Health e-News
June 2014
How a Happy Workforce Equals a Healthy Workforce
Welcome Shelly Rutz Maxwell
Boost Morale at Company Picnics
Work Outside!
Make Time for Vacation
The Power of Laughter in the Workplace
Men, Is It Time to See Your Doctor?
Quick Links


Is your organization a fun place to work? Studies have shown that happy employees are healthier employees, and for that reason, this edition of Health e-News is all about making work fun! 


Read about how company picnics can boost morale and encourage healthier eating. Discover how laughter makes a difference in the workplace. And find simple ideas for inviting your staff to enjoy the fresh air this summer - during the work day! Plus much more.


Please share this valuable information with your employees. Their version of today's edition is available at:     


To your good health,   

Linda Hale-Graves

Director, Wellness and Employer Solutions

Affinity Health System

How a Happy Workforce Equals a Healthy Workforce
By Shelly Rutz Maxwell, Affinity EAP counselor
Creating and maintaining a healthy workforce requires numerous factors. First, mental wellness in the workplace is a two-way street between employee and employer. Both play a role in promoting mental and physical wellness for the individuals and the organization. We all know that healthier employees are happier employees. 

But what about the other way around? Why should we pay attention to mental wellness?

Research repeatedly demonstrates a high correlation between mental wellness, happiness and success. Happier employees tend to be more productive and efficient; they also get sick less often. Studies in Europe show that employees suffering from stress are more likely to report depression and other complaints. In addition, studies found that overly stressed individuals had longer recovery times from illness (and missed days from work) due to exhaustion and fatigue.

What does it mean to be a happy employee?
Research has shown that employees don't need the perks of working in Silicone Valley to be happy. While perks create loyalty to the organization and increase morale, perks can't make up for toxic attitudes or environments. In fact, job satisfaction tends to be rated higher over perks. 

We also don't need a stress-free life to be happy. Moderate levels of stress help us feel energized, alert and on-task while too little stress can cause boredom and low motivation. On the other hand, high levels of stress cause anxiety and difficulty problem solving, and they also paralyze our thinking.

The field of Positive Psychology examines the positive, adaptive, creative and emotionally fulfilling aspects of human behavior. Current research in this field focuses on:
  • self-efficacy (the ability to accomplish a task)
  • personal effectiveness (being able to plan and implement the means for accomplishment)
  • flow (when abilities are well matched to the demands at hand)
  • flourishing (goodness, generativity, growth and resilience) 
  • mindfulness (focus on immediate experience). 
Some of the discoveries from Positive Psychology include that someone is more likely to experience depression when they doubt or don't have the ability to accomplish a task/goal despite their personal effort (low self-efficacy). They have also found that high self-efficacy is associated with a healthy immune system, aids in stress management, decreases pain and creates positive change (such as overcoming addictions and maintaining a healthy lifestyle). Flow is found to be inherently rewarding and assists with achieving goals and improving skills. Flow can occur anywhere and anytime you experience intense concentration, loss of self-awareness, a feeling of being perfectly challenged (neither bored nor overwhelmed), and a sense that "time is flying."

Can you remember an extended amount of time that you felt focused, stimulated and engaged in what you do? How did that impact others around you? Did you feel satisfied and happy? How did this contribute to your overall well-being?

On the other hand, can you recall an extended period of time when you felt uptight, nervous, frustrated or stressed? How did that affect your life/relationships at home and at work? Were you productive? Were you happy? How did this contribute to your overall well-being?

The Employee Assistance Program is a great place to start if you or someone on your staff is struggling with stress, depression, family or work conflict. The EAP is also a great source if you are looking to improve on your job satisfaction and mental well-being. Counselors can meet with you individually or provide a presentation to your team.

As an organization, we impact each other. Our attitudes defy gravity. They trickle up, trickle down and across organizational charts. When we as individuals begin to flourish through flow, high self efficacy and effectiveness, so does our team, so does our department, and so does the entire organization.

For more information on Positive Psychology presented by one of its founders, Dr. Martin Seligman, watch 

Welcome Shelly Rutz Maxwell, Affinity EAP Counselor 


The Affinity Employee Assistance Program is pleased to welcome Shelly Rutz Maxwell, LCSW, MSW, to our counselor team. Shelly earned her master's degree from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. She previously worked at the UW Oshkosh Counseling Center.


Shelly draws on a wide array of work experiences to provide a holistic approach to her clients. She works to create a safe atmosphere to identify the issues creating difficulty and to figure out the best response. Shelly's specialties include mental health, family and relationship issues, grief, stress management, identity development, and life transitions.

If your employer offers the benefit of Affinity's EAP, we welcome you to make an appointment with Shelly by calling the EAP at 1-800-894-9327. 

Boost Morale at Company Picnics 
Plus some healthy picnic choices! 
By Heidi Hayes, wellness account specialist

Company picnics extend well beyond a day of fun and laughter. Their benefits include helping employees feel good about themselves, each other, and the work they do. They can help strengthen team work and show employees that their company is committed to them and their families. 
Picnics don't need be extravagant to be effective; even modest company events can boost employee morale. When employees are brought together outside of the workplace, stress, deadlines, and other pressures can be put on hold so that employees can actually get to know each other and build relationships. 
Rewards for a job well done
Company picnics are also a great way to give back to your employees. Your employees are the heart and soul of your company. It takes passion to make a product that works or produce a service that surpasses excellence. By showing your employees that the company cares about them and appreciates their hard work, they will continue providing that top notch service because they know they are valued.

