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#052-Micro-Habits, Science & Wellbeing (Jane Wang)

Podcast Summary

These days, society has a love/hate relationship with technology. It’s an integral part of our digitally driven world, yet if we aren’t careful, getting sucked into the digital vortex can be disastrous for our mental and physical health.

Thankfully some great technology companies are using their coding and behavioural science skills for good. These companies are helping people live healthier, happier, more vibrant lives. To facilitate learning, engaging with nature, and connecting with other humans.

Today, we will meet Jane Wang, one of the amazing women driving this positive change and learn how her biochemistry and medical background led her to create a unique wellness technology company that’s transforming consumer health, corporate wellness, and influencing the future of the insurance industry!

Welcome to the Working Well Podcast, the show that explores the rapidly changing landscape of work and wellbeing. Each episode, We dive into the hottest topics in leadership, employee wellbeing, and the future of work! I’m your host Tim Borys.

Episode Links & Resources

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Podcast Transcript

Please note: This transcript is generated by computer and may contain errors

IntroductionThe Digital Dilemma: Balancing Technology with Health

These days society has a love hate relationship with technology. It’s an integral part of our digitally driven world, yet if we aren’t careful, getting sucked into the digital vortex can be disastrous for our mental and physical health. Thankfully, some great technology companies are using their coding and behavioral science skills for good.

These companies are helping people live healthier, happier, more vibrant lives. They facilitate learning, engaging with nature, and connecting with other humans.

Introducing Jane Wang: A Pioneer in Wellness Technology

Today, we’ll meet Jane Wang. She’s one of the amazing women driving this positive change, and we’ll learn how her biochemistry and medical background led her to create a unique wellness technology company.

That’s transforming not just consumer health and corporate wellness, but influencing the future of the insurance industry. Welcome to the Working Well Podcast, the show that explores the rapidly changing [00:01:00] landscape of work and well being. Each episode, we dive into the hottest topics in leadership, employee well being, and the future of work.

I’m your host, Tim Borys. Here’s a bit more about Jane. Jane Wang is the CEO of Optimity, an award winning wellness engagement platform that delivers personalized, holistic health programs with micro learning, wearable devices, and gamification to support healthy living. In the last nine years, She’s led the team to codify 30 plus years of behavior science into a mobile app and digital program that serves 3 million members across North America.

Prior to Optimity, Jane led innovations in dynamic health, risk scoring, and specializing digital patient engagement programs for phase two and three global clinical trials. She’s passionate about prevention and proactive health programs to improve population health and mortality using nudges and the joy of gamification.[00:02:00]

Hey Jane, I’m excited to have you on the podcast. I really enjoyed our chat the other day and looking forward to diving into the, through the topics we discussed. How’s your day going? It’s great. It’s a beautiful spring day and I’m excited to get outside for the latter part of it. When awesome outside is perfect and what we try and do.

I know you grew up in Alberta. So you love the outdoors as well. I’m sure and I we’ve got some snow here today. So I’m looking forward to getting out and experiencing a bit of the outdoors and snow before it’s gone. Yeah, in our conversation the other day, I you’re a bit of an enigma to me.

You, you’ve got this biochemistry background and now you’re running a tech app and you are making all these great changes.

Jane’s Journey: From Biochemistry to Tech Entrepreneurship

Tell me a bit about the origin story of Optimity [00:03:00] and how you went from biochemistry to mompreneur and running this amazing app. Thanks so much. First of all, thank you for having me on here.

I’m always interested in having really impactful conversations around my favorite topic, which is helping people live healthier and longer and with better financial wellness as well. It’s been an evolution, as you said I came from a family of. Developers and coders, so electrical engineers.

Both my mom and dad. So I just coded growing up. I didn’t really think much about it. We we were just in a very, I would say supportive middle class family where. I got to choose what my interests were, and I was really interested in health sciences and because I did quite well in my biology and chemistry classes, I thought biochem was the right thing.

But little did I know that biochem was a [00:04:00] lot more medical. As I am the 1st. Person in my family to be in the health sciences and then the whole point was I wanted to, have a doctor in the family so that we in case, anybody got sick, I’ll be there and I’ll be able to help them out and do that.

And it would be really fun. But the more I progressed, and I did my cats and I did my, all the hospital internships and so on. I found that they were lacking a lot of scalable ways of doing things. There’s not a lot of software in it. And I just, I couldn’t understand. Even in my research projects, I.

Created like code and scripts that they can run to analyze data. So I ended up actually just specializing in working on technology platforms for started with hospital systems. And then it went into clinical trials and from a hospital site to a CRO contract research organization, working for large [00:05:00] pharma and I all along the way, brought my flavor of technology analytics. 

So I have a stats minor and so on, and I became the specialist and I worked on a lot of really amazing prevention type of projects. So I got to work on ovarian cancer prevention. I got to work on Alzheimer’s. I worked in research in M. S. in also HIV.

