We've moved way beyond the days when our employer could care less if we are overweight, a smoker or on the verge of burnout. Today, our health is our employer's business -- particularly if they provide us health insurance. Worksite wellness is not only about cost savings. Healthy workers are more productive, creative, innovative and engaged.
Employers like Cleveland Clinic have figured that out. The hospital has gotten creative, video streaming employee testimonials about weight loss to co-workers as a way of encouragement. For example, a recent video highlighted Sandy Donohue in Cleveland who participated in a healthy choice challenge. She weighed close to 240 pounds when she began. She lost 100 pounds and at 60 years old says she feels stronger, healthier and more centered than she did at 40. Dr. Cosgrove, CEO recognized Sandy publicly in the company wide broadcast that is shown to over 43,000 employees and presented her with a gym bag with exercise gear
I think we will see more of these types of creative approaches that incorporate technology and worksite wellness.
Most businesses launch into wellness by requiring a health assessment or biometric screening. Of course, there's some concern that once your employer assesses your health, the findings will be used to penalize you if you're not the picture of health they thought you were. I expect to see that topic debated a lot more in the future.
Meanwhile, because we're spending so much time in the workplace, we're discovering our co-workers have a huge influence on our health habits. A recent survey revealed that co-workers can make each other fat. AWSJ story says some 29% of people on diets say colleagues pressure them to eat more, make fun of their diets or order them restaurant food they know isn't on their diets.
That's where office culture plays a role. Below is my Miami Herald article on wellness, corporate efforts to change their culture, and the new struggle to get employees to participate in programs. Let me know your thoughts on whether you think employers are headed in the right direction with wellness or whether they're going about it the wrong way.
Posted on Wed, Apr. 04, 2012
Companies encourage employees to join wellness programs, get healthy
By Cindy Krischer Goodman
Walter Michot / Miami Herald Staff
Ian Clough, the CEO of DHL Express, always takes the stairs up and down four flights every day as part of the company's wellness program.
A friend of mine is overweight, probably about 100 pounds more than what would be considered healthy. She works long hours, eats when she is stressed and says she has no time to exercise.
Her employer is much less cavalier than she about the situation. After a health assessment showing she’s at risk for diabetes, she has been “encouraged” to participate in a weight-loss program and forced to pay a higher insurance premium. “I work hard. Should I really have to pay more than my slack co-worker because I’m overweight?” she asked me.
I expect to hear that question more often.
Increasingly, our health has become much more than just our own personal business. Employers are plunging deep into wellness programs, gauging just how far they can go to get their employees to make lifestyle changes that could reduce soaring health insurance costs.
“Health insurance is a big-ticket item,” says Hiram Marrero, senior vice president of Willis, Miami, an employee benefits consulting firm. “I think we’re at a point in time where employees understand that.”
A study released Monday by Willis North America’s Human Capital Practice found the wellness movement is evolving and encountering new challenges. About 60 percent of the companies surveyed have wellness programs, an increase of 13 percent from 2010. And the majority of organizations with programs currently in place are looking to invest and expand.
But Willis found employers still struggle with how to get employees and managers to participate and stay engaged. About 76 percent of companies say increasing participation is the top goal for their wellness program in the next year.
Yet for employers, coaxing participating is tricky. Wellness programs can spark culture change and boost morale — or they can break down trust and cause resentment. “A communication plan has to be the top of the list,” says Jennifer C. Price, senior health outcomes consultant for Willis Human Capital Practice.
Most companies start their wellness efforts by figuring out where their risks and costs lie. About 72 percent of companies require biometric screenings or health assessment participation to participate in the company health insurance plan, Willis found. Some even offer incentives to get screened.
Then employers are using those screenings not only to develop targeted programs, but also to set employees’ individual premiums. A non-smoker or someone with a low body mass index may receive a discount. Companies typically use a third party to administer screenings and provide feedback. But will that be enough of a defense should an employee who is fired later sue for discrimination?
“An employer’s best defense is ‘I didn’t know,’ ” says Mark J. Neuberger, an employment attorney with Foley & Lardner in Miami. “I didn’t fire him because he is a diabetic because I never saw the results.”