Play time
Think of what activities you'd like to have at your picnic. They can be simple such as playing kick ball to more involved such as renting a rock climbing wall or inviting some local farms to bring animals for a children's petting zoo. Consider using video projector equipment to show a movie on the company lawn at dusk, complete with a popcorn cart. The ideas are endless. By being creative every year and really listening to what your employees enjoy, they will be much more excited to participate.

Themes and menus
When deciding on a theme or menu for your company picnic, think outside the burger box. Instead of the traditional grilled meal, try an international foods picnic, fiesta, Caribbean meal or a Christmas in July picnic. There are many healthy options for these types of meals. If you are choosing to include traditional picnic items on your menu, try chicken or turkey brats or burgers from the local butcher shop or meat market as opposed to the conventional fare. Grilled chicken and grilled vegetables are also a great alternative to higher calorie meat products. For the buns and bread, focus on the 100 percent whole grain variety. You can also try a whole wheat English muffin or the buns marketed as 100 percent whole grain sandwich thins.

Chips are staples of most cookouts or picnics, but they are not always a healthy choice. If you're craving something salty and crunchy, try making your own kale chips instead. If focusing on a fiesta theme, make your own taco chips by using authentic corn tortillas, misting with olive oil on both sides, sprinkling with a little sea salt and baking at 375 for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. By doing it this way, you can control the amount of sodium and ingredients in the tortilla chips. Try using garlic and onion in place of the salt for a different option. Have employees each bring a favorite salsa recipe and sample for others to try.

Instead of the traditional potato salad, encourage employees prior to the picnic to submit healthy alternatives. Post the recipes in the break room and have the employees vote for which options to provide at the picnic. Sneak extra fiber into the salad by keeping the skins on your potatoes. Try adding white wine vinegar, mustard and a little olive oil in lieu of regular mayonnaise. Plain Greek yogurt is also a wonderful substitute for high calorie mayo and sour cream used in coleslaw; try adding a little apple cider vinaigrette to give it the right flavor. 
Usually desserts are also the favorite at a picnic, especially fresh berry pies; however, they're usually a bit high in calories. Instead, create a healthier version of a slice of pie by crumbling two graham crackers, pilling on the berries, and topping with low-fat Greek yogurt for a refreshing treat. Have employees each bring a healthy dessert for a judging contest as well as the recipe for display. Create a cookbook of all the healthy recipes used at the picnic and provide this to employees along with pictures taken at the event. 
The most important thing to remember is to have fun! Picnics are all about getting together, enjoying the weather, and just having a wonderful time. 
Try these recipes!
Need some healthy cooking inspiration? Here are a few recipes to help mix things up.

Spicy Fish Kebabs 
Makes: 6 servings 
Prep: 20 minutes 
Grill: 10 minutes
1 1/2 pounds halibut  
3/4 cup packaged peeled baby carrots 
2 small zucchini or yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices 
1 cup fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1/4 cup orange juice 
1 cup quick-cooking couscous 
1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel 
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1. Rinse fish and pat dry. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Set aside. 
2. In a covered medium saucepan, cook carrots in a small amount of boiling water for 1 minute; add squash and cook for 1 minute more. Drain. 
3. On 6 skewers, alternately thread fish cubes, squash, carrots, and sugar snap peas, leaving a 1/4-inch space between pieces. Set kebabs aside. 
4. In a small bowl, stir together cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over low heat. Add spice mixture; heat and stir for 1 minute. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture to a small bowl and whisk in orange juice. 
5. Stir couscous into remaining mixture in the saucepan. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add orange peel and broth. Bring to a boil; cover and remove from heat. Let stand. 
6. Brush orange juice mixture on the kebabs. Place on a greased rack directly over medium coals. Grill, uncovered, about 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork, turning and brushing with remaining orange juice mixture halfway through grilling. Serve with couscous. 
Nutrition facts per serving: 325 calories, 29g protein, 29g carbohydrate, 10g fat (1g saturated), 3g fiber
Light and Fresh Potato Salad  
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar 
2 tablespoons canola oil 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
5 cups cubed red potato (about 2 pounds) 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup chopped peeled cucumber 
3/4 cup sliced grape or cherry tomatoes 
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper 
1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper 
1/4 cup chopped green onions 
1 (2 1/4-ounce) can sliced ripe olives, drained

1. To prepare dressing, combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. 
2. To prepare salad, place potato and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above potato; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until tender; drain. 
3. Add potato to dressing in bowl, tossing gently to coat; let stand 15 minutes. Stir in cucumber and remaining ingredients; toss well. Cover and chill.

Nutrition facts per serving: 90 calories, 1.8g protein, 14.9g carbohydrate, 2.8g fat , 2g fiber 
Work Outside!