Diving Into Medical Research

So it was really cool. Patient outcomes using front of the best in class software and data. So this is from blood scans, patient assessments, health assessments, MRI. We did the 1st versions and this is in the, in the 2000s and early development of. I guess now it’s categorized as AI, but back then it was really a script running on an MRI scan to detect lesions and to autofill them.

And then the [00:06:00] doctor would take a look at them to verify it. So I got to work on stuff like that and prediction of mortality and morbidity outcomes. So that kind of was the first 10 years of my professional life from my undergrad marrying what. My what I inherited from my family in terms of just skills, and then also what my personal interest was but unfortunately, in 2011, took a turn.

And as I was doing these world changing research across the world in my own backyard, my mom got sick and she was 52 at the time and she had developed cancer. But it was a different type of cancer, it was leukemia, and and I couldn’t do anything about it, and that, at the time, my partner was also he was in, he was an emergency physician, and the two of us completely, I realized my first hypothesis which was, hey, I’m in healthcare, right?

We have we should be able to take care of my parents. It didn’t work like that, and we were not able to take care of her, and she passed [00:07:00] away within six months. So I lost her. She was very young. She was 52. And that took me on a, that was definitely a pivotal point in my life where I realized that the work that I was doing, although, as glamorous and as interesting as it was for me professionally.

Didn’t really truly have the impact on my family. Or other families like mine. So that took me on a soul searching journey. I ended up getting more education to fill the time. So I went and got an MBA. I did some management consulting. I worked in investment in private equity, just looking at investing in different types of health areas because I thought money would power.

That’s what I learned from my MBA, that money would power change. I didn’t quite find the answer yet. And then I ended up doing some master’s training and analytics work at in the Bay Area at Stanford. And [00:08:00] during the time there, the year, There I just saw so many people like myself not like the Elon Musk.

I, I quit school and I started doing this, but people that are mid career. Starting companies and making amazing change and, supporting hundreds of thousands of patients, not like the few, the tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands of patients and be doing prevention.

And it was, 2013, 2014, which is circa. The rise of Fitbit, this little company and this little company, Google had their, Google health thing. Apple started announcing their first watch, rolling that out. So it was such an interesting time and I just caught the startup bug. And this is, Optimity is actually the second startup that I’m worked on.

Being a Mom and Startup Entrepreneur

Like it’s been amazing. And then during in throughout that journey, I’ve, been able to also build my own [00:09:00] family. And now I have two little ones and I really identify with being a non traditional entrepreneur. So that’s why I’m a mompreneur and I’m in the tech industry. And now we support over 3 million people on their journey.

Yeah. People like my mom, that’s that’s And congrats on the journey. And I do want to say, I feel you on your mom. I just lost my father last fall. And I know it hits at the heart so much. And yeah, my thoughts are with you on that. Yeah, it’s been actually very healing the last now, really, it’s 13 years.

It’s been very healing to be able to do something about it and to to take a very active role and to wake up every day with that mission as well as align with the team. My team’s like that, they all have personal stories like [00:10:00] yours because guess what we all. Get touched by health tragedies at some point, and it’s just part of the human experience.

And it’s really about how can we optimize that experience and have lots of joy in it and allow that to power connection and yeah. And I think all that is it’s been hugely healing and impactful. Yeah. And we’ll, we know your mom would be proud with what you built and how many people you’re impacting.

So as we’re in our conversation the other day, we, and I guess we originally connected by a, an Excellence Canada webinar on workplace wellbeing. And that’s an area directly aligned with where my passions are. And my journey brought me from elite athletics to personal training, all the way into This work reforming or [00:11:00] retransforming the world of workplace well being, and I really am interested in to chat with you about.

Optimity: Revolutionizing Wellness with Technology

Optimity, because I see what you’re doing is quite different than what else is out there, but I think a lot of people listening are probably going to say. We don’t need another friggin app. What? Why people the user engagement is low. What’s, how’s another app gonna help people actually improve?

People don’t use the ones that are already on their phone anyway. So what’s this, what’s different about this? And how is it going to help companies and individuals? Yeah yeah, it depends on the person, how they look at it. I don’t really look at the phenotype of which is like, how it shows up.

This a cup is a cup, right? We don’t need another cup. I have, 50 other cups in my cupboard, but I think it’s really important to look at the problem itself and what we see and to find and [00:12:00] to solve a problem for the person for the who. Let’s take the example of someone like my mother, right?

So she, she was 52 at the time. She was working for a software company. They had a great benefit health benefits and but they also pay the people to do assessments. So you could do your physical assessments and stuff like that. I think they paid like 200, 250 and so on, but those benefits are not being used.

And then you take that person now in our time, which is 20, the year 2024, you’re going to find that it’s a distributed workforce. People are coming from all kinds of places. Like, how are you going to communicate those benefits to those people? How are you going to be at their fingertips and where are they looking for this stuff at the time where they’re not feeling super well?

