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Health Leave (not just 'sick' leave)

Balance leave entitlements to be ‘sick’ by also offering employees ‘health leave’: time out to benefit the body and soul – health or meditation retreats, time to detox, take a hike, get that medical - leave that inspires health and wellbeing.

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I invest a fair amount of energy in my health, I swim regularly, eat well and try to get good sleep. In twenty years of employment I can recall taking perhaps 4 days of sick leave. Employers should love people like me, I save them money! Many however think that I am being ‘ripped off’ – that I am missing out on some sort of entitlement to ‘be sick’. What if we turned that entitlement round, what if we actively encourage people to stay well, and offered a form of ‘health leave’.

It might work something like this: criteria for what constitutes acceptable ‘health leave’ offerings could be developed with employees, something like a ‘health leave menu’. I would imagine it includes things like health, yoga or meditation retreats, signing up for hikes or races, time for medical checks, cycling tours or pilgrimages on foot, detox / quit smoking camps etc. Bookings and receipts would be approved against the menu by line managers. Employees would be encouraged to share stories and photos of their health leave experience on the company intranet to encourage others to participate. Performance bonuses or bonuses for not using sick leave may include extended health leave offerings in lieu of cash. Those more cautious could offer this as a benefit based on tenure (though personally I think it sends a strong message that health matters for everyone if it is a standard part of the employment deal).

UPDATES (assumes knowledge of the original concept outlined below)

Thanks for all the feedback on the idea as described below and for the questions requesting refinement.  Having pondered the concept more, I think it is very important to offer it in a way that makes it accessible to all scale organisations.  I believe BUPA and some pioneer organisations could combine to make this possible.  Initially when I wrote the concept I imagined organisations operating independently to develop their health menus, in collaboration with employees.  Now however after all the great discussion, I think it would be far more powerful for an insurer (Bupa?) to work with a few pioneer organisations and IDEO to develop an industry accepted menu of health leave offerings that would qualify for either salary sacrificing or partial coverage through health insurance schemes.  Organisations could obviously choose to add to the menu but if there was an industry developed and financially subsidised 'base' this would be very powerful.  Organisations could then sign up to the 'BUPA Health Leave Offering' with all the hard work of determing what qualifies / how to assess claims etc having been sorted out centrally - this removes an ENORMOUS potential barrier because someone else has 'worked it out'.

I think the fastest way to have organisational take up is to offer it as a replacement to sick leave.   The pros and cons of this have been discussed at length in the last month on the IDEO site.  I think the major barrier to organisational take up may be reticence (perhaps naively) to providing 'extra' leave.  By renaming and re positioning sick leave as health leave, and having an industry developed menu you basically remove all barriers to take up for any organisation of any scale.

Bupa could further encourage organisations to sign on to the Health Leave challenge by running annual awards for greatest organisational take up of Health Leave.  "Winners' may receive some inhouse health offerings to provide for their people, plus obvious media exposure.  Bupa could also offer companies that sign on a 'launch' event at the organisation including well known figures who clearly maintain their health (either elite athletes or other public figures who really model prevention) and data about the impact of staying well physically and mentally on work and life in general.

Ultimately, there may also be a viable fee based business opportunity for Bupa to offer to process people's health leave applications for organisations with insufficient HR processes in place.

 

What are the benefits of your concept for the individual and the employer?

This type of offering would be an enormously powerful recruitment and retention incentive for an employer, as well as encouraging a level of well-being that would result in greater performance. Many people already take these type of active holidays; this program would encourage those who do not to consider a different type of ‘break’ and facilitate the adopters to keep going. For the individual, there are clear benefits in taking time to focus on health for both body and soul that if offered regularly could literally change their lives.

What might the impact of your concept be and how might it be measured?

This concept will impact personal wellbeing and organisational recruitment, retention and performance. Personal wellbeing could be measured by perception surveys of those taking health leave, gathering data on the impact of the leave on regular healthy living practices like exercise, diet and absenteeism etc. The impact on recruitment, retention and performance could be assessed through organisational surveys assessing the importance of Health Leave in an individual’s decision to join / stay in an organisation and their perception of its impact on their performance. Uptake on the leave would also be measured to assess its appeal / value.

How might your concept be designed to scale and spread to reach as many people as possible?

