Better Physical and Psychological Health - American Express

Aim: Help employees shift their view of health benefits, engage in preventative care, and be inspired to adopt new healthier behaviours that benefit individuals and their families

Activity: Development of American Express Services Europe Healthy Living Programme

Significant cost savings and improvements have been seen since the launch of the programme by:
  • Bringing talent in-house to drive the company’s wellness strategy agenda rather than employing consultants.
  • Switching to a global Employee Assistance Programme provider has led to annual cost savings in the company’s UK and Spain markets.
  • American Express has further re-engineered its fitness provision in the UK, contributing to further annual cost reductions, whilst also developing partnerships with its catering provider for regional nutrition information in restaurants.
  • Free onsite fitness class attendance in the UK has continued to increase year on year from an average of 336 monthly visits in 2010 to 467 monthly visits by the end of 2012. Overall, the average number of times an employee interacts with any of the Healthy Living initiatives increased from 1.15 since launch to 5.8 in 2012 per employee per annum.
  • American Express has also seen financial benefit from specific interventions started since launch. In the UK, the company piloted a proactive Energy and Resilience intervention in 2013 which provided a ROI of £4.88:1 in terms of improved performance. Developing its 2011 smoking cessation programme in the UK, American Express saw significant returns in regained productivity and lowered smoking-related illnesses.

In 2009, American Express developed the Healthy Living Programme, a global wellness initiative to help employees shift their view of health benefits, engage in preventative care, and above all, be inspired to adopt new healthier behaviours that benefit individuals, their families and American Express.

In each region where American Express is based, Healthy Living country managers take ownership of implementing Healthy Living services, initiatives, intervention and communication. The programme is tailored to each employee and offers the use of biometric measurement, online health risk assessments and health and wellness coaching to encourage them to make more informed decisions in adopting a healthier lifestyle.

A forward planned annual calendar of wellness is created to match the three year wellness strategy devised by a local working group and chaired by the regional Director. An annual wellness feedback tool takes into account employee suggestions for programme improvement.

To simplify health messages, wellbeing initiatives are aligned under quarterly themes with slightly different communication templates to correspond to each theme. For example, past themes have included ‘nutrition, ‘heart health’ and ‘resilience’.

Senior management has been enthusiastic about leading the wellbeing initiative. As well as being present at launch events, lunch and learn sessions and signing up for different programmes, they have advocated Healthy Living through regular team updates and encouraged their teams to participate in onsite Health Check appointments. This is particularly significant to American Express given that many of its employees are shift-based call centre workers, so time away from the phones can impact resourcing significantly.

American Express’ strategy and results have been recognised around the world with industry awards including: Sweden’s #2 Best Place to Work and UK #12 Sunday Times Best Big Company, winner of Employee Benefits Best Healthcare and Wellbeing strategy award and the Global Health Benefits Institute Gold Award for International Healthcare and a finalist placing for Healthy Living in the HR Excellence awards.

Individual success stories

Alice Hannon,26 (Project Analyst, Global Strategic Planning - Brighton) – Health Coaching Happiness

“I have found the Health Check experience to be extremely beneficial in making measurable improvements to my health and lifestyle. The physiologist has been helpful and informative on both of my Health Checks and provided relevant and proactive advice on how changes can be made and their impact.

Since last year I have stopped smoking, reduced my alcohol consumption and increased my exercise intensity and frequency. A year on, my results show some significant improvements including overall weight loss, a reduction in body fat percentage and a much lower triglyceride level.

I have run my first 5km race in under 30 minutes and have seen vast improvements in my recovery and performance in rugby.

I feel healthier and more confident, and the follow up Health Check has enabled me to really see the impact of my changes and how they have ‘paid off’.

I continue to work towards reducing my body fat percentage and maintain the lifestyle changes I have made. I am running my first competitive 10km race and hope to continue to see improvements to my performance in rugby.

Having a measurable way of seeing improvement acts as significant incentive and has been invaluable to me in my pursuit to improve my fitness.”

Simon Behrens (UK Travel and Lifestyle servicing) – Smoking Cessation Success

“I originally had a running injury and was referred to Healthy Living for physiotherapy. While being in physiotherapy I thought a lot about my general fitness and changes to my lifestyle. A beer drinking, burger loving and smoking runner may sound paradox but is not at all unusual.

I called Healthy Living to make general enquiries about the smoking cessation initiative and what I learned motivated me to schedule an initial appointment. From then on, the Healthy Living team took over and stayed with me for the whole time through phone, email and regular meetings, following up on progress and discussing concerns and goals posts that we set during the meetings.

It was good to know that we will meet at regular intervals and this motivated me to stay focused and off the tobacco. It’s these little things that can make the difference if you plan to change your life.”

Paul, (Global Corporate Payments – Brighton) – Health Check Champion

“Following my first Health Check consultation, the main thing I took away was to incorporate exercise in my everyday life i.e. walking up stairs, walking in general and not having an ‘all or nothing’ approach to healthy habits.

I also think I need to take the same approach to what I eat. For example at the moment when I am good, I am very good, but at weekends and on holiday over indulge, I need to have a more consistent approach at all times.

To be honest there was not a major improvement health status between Health Check appointments, mainly because of illness and holiday. I am aware that these are just excuses and that is why I need to be more consistent. There was a small reduction in my waist size which we put down to me going swimming twice a week since Christmas.

My main focus is to watch what I eat at all times and not just during the week. I also want to walk more and continue with swimming. I do suffer with a bad back so am not able to run.

I think these checks are excellent, I like the way Ian (the physiologist) does the tests and present the facts in a very non judgemental way. He treats us like the adults we are and I find this more encouraging than being made to feel guilty. I am extremely grateful for having these tests.”

Summary

  • In 2009, American Express developed the Healthy Living Programme, a global wellness initiative to help employees shift their view of health benefits, engage in preventative care, and be inspired to adopt new healthier behaviours that benefit individuals, their families and American Express

  • The programme is tailored to each employee and offers the use of biometric measurement, online health risk assessments and health & wellness coaching to encourage them to make more informed decisions in adopting a healthier lifestyle

  • Key impacts as a result of the wellbeing programme include:

  • Making a significant saving in consulting costs in Europe, following the decision to bring talent in-house to drive the company’s wellness strategy agenda

  • A switch to a global Employee Assistance Programme provider saving the company’s UK and Spain markets a significant sum each year.

  • An increase in free onsite fitness class attendance in the UK year on year from an average of 336 monthly visits in 2010 to 467 monthly visits by the end of 2012.

  • Uptake of over 35% for the flu vaccination service in the UK and Nordic countries,

  • Increased productivity and lowered smoking-related illnesses as a result of its 2011 smoking cessation programme in the UK

  • Improved performance through a proactive Energy and Resilience Pilot in the UK resulting in a ROI of £4.88:1

- Private group -