Workplace wellness is a hot topic… and a burgeoning $6 billion dollar a year industry. Unfortunately, a recent study by RAND, commissioned by the Obama Administration, concludes that wellness programming does NOT produce statistically significant benefits to employees, while costing employers, on average, $521 per employee per year. How is this possible? How can health-promotion NOT lead to positive, measurable results? The answer is simple – Both employers and program providers are focusing on the WRONG topics and interventions.
Typical programs are focused on short-term goals, like getting a health screening or going to the doctor; more involved programs might include smoking cessation counseling. But trying to get blood pressure monitored without other lifestyle intervention, or getting someone to stop smoking without properly addressing the myriad behavioral issues surrounding smoking on a larger level is pointless. Small changes may be observed, but as the RAND report shows people almost always return to their original status quo.
Programs needs to focus first and foremost on long-term health habits – creating and sustaining healthy behavior that becomes part and parcel to each person’s daily life. Moreover, these programs need to be individualized to mesh with company culture, complete with adaptations that reflect individual employees as well as larger company value systems. Successful programs will address the whole person, in and out of the office, and encourage camaraderie and peer support while fostering a positive environment of health.
Thus, the top 3 most important considerations for a corporate wellness program are the following:
- Aligning wellness programming with company culture, creating a visionary values-driven unique approach to health.
- Addressing the whole person, in and out of work, and providing individualized support to achieve this goal recognizing that people will have unique priorities and stressors, requiring different intervention techniques to be successful.
- Deliver thorough but slow and steady change – no one likes a shock to the system,so programming should reflect the pace at which buy-in is both observed and fostered.
Biometric screenings and other sophisticated-sounding but realistically underwhelming tools are a thing of the past; from here on out wellness providers must stay focused on meaningful, values-driven programming if they are to prevent, or even reverse, the upward trend of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other (primarily) lifestyle-related illnesses.