Are they, What is the 1st place that they’re going to look for information? And how do you get it to them? In the best way, most efficient way and most problem solving way. [00:13:00] You look at solving the problem there. And I think. Optimity itself is a data driven health and wellness engagement program that allows anyone to connect within seconds.

And get access and communicate and find the benefits and be able to do an assessment quickly and be able to access their information and kind of do the. Do the health portion of it, the health benefit portion of it. And then the 2nd part is culturally, I think we’re at a time where. In people are leaders are starting to understand that the organization is actually a fabric, right?

It’s not just like people clocking in and doing things like I can tell you from my team. People are very mission driven. I’m here because. I know my team and I know them, not through just the work tasks that we’re doing, [00:14:00] but these other human connections and the social connections. And there’s this whole sense of belonging that happens.

The Power of Micro Habits

And there’s many micro habits that are part of our. Original work that was eroded during the covert years and what we found that our particular version of opportunity, which actually it’s called digital. So it’s physical and digital. It really enables these asynchronous connections around micro habits.

For example you and I can do, around something that we already self discover that we don’t do enough. For example I don’t drink enough water. We can actually be in a synchronous challenge between you and I on this platform. So we’re doing something physically, but it’s trapped on the digital thing.

So I think apps are still 1 of the most efficient ways to connect. Things and then optimally is more than just an app. The app is just the place, the portal that you can pick up a [00:15:00] mobile device. 98 percent of people have a mobile device so that they can connect in a way that’s free to them. That’s very accessible for them and.

I can connect with someone around a topic. The experience, the journey is what creates that engagement experience. And we work on a lot of different types of digital I would say things that make sense for that company in their occupational. In their occupational context. For example, we have a Satori, which is a cheese factory.

I don’t know each Satori cheese, but I love their cheese and they came to us because traditional wellness programs or those, different things that what my mom experienced. Didn’t doesn’t work in their way. They have some admin staff, but most of their people, some of most of people don’t even have emails.

So how are they going to connect with them? We help [00:16:00] with that modern connectivity. Anyone can do it is bring your own device. You can bring your own phone. You can all connect with them. Connect that way. Now they can connect with over 80, 90 percent of their employees on something that brings the employee joy, brings them rewards, and is really scientific and prevention based as well.

So I think also the content of what’s going in there is important because many people could say, oh, an app is an app, which is the same way people say, oh, there’s too many streaming services. But guess what? The streaming service that you look at and that you really connect to is the one that helps you.

delivers the content that you care about. Does Netflix, is Netflix producing the right content that you care about? Then you’re on that, right? Or if you have young kids, is Disney the real world platform? It’s really about what’s inside. What are the journeys? What are you getting from that?

The Challenge with Apps and Technology

Love it. And yeah, you said it really well. Apps are apps. I always talk about apps as tools. And, I put that out at the beginning about no one needs another frigging [00:17:00] app, because I hear that from people that are cynical in the workforce or employees are like, Oh yeah, our company’s throwing another app at us.

And they just roll their eyes and say, Oh, this is the flavor of the month, essentially. And now you’ve been at this 10 years or whatever, and And activity and. I like how you talked about micro learning, micro habits, because on the app side, we know that developers build apps for stickiness. Your Facebook feed or your Instagram feed or Snapchat or whatever, TikTok.

They’re all designed to draw you in and spend more time on the app. And when we know that behavioral science is there, how do we, I’m always like, how do we use it for good? Yeah, we talk about data for good, we talk about technology for good, and [00:18:00] that’s a really important. Concept that we’ve codified into our technology.

So the optimum amount of time that we want someone that’s in the app casually is around 5 to 7 minutes, almost like recess, right? It’s a recess from work. It’s a learning break. And it’s a learning break that’s joyful. And then the 2nd type of use case that we have is people that are doing physical exercise in it.

Harnessing Behavioural Science for Good!

So if you, for example, if you are doing like a 7 minute workout, you’re doing a 30 minute workout or something like that we want you to. Be in there and have the best experience to deliver that workout. So that’s fine too. And then the last part is be able to sink in the background. So you just walk and you just live.

You just do your day to day. But in the background, we’re tracking the information for the purpose. of gamifying it and allowing you to connect with some, a colleague or accountability partner. So we have family and friends programs to do that. So you don’t have to take out your [00:19:00] phone and interrupt that beautiful physical experience to to log something.

You don’t necessarily have to do that because we’re doing that for you already in the background. So I think that’s the three key. Use cases, and over the 10 years, yeah, we’ve been able to show a really great sustained usage. So the best in class stuff is, monthly active 30 to 40%. And that’s what’s beautiful about having this type of program.

We are really not about attracting the user. So they’re sticking it on, their nose into the phone for a very long time. It’s really something to occupy everything we talked about rest time, which could be like.