I think an idea like this has the potential to receive media exposure which may encourage other organisations to adopt the practice. In addition, groups of like-minded organisations could ‘pledge’ to offer the leave entitlement as a sign of a shared commitment to well being. A significant way to encourage adoption of Health Leave would be for tax departments to offer deductions / salary sacrifice eligibility for approved ‘health leave’ expenses in recognition of the reduced impact of healthy people on public health systems.

How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?

A volunteer medium size section of an organisation could pilot this concept for around a year. Step one would be to analyse the type of leave experiences people have undertaken in the last year so that you could compare if the “health leave’ actually resulted in greater uptake of health related breaks.

Evaluation results

8 evaluations so far

1. Is this concept addressing clear health needs for users?

Indeed! It’s addressing an unmet need in a new way - 75%

Yep – it’s addressing a need but in an already crowded space - 0%

It’s not clear to see how this idea would significantly improve people’s health - 25%

2. Overall how do you feel about this concept?

This concept rocked my world - 50%

I liked it but prefered others - 37.5%

It didn't get my overly excited. - 12.5%

3. Does this concept feel like it could potentially be sustained as a business or movement over years rather than just months?  Does it feel like it will continue to be relevant in the future?

This concept has enough momentum to stand on its own two feet and remain relevant for years to come - 50%

It’s not clear how long it would take for this concept to stand on its own feet or how it will continue – but there’s reason to feel hopeful - 37.5%

This concept may have trouble sustaining itself in the long-run and stay relevant - 12.5%

4. How easy would it be for people to get involved and improve their health with this idea?

Very easy. It's clear how people could get involved quickly in this concept - 62.5%

I'm not sure if I can grasp how people could get involved easily - 12.5%

It seems challenging for people to get involved quickly in this concept - 25%

5. Does this concept have the potential to reach large numbers of people?

Sure. I could imagine this would spread like wild fire - 37.5%

It's interesting but feels like it would be slow or challenging to grow - 37.5%

It seems somewhat limited in scope - 25%

74 comments

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Photo of Hanna Kristiansen
Team

Hi Ann!

Love your idea, I have a lot of examples where people I know has to "pull a sicky" when they just desperately just wanna be away from the office for one day and do active stuff in the sunshine or de-stress. How often is it gorgeous wheather all week long and when it finally comes to the weekend, it's suddenly a snow storm?!
Going to the beach for a swim and a surf when you are supposed to sit infront of the computer in the office, is not always about lazyness, most people make up for the missed work anyways.

In Sweden, almost every employer offers a wellness directed economic incentive around 2000 SEK. This is to be used on your sparetime on things and activities that contribute to the employees wellness. You can purchase a gymcard, a pare or joggers, a massage or pay for a membership fee in a sportsclub (some restrictions apply, golf card excluded etc), you save your reciept and the employer covers it!

However, I like your idea of separating health days from sick days, because of the change in statistics it provides to the employer. The employer will know if you are actually sick or not which might improve your HR related figures and outcomes. It is unfair if the HR departments good work with health in the work place is not shown in sick leave figures!

I will absolutely try to implement this idea in my future workplace. Being a health interested student in the HR field, I hope to improve future HR practices why this idea is superb to me!

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Photo of lana
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This is a very innovative idea. As many companies look favourably upon learning and development, 'health' programs, or leave, could complement the training that we take to skill up. If we are expected to undertake, for example, 20 hours training a year as part of our skill development, likewise we could be expected to take additional 10 hours for health development activities. After all, to be productive in our jobs we need to be reassured that our well-being is supported by our organisation.

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Photo of An Old Friend
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I completely agree to taking "health" days and not just "sick" days. People work better when they can get away from work for a long enough period of time.

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Photo of Fei Xin
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I hope that it can be implement as soon as possible. I am looking forward to know more informations about that.

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DeletedUser

I like this concept because overall it may not require a lot of structural changes for companies to implement - especially professional services firms that I am aware of that already provide health and fitness subsidies as well as (the rare) sabbatical or leave of absence. Encouraging early adopters to share their experiences would make it seem more acceptable to take "health leave" in high powered environments where even taking sick leave is looked down upon.

