Health in America is in a sorry state. Obamacare is going into effect at the start of 2014. The yowling for companies to “do something!” about employee health and wellness is incessant. It’s fair to say that companies are under pressure to make their wellness programs succeed.
The problem is that this pressure is very quickly passed over to the company’s employees.
Employees have to do a health screening or risk paying more money. Employees have to participate in wellness activities to get incentives from their health plan. Employees have to “get healthy or else”.
Frankly, that’s a pretty crappy position to be put in – for both the employer and the employee.
It shouldn’t be about pressuring employees to adopt healthier habits. That completely defeats the purpose of a wellness program, which is to improve the health of your company on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and so on. If you’re pressuring your employees to improve the physical aspects, with little regard for the realities they face, you’re hampering their mental and emotional well-being.
If you’re holding your employees’ noses to the grindstone in work and in wellness, you’re taxing their mental and emotional reserves. The stress factor skyrockets in these cases. I strongly believe that mental and emotional well-being is just as vital, if not more so, than physical well-being. Why?
Mental and emotional health drive physical behaviors. If your employees are being pressured into wellness, even good-intentioned pressure, it can drive them to poorer habits. Too much stress can lead to meltdowns: of eating, of productivity, of exercise, of emotion.
So what does this mean for you, the employer with an eye on the bottom line?
Here’s your first tip: STOP THINKING ABOUT THE BOTTOM LINE.*
For smaller companies out there with a thin margin, this will sound insane. For larger companies on the public stock market, this sounds like market suicide.
For anyone else with a functioning brain, it makes sense. Look, employee wellness is an investment at first. You aren’t going to see significant returns immediately. It takes time for people to build long-lasting behaviors and habits. It takes time for some health conditions to improve. It takes time for medications to be weaned off. It takes time for people to find what works best for their bodies. It takes time for your wellness team (assuming you have a good one) to assess a program, see what works, and keep improving it. You need to take the time to ensure that your company really is looking out for its employees’ health, not just the quarterly profits.
And guess what? All that time helps relieve the pressure… pressure pushing down on me, pressure pushing down on you, no man ask for.
How are you relieving the pressure on your wellness program?