I’m on record as something of a minimalist. I don’t particularly like large technological apparatuses overtaking more of our lives – even though I admit my iPad usage needs to come down. I don’t like a lot of unnecessary oversight (cough NSA cough). I don’t even like owning too many things.
So, it should come as little surprise to you that I’ve become disenchanted with most wellness program vendors.
Part of the reason is program bloat. Way too many things going on leads to more money being spent, which counteracts any health benefits the employee population might be seeing. Indeed, that’s the exact premise of this article over at IndustryWeek.
The second myth is that keeping employees out of the hospital using a wellness program is the best way to reduce health spending. The [authors] state that this is not “one shred of evidence that a corporate wellness program can reduce the cost of your health benefits, let alone by more than the cost of the program.”
Furthermore they believe that companies “are likely throwing away large incentives and expensive programs at people who either aren’t going to change in any meaningful way or would change even without incentives.”
Instead, what (Al) Lewis and (Tom) Emerick – the authors of Cracking Health Costs – suggest is the creation of a workplace that “employees find less stressful and more satisfying.”
In other words, you want to develop a corporate culture that isn’t a leech on your employees’ lives, health, and happiness.
I know, it’s not a new idea. Thousands of speakers and managers and CEOs sing the praises of a collaborative, happy, low-stress workplace – and with good reason.
Somehow, though, millions of other managers, CEOs, and employees completely miss the boat. Either they don’t get it, they don’t want to get it… or they pay for a top-notch wellness program to mask the problems brought on by a poisonous company culture. Worthy of a Captain Picard facepalm, if you ask me.
It’s a perfect example of missing the forest for the trees. Here are just some of the most common trees:
- A lot of employees are overweight
- Average work day is over eight hours
- Micromanaging middle managers who like petty power trips
- Detached senior executives who care more about their performance bonuses than their employees
- Ineffective work flows and processes that back things up for hours/days and skyrocket stress levels
- Disapproving of taking breaks during the day (caveat: I don’t endorse compulsive break-takers who don’t get anything done)
You get the idea. Here’s the best part about seeing these trees as the forest they really are:
You see the connections.
You can see how clunky work flows and way too many meetings can obliterate productivity.
You start noticing how all that micromanaging and discord skyrockets stress levels, and how the vending machines in the break room contribute to weight gain by increasing stress-induced eating.
You start to see that glowering at or reprimanding people who stand up to take a break and walk around for a while exacerbates problems associated with sitting all day, productivity, energy, stress (since physical activity is a phenomenal stress outlet), and dislike of coworkers/managers.
You begin to see the benefits of having management that isn’t made up of a bunch of piss-ants.
You even start to realize that by seeing all of this, you can help teach others within the organization to see them as well, and work to correct them.
And then you start to implement changes that turn an unhealthy, unhappy, and (sometimes) hostile workplace into almost the exact opposite – starting with employee satisfaction and productivity first.
Don’t be afraid to step on some hands and feet – especially those of the piss-ants who see the writing on the wall that their tyrannies are ending.
Take care of that and health will follow… most of the time. That’s when initiatives like activity groups, getting rid of junk food vending machines in favor of supplying fruits and veggies (and other actual food), and the occasional group/individual challenge can make a big impact.
And it doesn’t even take a battalion of HRAs, blood tests, and cholesterol screenings.
What do you think?