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DeletedUser

There is so much about this idea I love and would like to see implemented. I think adding a base standard is brilliant. I am rooting for this Idea. It's practical and seems like it would be highly effective in moving the working culture to a healthier place on a holistic level. \
Great idea.

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DeletedUser

Health leave can apply to physical as well as mental health in our go-go workplace. The idea of incentivizing not taking sick days has lots of promise if a company can ally itself with an Equinox or yoga studio - something like a free week or month membership for every health day earned. That way the system is self-perpetuating. Healthy activities beget a healthy person.

Devil's Advocate to my own theory: The only drawback is that people already come to work ill, saving those sick days for when they are "really" sick. But then they pass their germs around and get other people sick. If an ill person was on the cusp of getting a free month of Equinox if they weren't to call in sick, they could infect their co-workers...which defeats the purpose of the initiative.

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DeletedUser

To echo this, I think that health leave would be great for covering both sick leave and mental health days—I tend to not get sick (and therefore also not take sick leave), but I do take the occasional mental health day, to ground myself and remind myself that there’s more to life than just work.

When I used to teach creative writing, I built my syllabus so as to reflect this; I gave my students the maximum amount days they could miss in a semester, and I told them that those days were theirs, to be sick, to take a break, or to experience life. (An important aspect for a writing class...what else would you write about if you’re in class all the time?) Fortunately for me maybe, creative writing is a topic that makes people want to go to class and so a lot of my students didn’t take advantage of this, but, I like to think they appreciated the option. And I gained a quick reputation as “the cool teacher.”

Long story short, I think health leave is a great idea, and will gain a lot of support.

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DeletedUser

Anni - have you seen this report from a recent TEDMED - links to background research and reports from another innovation process.

http://www.innosight.com/innovation-resources/strategy-innovation/a-great-challenge-of-healthcare-inventing-wellness-programs-that-work.cfm

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DeletedUser

Hi Anni - bravo! Congratulations on making the top 10. I love the idea of providing another incentive to not get sick.

Is there any ability to use LLFoundation to invest in a pilot?

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Photo of Ann Austin
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Hi Sue! We are working on it as part of a whole health agenda but not really a Foundation thing as it is a company benefit that needs to be re-framed.

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Photo of Houda Boulahbel
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I love this idea. It has inspired me to suggest implementing it in my company. Will let me know if they go for it.

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DeletedUser

Good idea. I like this.

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DeletedUser

This is a great idea. I feel like this could have added benefits if the health leave days of various employees were shared in order to be involved with a team or group fundraising effort. Being involved as a group in an athletic activity has the potential to increase group cohesion. Having the multiple benefits of promoting employee health and increasing team productivity.

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Photo of Andrew Li
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Would the "health leave" be offset against your "sick leave"? i.e. Any sick leave days you didn't take, say after half a year, can be taken as "health leave" days.

Or is it important that "health leave" is distinguished as its own type of leave?

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Photo of Atiya Ahmad
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Love it! It really puts the focus on prevention rather than cure! Plus, the term itself also has a very positive connotation to it. Sick leave and sick days have tend to have a negative connotation at work, but health leave, done right, can be a badge of honor at work. And balancing it against sick leave is a win/win for the company - healthier employees are productive employees!

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Photo of Ann Austin
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I agree with everything you have said, now we just need to enthuse some organisations to adopt the concept and watch the positive impact!

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DeletedUser

The reason why I'm such a fan of this challenge is that it reflects a change in attitude.

We're so used to working long hours and pushing our body as far as our willpower can push it, before taking time to rest. And when we do, it's because our body is already depleted of energy, and it takes much longer to come back to a balanced state (think burn out).

At least the environment in which I grew up in and work in, I'm used to people overworking their bodies and not tuning in. I've experienced this myself.

A Health Day would not necessarily be an increase of days taken off work, but rather has the potential of cutting down sick days as we learn to take better care of our bodies. And even better than that, if we take better care of our mind and body, and make the time to relax, our work performance will also improve.

I do feel within our Western society our social values and expectations need to be reconsidered, especially when it comes to how we treat our own bodies and how much we push ourselves when it comes to being professionally successful (and the big question being, how productive are we really when we spend 10-14hrs a day at the office?).

In my ideal work day, I'd take a 15-20mins nap midday, and have a 45mins yoga class at 4pm. Both completely refresh my mind and productivity level.

