeeding

Did you know you can reduce employee absenteeism and health care costs, while boosting employee

Breastfeeding symbol

retention, productivity, and morale, just by supporting nursing mothers?

Women with young children are the fastest growing segment of the workforce, and most new mothers return to work when their babies are just 12 weeks old[i].

Helping mothers continue to breastfeed after returning to work makes good business sense. It’s also Oregon law.

Breastfeeding keeps babies healthy and boosts their immunity. Mothers who formula-feed their babies miss work three times as often as breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding is also good for the long-term health of employees and their children. It reduces children’s risks for obesity, diabetes, asthma, and allergies; while reducing mothers’ risks for obesity, osteoporosis, and breast and ovarian cancers.

Walk the Talk

Following the law is easy.  For every four hours worked, provide breastfeeding mothers with 30 minutes of unpaid break time to express milk. Provide them with a private location—not a restroom or toilet stall—that is near their work area. The employee needs to let you know she plans to express milk at work, attempt to take breaks at normal break and meal-times, and should use flex-time to make up for any work-time missed.

To really make things go smoothly and quickly, HealthScaping NorthWest can assist you in developing your own written policy and practices.

Because breastfeeding is so important to employee health and satisfaction, many employers choose to create a dedicated ‘Mother’s Room’ equipped with:

  • Comfortable chair and footstool
  • Electrical outlet
  • Small table or counter
  • Sink with running water
  • Refrigerator
  • Sanitary hand and surface wipes
  • Motivational posters and books

Employers can apply for designation as a ‘Breastfeeding Mother Friendly Employer.’

Healthy Benefits

High-grade breast pumps are efficient, save time, and more comfortable to use, but they can cost $200 or more. In your employee benefits package, include reimbursement for breast-pumps as a durable medical device or reimburse the rental of a hospital-grade pump.

Purchasing a hospital-grade multi-user pump and installing it in the ‘Mother’s Room’ is another way to save money as an employer and make expressing milk faster and more convenient for employees.

Providing coverage for lactation classes and lactation consultants will also help new families get breastfeeding off to a healthy start.

The Bottom Line

Workplaces have an important role in supporting breastfeeding, and the benefits accrue both ways.

For every 1,000 babies not breastfed, there were 2,033 extra physician
 visits, 212 extra hospitalization days, and 609 extra prescriptions for three 
illnesses alone – ear, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infection[ii].

CIGNA insurance studied the results of enrolling 343 employees in a lactation support program, and found annual savings of $240,000 in health care costs, 62 percent fewer prescriptions, and $60,000 savings in reduced absenteeism[iii].

The next time you review your workplace wellness programs, make sure they include world-class support for breastfeeding mothers.


[i] Oregon Health Authority. Breastfeeding: Workplace Support. (2013).

[ii] Ball T & Wright A. (1999). Health care costs of formula- feeding in the first year of life. Pediatrics, 103 (4), 871-876.

[iii] Dickson V, Hawkes C, Slusser W, Lange L, & Cohen R. (2000). The positive impact of a corporate lactation program on breastfeeding initiation and duration rates: help for the working mother. Unpublished manuscript. Presented at the Annual Seminar for Physicians, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and La Leche League International, on July 21, 2000.

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HealthScaping at Work: Get Active!

Stairway fitness

Stairway fitness (Photo credit: gorbould)

Have you heard of the ‘sitting disease’?

Many of us sit at a desk or in meetings for most of the day, eating while we work, never taking a real break.

Sitting for hours a day has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and shorter lifespans.

Employers can improve workers’ health and reduce healthcare costs by taking a few simple steps to get people moving throughout the workday.

Walk the Talk 

Many employers sponsor fitness activities, provide flex-time, subsidize gym memberships, encourage cycling to work by installing bike racks, and provide exercise rooms, lockers and showers.

But employers can kick it up a notch by getting people moving while they work[i]. Some ideas to try:

  • Walking meetings: Take a walk outside with one or two employees as you problem-solve, plan, or brainstorm. This gets the blood flowing, manages stress, boosts morale, and creates a culture of health.
  • Take the stairs or walk to another building for your next large meeting. Skip the elevator when you’re just going a few floors. Allow employees time to take the stairs, walk, or bike to appointments.  <insert picture of a StairWell campaign sign>
  • Guide people in some light stretching at the beginning of a morning or post-lunch meeting, or during breaks of longer meetings.
  • Allow employees to alternate between standing, sitting, and using an exercise ball at the desk or workstation.
  • Encourage employees to get up and walk to each other’s offices and talk face-to-face, rather than sending another email.
  • In call centers or similar workplaces, encourage employees to stand and stretch while they talk on the phone, or take a quick break once an hour to walk to the bathroom or get a glass of water, coffee, or tea.
English: WASHINGTON (June 2, 2009) Master Chie...

English: WASHINGTON (June 2, 2009) Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West speaks with Navy Times reporter Mark Faram during a walking meeting along the National Mall. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovos/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s especially important for managers to set the tone. If you take the stairs, ask your employees to walk with you, bike to work, or switch out your chair for a balance ball, your employees will feel empowered.

HealthScaping NW can walk you through the steps of adopting policies that get employees moving.

Healthy Benefits

Include a number of incentives for physical activity in your employee benefits package, including: gym subsidies, flex-time, public transportation passes (which encourage walking and biking to and from transit stops), as well as fitness coaching or on-site exercise facilities.

