[hr class="shadow"] [gap height="20"] Workplace wellness programs have been growing steadily in the US for the past decade. In Europe countries like Germany may be seen as more progressive but a recent set of recommendations to the UK government could see similar initiatives being created by UK companies. Under the new plans the National Health Service aims to tackle the rising obesity crisis through various incentives including being paid to lose weight with cash rewards or shopping vouchers. Depending on the weight loss rewards could be higher or lower although the exact details are still unclear and will only apply to tax paying employees. Organisations would be encouraged to participate through tax breaks and subsidies on weight loss programs. Mr Simon Stevens the chief executive of NHS England has personal experience of workplace wellness schemes and stated they have been largely ignored in the UK despite their success internationally. After personally losing nearly three stone by participating in a weight-loss program at his previous job for the U.S. insurance firm United Healthcare Mr.Stevens realizes the benefits first hand. The report published by the NHS entitled the Five Year Forward View stated: ‘Put bluntly, as the nation's waistline keeps piling on the pounds, we're piling on billions of pounds in future taxes just to pay for preventable illnesses.’ With £20 billion a year lost due to absenteeism there certainly is a lot of scope for the UK to foster a better culture of corporate employee health. The proposals were announced as part of a greater overhaul of the healthcare system in England due for the next parliament. It will be interesting to see the level of adoption of such programs and if the government truly stands behind these proposals. Starting with the NHS itself where nearly half its 1.3 million staff are overweight, setting a clear precedent will be an important signal that Mr.Stevens and the NHS intend to tackle the matter head on. This is an important acknowledgment that workplace wellness programs are clearly being seen as part of a greater societal solution and one that can improve the lives of many. [hr class="shadow"] [gap height="20"] BACK TO BLOG HOME
Workplace wellness is classified as any health promotion or organizational policy that supports healthy behavior in the workplace. With most companies now having some initiative in place, workplace wellness has branched out to include the home too. As companies compete for talent new and innovative wellness program ideas are starting to spring up.
[hr class="shadow"] [gap height="20"] Workplace wellness programs have become a $6 billion industry. This shift is partially a cultural one being driven by legislation which possibly incentivizes the wrong behavior. The reason I say wrong behavior is the carrot and stick analogy, they help reduce companies' healthcare costs, while saving their employees money. But do they improve employee’s health? [gap height="30"] A new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 71 percent of employers thought that workplace wellness programs are either "very" or "somewhat" effective at lowering the costs associated with employee health benefits. [gap height="30"] However under our new legislative framework the Affordable Care Act, companies can also impose penalties. Employees can be charged more for smoking or being overweight. This is one of the reasons that wellness programs may not be aligned with the employee’s health goals. Professor Nancy Koehn of the Harvard Business School concludes that these programs don't work for this exact reason. She states "What's really happening in many instances is that costs are getting shifted to employees, whether it's because they don't meet certain goals or they don't conform in certain ways,". [gap height="30"] Penalizing an employee has the negative effect of forcing habit change, whilst this may work in the short term it is not a successful long term strategy as bad behaviors tend to return. The duration of this approach to wellness is still in its infancy and cannot be accurately assessed or measured yet. [gap height="30"] We also need to realize that not all programs are made equal and the discrepancies between small and large scale programs, large and small populations have huge implications too. Having a rounded and holistic approach to wellness that addresses the needs of individuals across a wide spectrum such as financial, emotional, physical and mental wellness demonstrates a more successful attempt at understanding the problem. [gap height="30"] Many workplace wellness programs are badly designed, given little time to develop. They should idealistically be given at least 5 years of consistent measurement and should be backed by a team that can accurately evaluate, support and perform a cost analysis over the duration. Far too little resources are often given to a wellness initiative and the results often under deliver. [gap height="30"] Ron Goetzel, one of the authors of the Journal Of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, visited companies with workplace wellness programs that can be truly regarded [...]
[hr class="shadow"] [gap height="20"] Gallup recently reported in their “State of the Global Workplace” employee engagement study, that only 13% of employee’s worldwide feel engaged at work. The study was conducted in 142 countries and revealed that only one in eight workers (this equates to 180 million employees in those countries surveyed) are psychologically committed to their work, meaning they actively contribute to the company’s growth. Shockingly 24% reported being “actively disengaged” which would indicate they are unhappy, negative and not content with their current circumstances. [gap height="30"] An unhappy worker can seriously undermine the efforts of a company and can result in a spreading discontent within the workplace environment. Organisations often look to their human resources departments for solutions. This can generally lead to fear on behalf of the employee and enforced procedures on behalf of the employer. [gap height="30"] Interestingly the Gallup survey noted that we all need to participate in creating a more engaged workforce to “achieving sustainable growth for our companies, communities, and countries - and for putting the global economy back on track to a more prosperous and peaceful future.” This means our reliance on a human resources department to create employee engagement is potentially out of sync with a modern economy. [gap height="30"] “Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity. They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away.” [gap height="30"] This isn't the kind of company culture you want to foster or adopt for strategic growth. So why are employees so hard to keep engaged? The root of the issue is how we as individuals perceive success. Monetary goals often are short term and do not sustain long term engagement. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains that our real motivation doesn't stem from money but from a sense of constant progression. As humans we need to feel driven, appreciated and respected. It’s these powerful feelings that control how we feel at work. [gap height="30"] If your company goals are not aligned with your employees goals you will start to feel the effects of lower employee engagement. It is often easy to forget to put oil in the car, that once a year service generally keeps things ticking. However when oiled properly and working well a car is at its optimum. [...]