Great call to action, Ann!

Best, Nadia

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DeletedUser

Congratulations and what a fantastic approach. I wanted to provide a shout out to my current supervisor who embraces health time for her team. Knowing the negative effects of stress and burnout, she fully supports me coming in late so that I can take advantage of the pool in the morning before work, knowing that a happier me is a more productive and energetic me. I hope your idea is adopted universally!

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DeletedUser

Congrats for winning the challenge, Ann! Any action plans ahead? I'd love to join the effort of implementing this concept. Let us know what we can help with.

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DeletedUser

I really like this idea of rolling sick days into health days. I think it is important that the health day is used actively (by which I don't necessarily mean athletic in nature, but taking an active role in one's own health). Businesses are less likely to participate if they think it will simply become another vacation day. I think many employers expect vacation days to be used at least partially to recharge.

But what if companies provided some of the activities. They could organize a company day at a yoga retreat. Or a day of canoeing on nearby lakes. Or the company could organize a charity race held in a local park during the week. The whole company wouldn't have to shut down but employees could be given the option to sign up for activities. Maybe the first Tuesday of every month could involve a different health activity that employees could sign up to use one of their health days on. The employee gets the day dedicated to health away from the grind and the company is assured the employee is using the day as designed.

I know the beauty of your idea is in the simplicity. So I don't think this needs to become a required part of the program, but offering it as an option to companies might get them to buy into the concept.

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DeletedUser

Mike perhaps this could be combined with the Secret Gym idea, where the company can take a health day to do a surprise activity.

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DeletedUser

That's a great combination of ideas, Nigel. I think the Secret Gym would be a perfect idea for a company sponsored health day.

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Photo of Ann Austin
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Hey Mike, bigger companies could definitely offer activities that fit the menu. My company has done this for a very long time. One reason why I would still leave the menu open to non corporate run activities is based on my own epxerience. When I was young and single I found the corporate organised activities really convenient and fun to attend. Now working part time and raising three kids I find they never work with my hectic personal timetable and I am much better off finding health activities locally in time that works for me. With a more open menu, I can also include my family and do things wildly exotic that my organisation could never offer - such as walk the kakoda trail with my sons, attend an Ekhart Tolle retreat in Swinborne with my husband or climb Mt Kiliminjaro with my mother's group. If we just make it corporate run offerings I think the imagination would be stifled and smaller organisations seriously disadvantaged.

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DeletedUser

@Mike I think you hit on a point that could drive the acceptance of the practice.

We must first test the concept to show it is possible; learn, iterate, adjust retest. If a company offered a few options each month during work days for outings of ~2-4 hrs (allowing parents and singles to participate) and they had high turnout/interest (somebody has to stay back to run the company if 30% of the folks are gone), then they know people want to be healthy and want that kind of option in their company benefits.

An example is my company instituted volunteer day one year ago and signup filled up within a week (my company ~3,000 employees). The next year they expanded it to nearly double the size based on feedback from the first year. It still filled up within a week. This year they are planning to offer 2 days! Test hypothesis, iterate, retest, iterate, retest -> final product.

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DeletedUser

Hi Ann,

I completely agree with you that you want to keep the menu of activities as broad as possible so that everyone's individual needs are met. I intended the company sponsored events more as an add-on than the basic program. But I think it's an add-on that might encourage skeptical companies to join the program since it gives them a little more direct involvement.

Using Matthew's example above, I would imagine his company would be more willing to give employees time to volunteer on their own after they saw the high attendance at the company volunteer day.

But ultimately I agree that the greatest benefit is when the employee is free to use the health day as they see fit.

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Photo of Rebecca Könitzer
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Great idea! Why not make the concept even more individualized and medically backed up? Every employee should get a medical consultation on actions which have the greatest health impact given their individual health situation. This approach will provide individual annual action plan which then can be adjusted as the health situation improves. In addition the needs of individuals with chronic illnesses are taken into consideration during the action planning phase (extra health days, special treatment). This system will make sure that the annual health requirements are met in the most efficient way for each employee, employer and insurance agency.

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Photo of Ann Austin
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This is a really interesting addition to the idea and could respond to possible concerns from employers that the system will be 'rorted'. It adds some complexity and not all organisations would be able to afford the consultation process but definitely worth fleshing out more.