Basically, toilet time for people to scroll through and do some micro learnings, do some learning and earning for them to get nudged to actually go outside and be physically active or to have something in their hands that they could do a short exercise and build an exercise thing within the [00:20:00] timeframe that they have, right?

If they only have 12 minutes, we’ll build something for them that is in that, that, happens literally within a click of a button. So great.

Building Community and Belonging in the Workplace

And I like how you’ve talked about the engagement aspect of the the platform and can you talk a bit more about belonging and how that really fits in particularly on the corporate side?

Yeah, it’s really a, it’s a pretty complicated topic, isn’t it? And we humans are pretty complex, social creatures. In just Canada according to Statistics Canada, more than 40 percent of Canadians last year were really feeling lonely, some or all the time. And I think the problem really is.

Worse, really about around single people and those who are really living alone. And guess what? During the pandemic, it forced a lot of people [00:21:00] to be trapped within that. And it’s somewhat rebounding, but it’s not fully rebounded. So we’re left with this scar tissue and some inertia around just mental health issues.

And it’s exerting itself and you’re seeing this stats around loneliness as a, as a lack of connection and really the role of the employer in rebuilding that fabric of communities and belonging. And I think that’s a nice side benefit because. In my research originally, like way back in the health science days was really around holistic health, which is not just the physical health, but it also has it has many different pillars.

And one of them is social connectedness. Which is really around the prediction of how long a patient or how well a patient will do [00:22:00] comes as a, it’s influenced by. Do you have people caring for you? A caregiver? Do you have an accountability? Partner, do you have someone that supports you in your diet, your exercise, your medication needs in your right?

The Pitfalls of Corporate Wellness and Technology

Like, all this stuff and and I think this now in the corporate sense. Comes in also as a flavor of, hey, do people care about you do, right? Do you have a work friend? Do you at least have 1 person that you feel comfortable to do something that is a non work activity? What and that turns out to be something that we can facilitate.

On a health and well being platform, right? You can you walk every day. I hope you do and you sleep every day. You hopefully drink water and eat every day. Can we find you a partner to do something with and it could be at work. We [00:23:00] definitely highly encourage that. So we do nudge people towards that.

We give them points and we incentivize and we do the matching and so on. But you could also bring someone that is in your family or friends, your neighbor. So many of our corporate partners, if they do have the budget, they do turn on the family and friends program because it’s quite cost effective.

And it increases the impact. Of a program like this, and then a lot of the other companies that we work with, some of them are fraternal. So they have their own, a sense of belonging, which are basically it’s called a common bond. So it could be, they’re all of a German immigrant descent.

So so they have that. Or they all volunteer and do a particular activity, right? We sponsor communities like the diabetes association or something like that. So these or participation in Canada, that’s also on our platform. In those type of things, it’s helping to find [00:24:00] minded individuals and create community things and rewarding them for the activities that they do together.

For example, we reward volunteer activities on optimity and we help everything from the people RSVP for it to write getting the information again as a communication platform to get them there. And then as they do the activity, it’s just in the background. You don’t have to do much on it.

It’s just it knows that you’re there and then we reward you at the end. And and yeah, you can gamify it with a leaderboard or a recognition board or a gratitude board where people can share their experience. And all that kind of adds into this sense of belonging and that the collective and the community and that I had made a one on one connection with someone.

Remote Work and Employee Engagement

And then that me as part of my community, my work team, my, the people that I showed up with did something bigger than myself. Yeah, and I, in this digital [00:25:00] world, especially distributed workforces and remote work, hybrid, people do get lonely and especially when those opportunities aren’t available to them on a daily basis.

So I love the fact that you’re. Facilitating that now, if we take a step back from the belonging and look at the bigger picture on your site, you mentioned 5 holistic health pillars to tell me a little bit more about what your pillars are and how they might differ from what else is out there. Yeah okay.

So for us, it’s physical health. Right nutrition. Abs are made in the kitchen, not just in the gym. So it’s really important. Mental health. So this all has everything to do with your self care meditation stuff to everything from actually coping with yeah, certain types of trauma and so on.

In that bucket, social connectedness, which we just had [00:26:00] a really, unpacked. And then the last is financial wellness because that’s such an indicator of longevity. And that shows up in the science everywhere as well. 

So being able to, pay for the food and the exercise and be, feel okay, not have the anxiety, be able to sleep and also coping with certain other coping mechanisms such as gambling and overspending and certain types of like financial behaviors that are a lot of times stemmed from some other sort of mental health or physical health.

Health Prediction and Longevity

Related issues. It’s all interconnected. So these are the 5 pillars of optimity. And this is where we can help. There’s actually a 6 pillar of prediction and longevity. We’re going to talk about the science of it. It’s really about the where you live because there’s a lot of geographical factors that for example, if live next [00:27:00] to a place where maybe it had a, a certain type of manufacturing plant or something like that.