Sensing some spring fever in your workplace? Invite employees to work outside! Or at least to bask in the sunlight during breaks. Here are some ideas for soaking up the beautiful weather while we have the chance.

Walking Trail 
Create a walking path around the building and encourage employees to trek a lap or two during breaks, lunch hour, or even in brainstorming meetings. Fresh air helps to clear the mind while exercise reduces stress.

Patio Perks 
Offer an outdoor seating space for lunches or meetings. Even if your workplace doesn't have a private veranda, just setting up a few simple patio tables and chairs anywhere outside the building--near the sidewalk or parking lot if you must--can offer a pleasant outdoor break.

Field Trip 
Move team meetings to a nearby park or café with outdoor seating. Sometimes a change of environment is all it takes to boost morale and build camaraderie among staff. 
Make Time for Vacation

Remember holiday vacations? Many employees struggle to take time off. This isn't healthy for anybody, says Affinity EAP counselor Kadihjia Kelly.

"People have this thought that if they leave for a couple days, they'll just come back to more work," Kadihjia says. Consequently, they skip vacation time, forge ahead on the job, and eventually become burnt out and less productive. This harms employees and the company they work for.

The Employer's Role 
Employers can prevent this pitfall with two important steps. First, Kadihjia says, "I tell companies they need to start cross-training so folks know what other folks do. So when someone does take off, there's somebody else to fill the void."

And second, stop sending mixed signals. "Most companies don't understand the message they're sending. They say they offer this vacation benefit, but they don't make it easy or encourage people to use it." Kadihjia advises employers to build a culture that supports vacation time--then stand by it. "If employers can relate that there won't be retaliation for taking time off, it can lead to better rested, more focused employees, and more productivity."

Unplugged and Present 
Of course, vacation doesn't just benefit the employer. For the employee, it makes a huge impact on personal well-being and family ties, especially for people who are easily consumed by work. "If we do not take time off, we miss those moments with our families. It's really necessary to take time off once in a while so you're 100 percent present in those relationships," Kadihjia says.

In order to reap the benefits of vacation, Kadihjia advises people to turn off work--literally. No cell phones, no e-mail. "Yes, it might create some anxiety to not know what's going on at work. That's why it's key that folks put things in place beforehand so they'll be better able to turn off," she says. "Prep better for the vacation, and you'll be able to enjoy it." 
The Power of Laughter in the Workplace

Got stress? A little laughter goes a long way toward relieving tension and boosting creative energy. Here are some ways to infuse kicks and giggles into the workplace.

Laughing lunch. Play a slapstick comedy DVD over a couple lunch hours. Book a conference room or other common area where employees can congregate, chuckle, and eat popcorn.

She said what? Keep a running quote board of funny comments co-workers make. Quips that made sense in context - "Has anybody seen my eyeball?" - can be fodder for silliness for weeks to come.

Daily jest. Reserve a small corner of your company intranet or bulletin board for daily jokes, funny quotes or short humorous stories. This might even motivate employees to check communication boards regularly.

Jump start with jokes. Start each meeting with a joke or funny story. If blood pressures rise during the meeting, try ending with one, too.

Comedy show. Consider headlining a comedian at your next company picnic, conference or staff retreat. Promote the show ahead of time to build anticipation and morale.
Men, Is It Time to See Your Doctor?
June is Men's Health Month! In most families, health care decisions fall to the woman of the household. Moms and wives are often the ones to schedule check-ups for the kids and stock the cupboard with vitamins. It can sometimes become easy for men to neglect their own health.

This month, in honor of men's health awareness and Father's Day, Affinity Occupational Health wants to remind men to get regular wellness checks. Find a doctor you trust to discuss your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other basic health factors. Talk with your doctor about any health concerns you may have--especially ways to prevent health problems in the future.

Don't have a trusted primary care provider? Affinity's connection specialist, Sarah Stern, is available to talk with patients one-on-one to connect them with the right provider for their needs. Sarah can also come on-site to your workplace to meet with employees at their convenience.

To connect with Sarah, contact Tammy Davis at (920) 628-1532 or Cindy Budiac at (920) 628-1533.
Your Affinity Occupational Health Sales Team 
Holly Tomlin, manager of wellness and employer solutions for Affinity Occupational Health, enjoys building relationships with clients while finding creative solutions for their needs.  Holly's background includes 15 years of experience in the health care field, with a strong background in employee assistance programs and occupational health. As a certified massage therapist, Holly has a special interest in educating others on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including wellness and prevention initiatives. 

Tammy Davis, account manager for Affinity Occupational Health, provides corporate clients with valuable information regarding services offered through Affinity Occupational Health. She works closely with clients to determine their specific needs for health and wellness services. Tammy has a bachelor's degree in business administration from UW Oshkosh and over 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, and customer service. 


Cindy Budiac
, account manager for Affinity Occupational Health, is available to help clients determine the right services and programs for their needs. Cindy has more than 15 years of experience in clinical health care, sales and business development. As our newest account manager, Cindy looks forward to meeting you and partnering on all your occupational health needs. 

To contact Holly, Tammy or Cindy, call the Affinity Occupational Health office located in Menasha, at 1-800-541-0351, or e-mail, or