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DeletedUser

@Rebecca as Ann noted the complexity and costs significantly increases when you involve medical staff; complexity that Kasra (Jan 18th) is looking into, which Germany offers (though they have a social healthcare with private pay).

I would suggest expanding the descriptions on the 'menu' / Health Leave Offerings (HLO?) to include options to build a simple profile and be given suggestions to which HL you should pick based on your need/desire. There could be medical insight in the creation of the descriptions allowing for a positive/supportive feeling to insurers/employers that what they are offering is aligned with a person's need and would in turn improve their health. I would hope my suggestion would also reduce the insurance plan(s) cost to employers as they work with their insurers...since the insurer will feel they are getting their 'money's worth' after a person successfully completes their HL.

Within Ann's update she suggests an insurer could create the offerings template, and if so, I have no doubt they would seek medical insight into creating/establishing descriptions.

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DeletedUser

Amazing concept, and comments...the community are making it come alive!

Its clearly a flexible enough concept to be applied in a number of ways, which in essence makes it a highly applicable I think.

Rather than adding any technical expertise (I have very little!) I thought I would just share how this made me feel as a concept...just thinking about how I might take my health leave makes me feel a bit elated, a day or two just for me?! No way. I am a working parent with full time committments on all fronts, its just amazing to think my employer would allow me this opportunity for better health, for mental space, and for me. Time is money they say? In this case, time is more than that...

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DeletedUser

Congratulations Ann! I like this concept. When I lived in Germany my employer implemented this. Very common in Germany. Though it costs money for them. In a way it benefits them. less sick days, and also keeps the employee happy (i.e., loving the company he or she works for).

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DeletedUser

I love this concept. Encourage the works to kepps fit and happy

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Photo of Ann Austin
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Kasra, it would be great to have some German case studies where this has been put in practice - are you able to share any examples? Did they use a menu?

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DeletedUser

I cannot find any example. However I will continue to look. All I know that is is common in Germany. It is included by the employer or by the social healthcare program. What do u mean by menu?

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Photo of Ann Austin
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If you look in the detailed description of the idea, I suggest the development of a menu of activities relevant for health leave.

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DeletedUser

Yes I recall. No it was more of a doctor prescribing from the severity. For example anywhere from time off work to 2 weeks at a spa in the mountains.

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DeletedUser

Great idea! To record and encourage this: how about clocking in for the time you spend being active? The record of it would show up as part of your activity log (many do this already for motivation such as pedometers or fitness log apps). The communication to the organization's team about this new form of "activity leave" could then go out over the existing internal channels for timesheets, there would be a record involved that could sync to a fitness app and there wouldn't be any additional costs except for adding this activity leave to the drop down of the payroll system. Help could also come for the sync between the on-line payroll system and the fitness app with an internal employee who could write the code and link it or small up-front costs to do this if you need an external party to write the script. This could also incorporate some of the other ideas around active lunches or workplace fitness classes, etc. as it could be recorded on your timesheet.

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Photo of Ann Austin
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Someone else suggesting some sort of tracking too which I think is an excellent idea though I would be inclined to track the take up of the health leave against menu offerings to keep it simple.

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DeletedUser

I was also thinking that if you wanted this adopted, a quick way to introduce it to a larger group of employers is to have it offered through ADP or any of the big payroll companies as they could roll it out for you!

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Photo of Jacqueline Cisneros
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Hi Ann, offering employees "Health Leave" is a Fantastic concept. Great Job!

Where I work today, they offer sabbatical time once every 5 years. An employee can take up to 4 weeks off to "refresh" and "recharge". Instead of having a month off once every five years, I am confident many would opt for a week every year instead.

I could see myself using this "Health Leave" to attend a meditation retreat or sign up for a race as you noted above.

I could take the time off to do it today, however, that time off would be drawing from my PTO (Paid Time Off) days which I normally reserve to spend time with my children when they are out of school or have vacation time.

Having "Health Leave" apart from PTO days would be wonderful.

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Photo of Ann Austin
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Yes if you left recharging to every five years with nothing in between you may need more than a month!