It really affects the cases of cancer. People that live in Asia have nose and throat cancers and stuff like that. We don’t do that because it doesn’t make sense for us. It doesn’t we’re not trying to encourage people to move continents or move cities or move towns or. Do all that stuff and some of the research that we’ve done across Canada, really around the difference between rural and urban centers actually disproved some of the hypothesis that we had.

There was a huge difference in basically, the Coles note version of that is in Canada. It’s not super disparaging the difference between different. Postal codes or different yeah setting.

Empowering Health with Five Pillars

So it’s not that important for us in North America, I would say, but the other five pillars are, and that’s also within our control, like within not just the opportunities control.

The users, the [00:28:00] members control. So you can take really the reign for your own health and life optimization. Excellent. How do you see companies starting to work with that? Those five pillars. And I guess fill up, fill in the holes in their existing programs. Yeah, I think the holes, it’s actually a matrix.

If I can unpack it in a methodical, analytical way. So I think the 1st thing is that these 5 pillars is very scientific kind of our this is our round, right? This is decades and decades of research from different types of health programs all over the world. And so I’m distilled into a codified kind of program with content.

That’s available, so I don’t necessarily think that’s the company’s job. That’s why they partner with us. They’ve hired us to do this for them. And so I do think that’s they can leverage it. And that’s [00:29:00] where I feel like we fulfill a particular purpose for them, which could be, hey, we want our people to belong.

Our Changing Health Needs as We Age

Can you do something along these pillars that makes sense for the different populations, different generations? Of people that we work with, right? So on optimity, we have 6 generations of people. So it’s different for someone who is in their early 20s, and maybe they’re really into the gym and the physical health part of it.

And the financial health part of it is really around budgeting and learning to do the 1st, like, how do you not buy take out every day and be able to eat nutritionally? So their content is all personalized to them. So that’s why our recommendation engine and the personalization of the content of, The non one size fit all way that we work is very helpful for the corporate.

When the corporate thinks about rolling out a program, I think the most effective way to think about it is the trifecta. The 1st, 1 is. Hey, is this going to be just a point solution? [00:30:00] Is it just a point solution for, let’s say, back paying or is it a point solution for diabetes? And right?

I think a lot of companies are really fatigued by point solutions that don’t really triage up into anything and that has and that’s where when people talk about wellness program has low usage. Of course, it’s supposed to have low usage, right? If you’re going to enroll something out for specifically a heart.

Let’s say, like heart surgery recovery in your population that maybe there’s only, 2 or 3 people that have it. Do they need it? They absolutely need it, but you’re not expecting 80, 90 percent of your people to take advantage of that. And you shouldn’t. So that’s why a for us and wellness operating system like ours.

Upending the Existing Corporate Wellness Model

We connect into all these. Different others, third party solutions, and we allow them to access them. And then the company doesn’t have to buy, 1000 seats of the heart disease or the cancer prevention. That’s actually a huge 1 that we do, because you do want everyone to be [00:31:00] on cancer prevention, but you don’t want them to go down.

Very few people are going to have go through the cancer journey. So you want to give them the best in class program, but you don’t want to buy it for, All of your people, you just want to buy the prevention part of it. So optimally does a prevention the assessment and then we only triage the 2, 2 to 3 percent that really need it into this high quality.

And we have the partnerships already established with a lot of the best in class. It’s for diabetes, for heart disease, for cancer and so on. So I think that’s the first part, like what job does it do? Does it help triage the right people? Does it assess everyone? Does it help organize the.

The the work, the role that the employer has in the team? The overall health of finding someone like my mom and treating them and doing that in a timely manner. So I think that’s the first bucket. Moving on to the 2nd bucket, maybe just quickly is the if you think about the, for the HR they, they’re [00:32:00] not health experts, right?

They’re not so they want to be able to Have the right solutions, maybe for virtual care or the right solutions for the benefits, the right solutions for all this, and they want to be able to do the reporting accordingly. When you look at optimally, we actually have spent quite a bit of time.

Building up the reporting, the more strategic reporting, the data reporting, the things that. They need from not just the HR leader level, but also a company executive level, right? Because we’re seeing more of that in a leader scorecards where an improvement in health and wellness is also good for business, right?

So I think that’s really good. And it’s really in that pillar, it’s really about the dollars and cents and the ability to keep people keep your star sports. players on the field healthy and longer and not injured. And this also reduces the, the cost of claims and the cost of insurance and stuff like that.

So the reporting aspect of it, you must have a platform that is built for that and [00:33:00] understand that. And I think, that’s where our 10 years of experience really helped us, because I would say in the first year, Year 1, 2, 3, we were really focused on kind of the user experience.

Clarity, Reporting, and Workplace Wellness Strategy

The reporting wasn’t really quite there until we had the chance to partner with over 100 employers and get back strategic learning about what does that really, how does that fit into the world? I’m curious what you said about the. Executive leaders and that being part of their scorecard can you explain a bit more about that and what you’re seeing some of the trend?

