The Holidays: A Time to Save?

Posted by John Wilwol on December 17, 2007

Before you get the wrong idea, I'm not talking about money here; at least not directly. I'm talking about energy. Genesys Conferencing, a global provider of multimedia conferencing technology, recently did a study of over 15,000 customers to see if companies try to maximize energy savings while employees are away over the holidays. Not surprisingly, most do not.

Over half of the respondants said that their companies normally support some kind of green initiative in the workplace. And although more than 60 percent of employees plan on extending their alotted holiday time-off, less than one-third of the responding companies have a special holiday plan to take advantage of empty offices.

Would one of these plans make sense for your company? You bet. When it comes to saving energy, every bit counts. To enact such a plan, Genesys offers their "Five Top Tips for a Greener Holiday Workplace." Some of their tips make sense, like turning off lights and unplugging dormant office equipment. Others are a little reaching. (Tip four - "Relax dress codes to save on laundry and dry cleaning." I'm sorry, do we not wash our casual clothes, too?) But one of their tips, however promotional, is insightful.

Genesys says, "Avoid unnecessary travel – the #1 polluter – by providing virtual meeting capabilities for people working from home during their vacation." That sounds good to me. Imagine if you could work from home during the holidays, say from December 15 through January 15. No commute means more money for gifts, more time at home and less time on icy roads. My ony real beef with the notion, is that it blurs the line between work and home. But with the way we're all wired to each other these days, wasn't that line blurred long ago?

For corporate globetrotters, Genesys also offers a slick new tool to show how their software can help clients save big-bucks and the planet at the same time. The Genesys Cost Calculater cleverly figures savings not only in dollars and cents, but also in terms of hours and, most cleverly, carbon emmissions.

Check it out here.

Veteran Nurse Blasts Recruiting Via Cash Incentive

Posted by Leo Jakobson on May 03, 2007

Thanks to the wonderful world of Google News’ search capabilities, I came across a fascinating Letter to the Editor published today in the Regina Leader-Post, a daily newspaper in Saskatchewan, Canada. In it, a nurse with 30 years experience in hospital critical-care units takes a scalpel to a cash-based incentive program the provincial health care authority is using to recruit nurses in this scarce specialty. Recruiting and retaining nurses is a topic Incentive has covered a number of times in the past year, including last month’s Playbook case study ["Nursing a Referral Program"] and our April 2006 cover story ["RN: Retention Necessary"]. I found the lengthy letter an interesting take on the downside of cash-heavy recruitment programs—from an insiders perspective—that so many hospitals have turned to in the face of a systemic shortage of nurses plaguing much of the world, including the U.S. and Canada. In her letter, Pamela Richaud, a surgical intensive care unit (ICU) nurse in Regina, Saskatchewan, says that a C$10,000 bonus being offered to nurses who will take a critical-care certification course and agree to work two years in a provincial ICU is causing “dissention” between unit veterans and the newcomers.

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When Is a Carrot Really a Stick?

Posted by Leo Jakobson on February 09, 2007

We’ve been writing about companies that are using incentive programs to get employees to participate in wellness programs quite a bit here at Incentive over the past year or so, and with good reason: with health care costs skyrocketing, anything that can keep insurance costs down provides a potential return-on-investment that is getting harder to ignore. (You’ll see wellness addressed again in our April issue.)

Now, it seems the administrators of West Virginia’s Medicaid program have come to the same conclusion. A pilot program in three counties began this year, offering Medicaid enrollees who participate in wellness initiatives like attending health improvement programs substantial extra benefits. These range from house calls to stop-smoking and weight-loss programs to mental health counseling to—perhaps most valuable of all—unlimited free monthly prescriptions, rather than the four normally covered. Those who do not sign the pledge to do their best to stay healthy—following their doctor’s advice, getting regular checkups and the like—get standard Medicaid coverage.

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Slather on the Leftovers

Posted by Donna Airoldi on November 22, 2006

Want a taste of the delectable dishes that many of us will be gorging ourselves on this weekend but don't want to blow your diet? Consider an "edible" spa treatment instead. While certain products from the kitchen found their way to the spa years ago--most notably chocolate--here are a few other options to satisfy your nose without getting your waist all bent out of shape.