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DeletedUser

Hi Ann,

“Health leave” is such a great idea! I just joined this challenge yesterday and yours is one of the best ideations in my opinion. Health leave hits so many key elements of design at once: simplicity, application, and ease of promotion.

Before landing on your challenge page, I was just talking to one of my colleagues about what I am supposed to do with over 200 hours of “sick leave” accumulated. We were both hit by the “should I slack off more in the gym so I can get sick and use up these hours before they max out?” dilemma. It is one thing for our society to always provide a safenet for the less healthy groups, but it’s another thing to make positive and energetic people doubt their lifestyle while sharing the cost of “sick leave”. “Health leave” and “Health menu” empowers everyone to finally set health as their highest priority. Taking a half day health leave in the beginning of each week versus a three day sick leave after the flu season? It’s a no brainer!

There are so many channels that this concept can be promoted. The media exposure, organizational pledge, tax deduction are all great examples. Since the qualification of “health menu” items is critical for companies to be willing to comply, collaboration with professional fitness service provide can help create customizable “menu” items for given corporate needs. Companies such as 24 hr fitness (USA) and Vitalife Bumrungrad (Thailand) have existing infrastructure with professional trainers and login systems to keep track of workout progress, as well time in and out.

To make the deal more attractive, on top of getting much healthier, productive employees, the employers can receive sizable discounts in employee health insurance plans from innovative companies such as Bupa. An easy to implement test would be Bupa offering individual employee “Health leave combo” with discounted copay and company coverage, starting from employees accruing over 200 hr “sick leave”. :D

Go health leave! go 健康假!

Best,

Spam
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DeletedUser

I like the idea of an organizational pledge as a way to get this idea into practice. A promotional campaign could have an immediate effect (unlike a tax incentive). Once you can convince 3 well known companies in a region to take the pledge, then they can promote it to their suppliers and customer companies, and their involvement can be used in marketing efforts to get other companies to commit. As a grass-roots campaign, you just need to enroll one or two individuals to become champions within their companies, and provide them with a bit of support in order to spread the idea.

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DeletedUser

It also becomes a recruiting edge, so companies in similar business sectors adopt it to stay even in the battle for talent. It's harnessing the power of positive peer pressure on a company level.

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Photo of Ann Austin
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All great additions to the concept. I suggested tax deductability so people can salary sacrifice the costs of health activities because that would work in my country (in Australia organisations do not typically cover costs of personal health insurance). That said, most Australian private health insurance schemes cover preventative health options and it would be very powerful to have an industry recognised (and subsidised) health leave menu. I think thie idea of designing this collaboratively with industry specialists could give it some real weight.

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DeletedUser

This is a great concept. Could we take it a step further?
Instead of having sick days that roll over into health days if you don't take them, as has been suggested by Andrew, Delia, and a couple others, or some kind of combination of health days and sick days, why not just rebrand PTO or sick days as health days? The language allows for the recovery from illness and the relief from stress (as is currently covered by mental health days and sick days), as well as for activities like taking part in an athletic competition or wellness retreat. It could empower employees to take the time, and to do something healthy with the time off if they are not actually sick.

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DeletedUser

The idea of rebranding PTO or sick days as health days sounds promising. One potential issue, though: I imagine that such a system would allow the healthy to get healthier while the sick stay sick. Under this system, people who have chronic illnesses that require them to take a lot of sick days may not be able to take many (or any) health days. If it's true that it would widen the health gap between employees, would that be problematic? Inequitable? I'm not sure myself. Just wanted to throw that issue out there to see what others think.

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Photo of Meena Kadri
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You raise an interesting and valid point, Ashley. With your knowledge of the health realm – might there be something you could suggest which could compliment Ann's idea yet be more inclusive for those who are chronically ill? Potential builds or iterations? We're keen to draw on your expertise!

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DeletedUser

Ashley, I've been thinking about this, and I think the alternative is also bad for people with chronic illness. If you take many more days off then healthy people, it is going to be a real challenge to be competitive for advancement within the organization. By making sick days into health days, and having a culture of actually taking that time off to apply to health activities (whether recovery or prevention), then everyone is on an even playing field at work.

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DeletedUser

Good point Nigel. It would also make people more comfortable to use a "sick day" if they knew most employees would use all of their health days one way or the other.

This would help their health and reduce the spread of illness around the office.

