In the midst of a busy season of wellness conferences, although I genuinely enjoy the networking, being in an environment with like-minded people, and getting the latest data the fact is, I learn that not much seems to be changing. Year after year employers are launching walking challenges, doing biometrics, and handing out cash for "participating". Wellness has added a couple of components such as activity trackers and on-site gyms and while I think these are great I am not sure of the impact. The fact is, the data tells us we are not moving the needle with traditional corporate wellness. Wellness isn't working and I have my own opinion as to why...
1. Wellness isn't focusing on the core indicator of overall good health-FITNESS. According to the Google Dictionary, Fitness is "the condition of being physically fit and healthy and the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task." It suggests the words, vigor, robustness, and good health as synonyms for fitness and goes on to say that the word disease is closely related to a lack of fitness.
So, while doing biometrics can provide good data it isn't creating vigor and robustness and while a walking challenge get your employees moving, it isn't making them physically fit. Physical fitness will get your employees fit and allow them to "fulfill a role and or task"- their job.
2. For some unknown reason science is still dumping money into studies that look at the association of a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise to a healthy body, mind, and soul. Do we really need another study to tell us what we already know? I see it in my job every day- people learn how to exercise properly and eat a whole foods diet and wa-la… they lose weight, sleep better, are less stressed, have less aches and pains, and reduce or eliminate the amount of pharmaceuticals they are taking.
No study needed.
Why aren't we dumping that money into making healthy foods more affordable and parks and sidewalks more accessible?
3. While we are telling our employees to eat right and exercise the fact is they honestly don't know how. The information out there is confusing at best. Should I do the Akins Diet, the South Beach Diet, or the Paleo Diet? They all state they are the best. Should I eat before or after I exercise? And what if I am doing yoga? Isn't that just stretching?
The average person doesn't know the difference between these diets and certainly doesn't know how to begin exercising in an effective way. So, although you mean well by telling your employees to exercise and eat right (and don't forget to journal it)- you have to tell them how. And by the way, this isn't easy because everyone is different.
4. We do not hold our employees accountable for his or her choices. Hey, we all make choices that profoundly affect our health. Obviously some of us chose to take care of ourselves and others do not.
But riddle me this- why is it okay for your unhealthy employees to expect an annual raise each year when they cost you more in health care, take more sick days, and are often times less productive? Shouldn't you expect your employees to come to work with the "quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task"?
When is this going to be simply unacceptable?
5. Traditional wellness focuses on the individual employee rather than leveraging the power of teams. Without a doubt, almost everyone will show up and perform better when on a team. This holds true in every environment- not just wellness. Teams provide accountability, a partner in crime, support, a feeling of belonging, and a sense of competitiveness. Teams always rally a natural leader (or two) who provide guidance and motivation that most people on their own wouldn't have.
Traditional wellness needs to shift gears. I believe that employers genuinely want to help their employees improve their health but they are going about it the wrong way.
Learn more about a fitness based wellness program at www.RivalHealth.com.