Workplace wellness started as a fitness movement 30 years ago (Association for Fitness in Business). But empty workplace fitness centers and low numbers of employees exercising indicated a need to become more comprehensive in approach. By the mid-1990s HRAs started becoming the foundation of workplace wellness programs. And because comprehensive wellness programs claimed to be able to reduce healthcare costs, tremendous pressure remains to make sure that is actually happening.
It feels like the wellness profession is where the medical profession was in the 19th century ̶ before it was aware germs existed. It’s like we’re learning, but still missing something important that will soon be obvious.
Here’s What the Renaissance May Look Like
• Wellness as a definition will probably change or go away. Wellness currently is about primary prevention (lifestyles), secondary prevention (screenings, immunizations, check-ups, etc.), and disease management (drug compliance, interventions, rehabilitation, etc.). We’ll raise the bar and talk much more about living to our full potential. The screening and disease management services will fall under a treatment-oriented category.
• Wellness is a holistic, natural, and spiritual way to exist. In some significant ways we’ll return to the natural environment and reconnect. Wellness now is far too much about the manipulation of data and people. Wellness must be about the celebration of life, the joy of being here, and a journey of accomplishment and discovery.
• We’ll move up stream and make sure our children learn the joy of movement, the wonder of nature, and the fulfillment of artistic expression. And we’ll begin to stress the importance of mathematics, engineering, and the sciences as part of a holistic, intellectual, experience we want for our kids. Saving sea turtles, for example, fires up the child’s imagination in all these wonderful disciplines.
• “Intuitive eating” provides some insight in how we may use our own biological cues to live better. This concept involves self-monitoring for fullness, texture and taste. We’ll see this same self-monitoring approach evolve in movement and other life skills.
• Knowledge will proliferate horizontally in a community. Hospitals, businesses, and organizations will interconnect via events, venues, and locations not confined to the silo experience of a building. Businesses will integrate wellness programming with other resources in the broader community.
• Geographic distances will become less of a barrier. Our interest in intellectual and spiritual growth will include the world in its pursuit. And ways of living will be shared and modified more than ever before. We won’t think of the term “diversity,” it will just be a fact of life.
• These changes will exhibit themselves in more people walking and hiking. More events will be educational and involve movement and physical contact with one another. There will be more positive-oriented “flash events” and get-togethers. Technology will start to go under the hood, and we’ll enjoy technological benefits without as much obsession. We’ll use technologies to enhance the human experience in ways we simply can’t imagine.
• The business models of those offering life skill improvements will be more community based, unabashedly more capitalistic, and highly personalized to each individual. Products and services will emphasize simplicity, less-is-more, ease-of-use, portability, easy maintenance, and affordability. Creativity and new ideas will flourish. Apple’s iPhone, iPad and other amazing new products and services are a glimpse of what is coming.
• Living healthfully will not be considered the type of thing that requires discipline or hard work. It will be easy, natural, and enjoyable. Health professionals will talk more about very small steps people can take. Recommendations and guidelines for life improvements will be sustainable and highly relevant.
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.