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Photo of Ann Austin
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You know Nigel when I first started to concoct this idea I too wondered whether I ought not just replace sick leave. I hesitated for all the reasons stated, as a healthy person I was not sure I fully appreciated the needs of those dealing with long term issues. In effect, I would be swapping my 'sick leave entitlement' for health leave because I don't take the sick leave most years anyway. I would be keen to hear from someone who does have an ongoig condition what they think. I think employers would embrace the concept much faster if if simply replaced sick leave as it sounds less 'scary' and less likely to be at their expense.

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Photo of Victoria Mirauer
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Ann, I really like this concept. Mostly because in creating a workplace 'benefit' you are ensuring health and wellness are integral to the psychological contract we have with our place of work. It would be great if targets and measures were set, so managers are incentivised to encourage uptake. I agree totally with others who have advocated a 'health menu' of options, discounted gym memberships or just interesting stimulus to get people involved.

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Photo of Ann Austin
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Targets is a great idea - and the menu concept was always in the description of how the idea would work, can't be done without it.

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While I like the idea, it does seem like the end result is you want companies to offer more vacation days under a different name. As far as Im aware you can take a one day vacation day or something in the middle of the year without any real issues.
I can see some of the larger companies like google taking it up though.

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Yes this could become just 'more leave' without a well crafted menu of offerings. Unlike annual leave, I would suggest however that this leave does not accrue, if you don't use it in a year, you lose it.

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DeletedUser

Ann, I am sure you've looked at the Wellness Worx concept from Amol http://www.openideo.com/open/well-work/concepting/wellness-worx/ He's done a great job working out a detailed proposal for the inventives for all involved parties: employers, employees, insurance companies. Amol’s “suite of wellness services” is exactly what should be on the “health menu” for people taking “health leaves”. However, I still prefer “Health Leave” concept of completely subsidizing employees’ cost for “health menu” items in this multi-side market scenario. Employees’ compliance rate would be much higher compared to when they were only given a discount for gym membership, etc.

I’d recommend to adopt Amol’s incentive schemes for “health menu” items.. “Health Leave”’s simplicity and ease for adoption + “Wellness Worx”’s incentives proposal = complete recipe for pitching to the first employer, hopefully google. :D

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There is definitely some connection between Amol's concept and this one. Interestingly my work place currently offers all the things Amol is suggesting - subsidised exercise programs etc and there is a reasonable take up of them. The Health Leave concept allows people two different things, one to do what they want where they want (rather than have to do the corporate class at times or with teachers / students they may not want to be with) and to a level of depth that a week long type program may allow. It is also more suitable to smaller organisations that cannot afford to offer in house wellness activities but could comfortably offer leave. I think there is room for both offerings but I would not limit the Health Leave menu to activities offered by the organisation.

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DeletedUser

Really like this idea! I think healthy cooking classes could be an option for health leave = they're fun and promote a healthy lifestyle as well.

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DeletedUser

I absolutely agree for example find free cooking classes on eventbrite and convince the whole office to attend & learn about cooking healthy with locally grown vegetables.

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DeletedUser

The thing I really like about this approach is that it focuses on preventing/fixing the underlying causes, as opposed to just dealing with the unwanted consequences of poor employee health. Because of this, I think it would be really important to keep heath days and sick days separate, or if the company is like mine with no preset PTO, to encourage and promote the use of PTO for such activities.

I suspect, in some cases, this will require a change in not just corporate policy, but also in corporate culture. Some companies are seeing it, and we can see the changes in some insurance programs to promote health and not just fix illness. Do we have any studies or can Bupa fund such studies to show the bottom-line savings of such an approach for those money-driven companies not yet convinced?

Once convinced (by whatever means), we get into the logistics of putting together such a program. I like the comments suggesting more employee input. I think that's especially important, as it would potentially lead to employees meeting together with shared interests in certain physical activities being supported by the company.

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I too would be thrilled to have some data to help people needing convincing of the real benefits of a healthy work force. As noted in one of my other replies, at my work place we are researching some exciting connections between brain function and performance that have clear links to health but any more hard data is always welcome. I am told Google regularly offer annual medical checks as a form of prevention - maybe they have some data around the business case for this??