Yeah, for sure. I can. But before I do that, maybe just for completeness. Sorry. I’m like, yes. Yes. My apologies. In the last in the trifecta, the last part of it is really about, is it really refreshed? Is this something that you can put in there, but every year after year, it’s going to have the longevity and it’s going to be not just a fad.

It’s not just a thing that for example, Netflix, [00:34:00] right? Or go back to Prime or Disney. Are they always rolling out new series? And are they updating the content? Is it? Continuously engaging. Is it of good quality? And I think that’s also something when people look at platforms, you should think about.

Is it a platform that they built, maybe a number of years ago, and they invest a good time. But now it’s been sold to a PE company or a company that’s no longer investing in it. And it’s stale so that maybe it does have some reporting and they have a lot of history, but they’re not actively investing in making it modern.

Because in the end, your employers are consumers, right? They’re users and consumers are fickle and they want the latest and the greatest and they understand. Even along all those 5 pillars They want to understand. Oh, okay. Now Peter Addy’s book on Outlive. It talks about code plunges and all these things.

Like, how does that work? You want them to be able to find that information in your own system or yeah it’s so dense. So I actually really love it. [00:35:00] Cause yeah, I had bumped into him anyways. This is a long story, but long story short. This still really dense, scary information, like health and financial wellness information into digestible updated, fresh takes that the people can use year over year and that they know that, we’re continuously plowing.

Resources and people and thought into refreshing that because we see this as a nevergreen platform. So those are the 3 kind of the trifecta of how, I, how I interact with some of our client leaders because I know you have this leadership reporting questions. About, and yeah, that goes brings us back to the leadership.

Scorecard I’m curious to see what you’re seeing at that executive level around accountability for well being.

The Future of Health and Wellness in the Corporate World

Yeah, it’s evolving for sure. I think it’s going to get better in the next [00:36:00] 3 to 5 years. I feel like in that scorecard, it’s almost in the same era where I saw Fitbit and, the rise of Apple health, like it’s building.

So I see the version 1 version. Like 1. 5 of these things, because I think it came from 2 parts. The 1st part was like, I’ve worked with this county in Ontario and their costs were crazy. Through 3 years. It doubled like their, just their whole benefits cost or insurance stuff. Like it’s, their average age was also like 53.

So it, like you’re basically working with a lot of people that were like my mom that like needed resources or were like, had had some sort of chronic condition or had something or going into it. So it was challenging for them. So leadership had pressure. Maybe in the 2nd bucket that we [00:37:00] talked about, which is the costs are going out of control.

We need to get on top of it. We need to create a program that helps us assess the people triage them into the things that they need in an S. O. S. mode, but also does work in prevention and right? Stopping it from stopping further bleeding, right? Cauterize the current thing and then stop the current bleeding.

So I think it started there. So many people, I think most organizations. Especially if they have rising costs have that in their key things that they must address within leadership and also within HR budgets. So that’s easy. But we also see during, I’m a technology company and and I’m based in Toronto, so people are competitive.

So when you want to hire and between the different things. Best employees value places [00:38:00] where they belong and they value places that not just have like good insurance. That’s almost Maslow’s. Of course you have that. What else do you have? And in the past, we were like, Oh, look at our fancy gym.

Look at our this, that we have, we, Google offers lunch, like it’s free lunch for everyone, but pandemic stopped that. Yeah. How do we find other ways? So we almost challenged them. And also even very Facebook was so cash rich, that they were able to do whatever in terms of benefits.

The Impact of Tightening Corporate Budgets on Employee Wellness

But then, with kind of the tightening and what’s going on with the market. Everyone got somber about the overall cost of each employee. So people thought about, okay, it’s not really just about adding benefits. It’s about adding, optimizing and making more efficient. Like, how do you create more efficient ways to do that?

So I think that’s where the scorecard is starting to really take shape. The version one of it is like, what solutions solve the current problem? What are some of the KPIs we want to track around [00:39:00] that? Maybe it’s around. Just communication, right? Gone are the days where you can put in point solutions that have 2, 3%, engagement and be okay with that.

So that’s definitely a huge thing. So if I would say if any company is serious about this, that number needs to be above like 20, 30%. And that’s really hard because even, when the messenger platforms are coming out, like the Microsoft teams and stuff like that. It was hard to get over 30 percent of the employees to adopt that.

So you have to get into like, you really have to think about a way to communicate with them. And I can we were proud to say that out of all of our clients. We’ve never had a client be under 30%. Adoption so we actually have a satisfaction guarantee that way, because we’re like, pretty confident in our rollout strategy, but I think that’s 1 of the key criteria now in reporting.

And then the other things that’s hey, a lot of wellness will talk about value on investment and whatever this for people that can’t talk about. Let’s talk about real ROI. What are we helping people [00:40:00] do? Is it really truly. Delivering assessment value. And are you getting people to do their health risk assessments?