The Bottom Line

Small changes that promote physical activity at work add up to big rewards in reducing employees’ obesity, chronic diseases, stress, turnover, and health care costs[ii].

Worksite wellness programs produce a great Return on Investment: Worksite weight loss programs are cost-effective, producing a savings of $1.44 to $4.16 for every pound lost[iii]. 

Why wait?

Contact HealthScaping NW today.

[i] Guide to Community Preventive Services. Environmental and policy approaches to increase physical activity: creation of or enhanced access to places for physical activity combined with informational outreach activities. (2011).

[ii]Guide to Community Preventive Services. The Community Guide in Action: Investing in Worksite Wellness for Dow Employees. (March, 2012).

[iii] Guide to Community Preventive Services. Obesity prevention and control: worksite programs.

 [KM1]3 examples

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HealthScaping at Work: Going Tobacco-Free

More and more businesses are ‘going smokefree’ or even entirely tobacco-free on their grounds and facilities.


Because it makes good business sense!

Going tobacco-free is popular with employees and clients… and health insurers.

If your employees and clients are like most Oregonians, they know that secondhand smoke is a health hazard and want to avoid it.

Most tobacco-users want to quit, and, along with good tobacco cessation benefits, a tobacco-free campus helps them quit and stay quit.

Walk the Talk

Oregon’s Smokefree Workplace Law already prohibits smoking inside most workplaces and within 10 feet of doors, windows that open, accessibility ramps, and air intake vents.

Many area employers, including Ashforth, OHSU, and Boeing, take it to the next level and go entirely smokefree outdoors at their workplace.  Some prohibit tobacco use of all kinds.

HealthScaping NorthWest can walk your business through the steps of adopting a policy.

Healthy Benefits

Tobacco use is a leading driver of healthcare costs and sick days.  Tobacco cessation benefits are considered the ‘gold standard’ in Return on Investment in healthcare.

Estimate your Return on Investment with the ROI calculator at America’s Health Insurance Plans:

Go for gold: Choose a tobacco cessation benefit package that includes:

  • Counseling
  • Medication (prescription & over-the-counter)
  • Coverage for at least two quit attempts a year
  • Low or no co-payments
  • No prior authorization or program enrollment to access medications

Promote your tobacco cessation benefits to employees in newsletters, meetings, and new hire information.

Promote the Free Oregon Tobacco Quit Line

The Bottom Line

Tobacco use is expensive.

It is the leading cause of disease and death in Oregon: 7000 deaths a year.


As the underlying factor in most cancers and heart disease, it is driving health care costs higher and higher.

A tobacco-free wellness campaign may be the most important thing you can do to improve employees’ health and productivity while reducing health care costs. 



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HealthScaping at Work: Healthy Eating

We spend the majority of our waking hours at work.

working hours

How much time do we spend at work?

We are what we eat…We eat where we are

During the workday, we eat at least one meal and, often, a couple of snacks. Americans eat out about five times a week, with half of these meals at lunch. All the health education brochures in the world won’t get people to eat healthier if the only options available are deep-fried, highly-processed, or laden with fat, sugar, and salt. Healthy foods in the cafeteria, vending machines, and nearby restaurants would go a long way to support employees’ efforts to eat healthy.

Programs are even more successful when they include price incentives, such as subsidized salad bars; nutrition labeling; and meatless options. Taste tests and surveys are a great way to introduce new foods and build employee excitement.

Innovative strategies include starting a farmers’ market or farm stand on the premises, or making it easy for employees to pick up boxes of fresh produce by enrolling in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Some workplaces go the extra mile and set policies of:

  • no candy on desks
  • healthy food at meetings and conferences (fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, fat and sugar limits)
  • no food provided at meetings less than three hours
  • water instead of soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • healthier vending and procurement practices

The Three A’s: Attractive, Available, Affordable

Key to program success is making tasty and healthy foods attractive, available and affordable, while reducing the availability of unhealthy options.

Support employees’ attempts to eat healthy by making sure the food environment is in line with your workplace wellness promotion goals. This is part of what the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) describes as Benchmark #6 Creating a Supportive Environment. Such “environmental interventions” go above and beyond health education to make sure that employees have the resources to act: policies, physical incentives, rewards and incentives that support their health decision-making.

According to WELCOA, involving employees in changing the workplace nutrition environment is critical. Include a variety of employees in your Workplace Wellness Committee. Seek input through surveys, focus groups, suggestion boxes, and staff meetings.

It is likely that many employees are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. A survey will generate data demonstrating how many employees have weight loss goals, and how much support there is for changes in the food environment. A survey will help your Workplace Wellness Committee set goals and select priorities. Such data will also prove to be persuasive in “bringing along” employees and managers who may be less enthusiastic about the changes.

Seeking continuous feedback, making adjustments as you learn what’s working and what could be improved, and posting positive comments from employees in newsletters, on the website, and on bulletin boards will also increase your changes of long-term success.

Healthier Workplaces Help Us All WorkWell 

Worksites are a critical setting for addressing the chronic diseases that plague our community and increase healthcare costs. We can prevent and manage chronic diseases through proven programs and policies that help people quit tobacco, eat healthy, get more physical activity, and manage stress. A comprehensive approach that includes wellness education, healthcare incentives, and supportive workplace policies (such as healthy vending) is necessary for improving employee health, as well as employers’ bottom line.

Future installments will feature strategies to help employees quit tobacco, get more physical activity, and manage chronic diseases, as well as how to guide your workplace through the change process, using the WELCOA benchmarks.