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DeletedUser

Hi Ann! Really interesting concept... turning incentives upside down, encouraging activities, really benefits the company as well.
I get so many ideas while running! I think it is really important to give the possibility to decrease physical tensions, for individuals' health and for company productivity.

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There is science behind your experience; in order to be 'creative' we need to use the part of our brain that only functions when we feel safe and relaxed apparently. When you run, you are probably releasing tension, relaxing and letting that front lobe back into action!

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DeletedUser

I really love this idea, because its encouraged the employees to keep fit.

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DeletedUser

I would like to see an allocation of "health leave" days, say once a quarter, where an employee would be able to recharge, spend more time with his/her family, or just take the time to get on top of stuff that has been put off in their personal life due to the commitment they have to their work. These 4 days could be rolled over from a previous year from the sick day pool since most companies do not allow the carry over of sick days to the next calendar year. Additionally, I also feel that all companies have to do a better job of making true commitments to fitness - decent on-site facilities or a substantial gym discount as well as allowing employees the latitude to work out whenever they want as long as they are staying on top of their work. I find myself checking email and working every evenings and would love to be able to go work out at 3-4pm instead of having to wait until I get home especially since I am putting in work hours at home.

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DeletedUser

I worked for several years at a company whose employees did mostly client-based work that was billed by the hour, and the company specifically payed them to do several hours a month of pro-bono work, be it in their normal field of work or serving on the board of an organization or volunteering. Perhaps instead of just sick days, companies might allocate a few hours of their employees' time to fitness, or even sponsor a class within the office, maybe once a month, that would be included in their paid hours? In a similar vein, perhaps companies that have hour long lunches could support employees grouping together to spend maybe half of that time doing yoga, or a similar activity.

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DeletedUser

I love this concept Ann. I'm a healthy guy that rarely uses his sick days. And I have a blue collar/bootstrapper work ethic which means I rarely use my all of my vacation days. What you're calling health leave, I called MENTAL HEALTH DAY(S). I personally know many friends and coworkers who do not use their PTO. Employers can also offer a package where any unused PTO days are rolled over into a health leave package. To be fair you'd probably lose the opportunity to vanish from the office for 5-7 days. However, 1-2 days or your choice of day parts (depending on workload, meetings etc.) would be fair. I'm a runner. I would love some extra training time particularly in the months where it's dark when you wake up and dark when you leave the office. Another idea is to have a local gym or wellness center create personal training or wellness packages. I know lots of coworkers who could benefit from spa days, competitive swim lessons or a TRX training week. Again, great concept.

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DeletedUser

This is a great idea. I think dedicated time to health will encourage us to make the most of. Too many of us leave PTO untaken (according to CNN, 25% of Americans don't take any http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/13/opinion/obeidallah-vacation-health/index.html) Some companies have eliminated sick days and personal days and put all time off in the same PTO bucket. It'd be very interesting to measure how the impact of health days compare to the impact of PTO. Will it create a sort of entitlement to health? Will it make us feel more productive and satisfied with our jobs?

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DeletedUser

Great Conept Ann, Health leave will be a great way for people to refresh themselves and come back to work. The examples that you have given are great ways for people to spend this time in a good way, this concept will benefit people in many different health areas such as mental health.

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DeletedUser

Hi, Ann. I would love an idea of having a 'health leave.' It could start up by a small step, like having a couple of hours a week and then it could increase as time goes. Having a seperate time for employees to do exercise or take care of their health would improve their lives both inside the office and outside as well!

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Hey Ann, i think this is a really great idea! More people are getting into the fitness craze globally but struggle to make a full commitment because of work. By offering this health leave employees would feel relaxed, healthier in body and in mind, therefore leading to a better work life and personal life.

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DeletedUser

Hi, Ann. Another member of the community mentioned that your concept, my concept (OpenWELL), and another may have some similarities.

I love the idea of wellness as a holistic approach to healthy living. Maybe we can all build on these ideas from each other.

Thanks for sharing.

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DeletedUser

http://www.openideo.com/open/well-work/concepting/open-innovation-workplace-wellness-openwell/#c-9caf7e3c39a2b18cad068a3a0ae67291

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DeletedUser

Thanks for contributing your concept. These kinds of programs promote health and wellness, as well as show the value an organization puts on health.