* Maple Sugar Body Scrub. Have you seen a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's syrup lately? She's not exactly svelt. But this treatment at the Topnotch Spa at Topnotch Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vt., will make you feel swell all over. Your entire body is polished with a scrub made of real maple sugar sapped from the Butternut Farms near the resort. The treatment is one of 120 offered at the spa, and includes an application of homemade maple cornmeal soap. (800) 451-8686,

* Banana Leaf Body Wrap. So you don't score a bunch of bananas in a row playing the slots in Vegas this weekend. You'll feel like a winner after treating yourself to this tropical fruit sensation at the newly opened Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace. Incense burns while you receive a floral footbath prior to the wap. An Ayurvedic head and scalp treatment relaxes and envigors at the same time. End with a swirling Liqueur bath, blended from the Qua's signature liqueur. (866) QUA-0655,

* Nutmeg Pumpkin Body Wrap. Ever wonder what happens to all those leftover innards that don't get baked into scrumptious Thanksgiving pumpkin pies? At the Estrella Spa in Viceory Palm Springs, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds get slathered onto guests, who are then wrapped in pumpkin nutmeg with a touch of cinnamon. The body is then polished off with coconut oil and vanilla extract. (866) 891-0948,

What a way to give thanks! Happy eats everyone.

Counting Calories

Posted by Donna Airoldi on August 15, 2006

Joining the U.S. National Debt Clock, we now have the first ever "Fat Clock," which calculates in real time the aggregate amount of weight that all adult Americans are gaining every tenth of a second. (We're well past the 39 billion pound mark, by the way, attributed in some ways I'm sure to the "billions and billions served" by McDonald's over the years.)

This idea is the brainshild of Dr. Charles Stuart Platkin, a nationally recognized health advocate and syndicated columnist, and founder of the, a Web site which offers tips on health, fitness and nutrition to help people combat their weight problems. The clock can be found in its upper right-hand corner.

I know the purpose of this new device is to bring more awareness to the national problem of obesity -- as well as to bring more viewers to Dr. Platkin's site. But I have to admit, seeing that number kind of grossed me out (no pun intended), and I wonder if it will create the type of interest aimed for. Will knowing the aggreggate weight of America convince people to eat less (or at least better) and exercise more? Or will it cause them to want to grab for the nearest bag of Doritos or Snickers bar, as it did me, to help placate that unsettled feeling in the pits of their stomachs caused by the mental image of billions of pounds of fat rippling in the wind with the American flag fluttering in the background?

Cleaning the Front of the House

Posted by Donna Airoldi on July 20, 2006

When I read this article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about Marriott going smoke-free in all its nearly 2,300 hotels in the U.S. and Canada -- dwarfing the 77 smoke-free hotels of Westin, the first  chain to go completely nonsmoking, in December 2005 -- I was pleased to see another hotel company giving up the puffs.

This wasn't always the case. 

Before switching careers to journalism, I worked for a tobacco company.  Even prior to buying into a portion of that industry's defense mantra (the rest of which was questionable, at best), I adamantly believed in a person's right to smoke -- or not to, as was my choice -- even in certain public arenas where it seemed the venue's atmosphere (for better or worse) depended upon the types of patrons smoking, such as at concerts, clubs and bars. Especially hotel bars.  One, it was (still) legal, and I didn't want the do-gooders going after alcohol and food next.  Two, even though I don't light up, I was rarely if ever bothered by the residuals from those who do.

But scenes change, and so too do people.


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Every Employee Should Be Treated to a Massage

Posted by Anne Marie on July 18, 2006

Recently, on a press trip to Ponte Vedra Beach, FL., I was given the opportunity to experience my first spa treatment, a 50-minute massage at the Sawgrass Mariott Resort & Spa. My reaction to this white hot trend is this: massages should be a regular part of incentive rewards. Spa gift cards, accompanied by a Friday afternoon off, should be handed out like an old-fashioned pat on the back. It's the perfect way for a corporation to say "Thanks for working so hard, now go relax. It's important and you deserve it." 

Until this experience, I was under the impression that rest and relaxation were the same thing. Not true. There's something about ethereal music and aromatherapy that frees the mind. My spa massage took place in a darkened room, the first I've been in lately that didn't involve a PowerPoint presentation, a special treat, in and of itself. The massage therapist explained how muscle tension on one side of the body, sometimes causes pain and sensitivity to the other side of the body. I also learned that massage therapy can also be used to alleviate migraines.

An hour later, as I climbed into the tour van where some of my fellow travel writers were already seated, a hipster reporter from L.A. actually remarked "Wow, you really look relaxed and well-rested-- I guess from your spa visit."  To which I actually responded "I think every employee should be treated to a massage."