Perks vs. Strategic Prevention

Are you actually getting the numbers that you need for diabetes prevention, heart disease, cancer screening, like all these things be able to report that in a true way that a scientist. As someone in finance can look at and say, yeah, it makes sense. I think it’s a real discipline and we do that with a click of a button as well.

So we take on a lot of the work and that’s really nice. And I think the 3rd part and we’re seeing some inbound from Australia. People are aspirationally also thinking about as leaders, sometimes they get even paid on how the employees feel about working here. That sense of belonging coming back to that sense of belonging and that sense of wellness.

Like how do I feel as part of this team? And I think we can report on that too, because over 92 percent of. Our clients have said that our [00:41:00] programs have helped raise their employee ratings of the company and how they feel connected to the brand and the leadership and, how they’re investing in their people.

I think that’s really important, because then you can add that into your own engagement surveys and be able to have that fit into more of a leadership scorecard. Yeah, so I’m excited to see version 2s and 3s of it, because we can tweak together what that looks like for different industries.

Cause right now it’s across all the different industries that we work with. Yeah. And you’re probably working with fairly progressive companies and you’ve summed up what I see as a sea change happening in the corporate world where the old mindset around wellness at the executive level was, these are perks and yeah, we theoretically, we know it improves performance, but we just see them as line item costs and it’s I guess the [00:42:00] subtext in the executive’s mind was, Hey, we’re not running a country club here.

We want all these, we want, we wanted people to have a nice experience, but we need to solve some real problems. This cost centers exploding and we’re seeing a huge turnover and all these different challenges or fires in the business that need to be addressed. So many of them can be addressed through improved wellbeing of employees.

The Power of Executive Strategy in Workplace Wellbeing

And I love the fact that you’re saying you’re starting to see at the senior level, that mindset of. Hey, this is let’s take a strategic approach to improving well being and addressing these issues that’s measurable, predictable ROI and that we can start to say, yes, we now we can invest confidently in these areas, knowing that we have direct control or pretty close to direct control over producing outcomes.

Would you say that? [00:43:00] It’s a decent summary or did I miss the boat? I think it’s a, I think it’s a good summary. Yeah absolutely agree with you. And I also want to give credit to trail play, really trailblazers like yourself people who are so into fitness and athletics. And I find that was

when I looked at, the original generation of health and wellness products, it’s not even like participation. I love what they do, the iconic characters of the 80s, I feel like it’s really athletes that were leading the way and I want to just give kudos to that because that’s just super aspirational and I think that really created this, the 1st 5, 10 percent of people being like, okay, like health is not a hobby, right?

It’s something we must do. And then I see my role. I’m not an athlete. I played, high school volleyball at best. I don’t, I’m 5 foot 4. I’m like a little [00:44:00] I’m, I’m not a very I’m average, very average, right? I’m an average person that think I but what I have is I’m hugely analytical and I have huge access to data.

So I just look at these common threads of what does it take to help people live? Be happy, be fulfilled in, right? Maybe lived up to a hundred years, lived into the quality that the Blue Zones have, and sometimes it is not about running. Actually, I can tell you it’s not about running a marathon , right?

The Real Way to Be Healthy and Happy

It’s not about extreme like mountain climbing. Like it’s not about that. It’s really about taking small steps every day. On micro habits and it’s also not 10, 000 steps. So there’s a lot of really amazing science. It’s really around 7, 000 steps. You just get yourself over that, which is 2 little 15 minute breaks that you totally want to take.

And it’s about connecting with someone that you care about [00:45:00] once a day. 1 person. That 1 person makes, is going to make your day. It could be a barista. It could be your neighbor that you say hi to. It could be a work friend that you go on this mini little side tangent, not work related conversations about how you slept, how much water you drank, what you ate, like that’s all it takes.

So it’s all these micro little things. And I think that’s where it’s exciting because these micro habits, micro activities is super accessible across 100 percent of the population. And. And that’s going to what’s it’s going to lift everyone up in terms of longevity and overall assessment and so on. I think that’s we needed the trailblazers and then now we have these massive pools of data from our smartphones and iPhones and we have this democratized tool of.

Apps and mobile phones and wearables for those people that want to invest further into themselves and self tracking. And then I think the [00:46:00] next generation would be things that, are really well supported through layers of rewards. So from the government rewards from the government, rewards from communities.

What Employers and Leaders Can Do to Positively Impact Health and Wellbeing

Amazing stuff that employers can do. It’s really it takes a village to reward this type of behavior and even our healthcare system, going into more of a value based care system, then it really aligns all the incentives towards people taking these tiny little steps that make their life better.

I love that. And so many areas we could go down comments about the athlete side. And we’ll say one of the biggest misconceptions I hear from people is they say, I’m not an athlete. I always say, whether you think you’re an athlete or not, you are, and we’re all competing in the sport of life.

We’re humans competing in the sport of life. And when we start to think a bit, the way athletes do, you can, it becomes much easier to improve your performance. You [00:47:00] mentioned the micro habits and everything like that and athletes are data driven. They measure, they track, they improve and whether you don’t have to be an Olympian, but if you are tracking how much water you’re drinking each day and being consistent with it, you understand why you need to drink a certain amount of water, how it’s going to benefit you.

Those basic foundational tools. Are at your disposal and having the right way and an easy way to track it without spreadsheets and all the engineers out there are going to love to do that, but not everyone does. So when you have an easy way to build those foundations into your life, then you start to see when things go sideways.

And those are future predict or predictors of future health implications. If you’re not drinking water, you’re not sleeping well all these things, if they start to go off [00:48:00] track, When you have the tracking ability and you can look at the data and say, Oh yeah, I need to Matt risk here. And if you don’t do anything for years, then you’re going to have more serious health outcomes than you would if you’re doing it and tracking it in the moment.

Are You Tracking Your Key Wellness Metrics?

Yeah, and that’s exactly where we see our role, which is the background risk analytics about people that are maybe they’re not even aware that they’re, they’re at risk. They’ve been just as a. Product of being trapped in their own homes and the pandemic and so on are doing 2 to 3000 steps.

They don’t know all these things. Everything from blood clots to actual real issues. So we get them to do these assessment. Measurement on movement and flexibility and fall risk because fall could be a huge killer for anyone over 60. so that’s really important. But it’s [00:49:00] even a huge inhibitor for for people like myself, I took a fall, during my 2nd pregnancy and it took me a really long time to heal and that created a lot of health issues.

I think all of this that we see that as our role. The to do the assessment to help people on a journey of recovery through small, little things that they can do, and then also to link them to best in class disease, specific journeys around specific things like obesity, hypertension, all the high cost health issues.

And I’m conscious of time. I know there’s so much more we could talk about.

Leveraging AI for Personalized Health Solutions

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask 1 last question and looking ahead, especially over the past year or so with. The exponential adoption of AI. How does that? How do you see that fitting into the future of health well being? And I [00:50:00] guess on the corporate side, particularly.

Yeah, it’s so funny. I’m so we’re definitely using parts of AI for to handle the personalization that we do to handle the recommendation. So we’ve been doing that for a long time, even before we started this really in, 8 years ago, so so that recommendation engine has always been built and Netflix actually published how they built the recommendation engine.

So ours is very similar to that. So I think there’s versions of AI that we already use, but generative AI, which is what is. Catching on right now is also very exciting because it can create these possibilities and we actually have little resources where we tell people say, Hey ask perplexity make me like a vegan recipe and give me a meal plan for the next 7 days.

So that’s awesome because I did that as part of my habit practice and it’s something that we reward on optimity. But now you have a tool that does it literally in two [00:51:00] minutes. That’s amazing. Instead of me spending half an hour doing it every Sunday, it takes me two minutes and I just have to tweak it.

So I think that will become a next set of little features that we will introduce and we’re betaing them. So we have, a really cool, really amazing beta community that you can access it. So if you’re out there, you can download the Optimity app and get on our beta community. I think that’s the next set.

I think the third set, which is really, we gotta be very careful. Is A. I. S. Work like direct work in health care and I’m excited for all the regulation and basically governance of what that is. Because I do think that health is really important. And my real stance is that the technology version of it, but our body is AI too, but it’s like ancient intelligence, right?

We were billions of years of evolution. Your body really knows how to [00:52:00] heal and knows all these things. So I would ask people to really be more intuitive and be in their own bodies and trust that as much as. What, right? Trust the ancient intelligence that I wanna move, I wanna go outside, I want to eat well, I want to drink water.

I wanna sleep. If you feel like sleeping, please go sleep. Like that type of stuff. Versus sometimes the crazy AI hype, ’cause we, it’s not fully tested yet, use it as a tool. Don’t use it as a rule. Love that. That will be a quote I’ll definitely use for sure. Jane, thank you so much.

Wrapping Up

It’s been an absolute honor to have you on the podcast. Where can people find you? Obviously Optimity, but where else? Yeah, they can find me out in different communities trying to help them with their health and wellness. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. Just look for Jane [00:53:00] Wang Optimity.

There’s a lot of Jane Wangs out there, but only one that’s, doing this health and wellness engagement work. And of course, reach out to my team. I have an amazing team, they’re mostly based in Canada and you just have to email engage at or find us on any social media at myoptimity and they will be happy to help you regardless if you’re a client or not.

Wonderful. I’ll make sure those links go in the show notes. Thank you again, Jane. It’s been an absolute honor. The honor is mine. Stay well. That wraps up another episode of the Working Well Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please rate, review, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Which guests or topics would you like to see featured on the show?

Message me through LinkedIn or on the contact page on Thank you for tuning in. I’m Tim Borys with [00:54:00] Fresh Group, and look forward to seeing you on the next episodes.

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