Are HRAs, Biometric Screens, and Incentives in the Pursuit of Wellbeing Bad? 3 Groups are Starting to Push Back

Here are the top five science-based reasons these tools are doing more harm than good.

1. HRAs*, at best, tell us what we already know and are usually intrusive, mostly irrelevant, and often incorrect in their prescriptions. And, they’re expensive.

2. Biometric screens at the workplace are the practice of medicine by the employer, and sometimes violate HIPPA. They’re often administered in excess of the recommendations established by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. And they’re expensive. See “Wellness programs raise legal issues for employers” by Matt Dunning.

Are the Financial & Business Media Defining the Future for Healthy Workplace Cultures?

There are a growing number of people in the financial services business who can tell a “well-run” company when they see one.

Caution: Some financial experts couldn’t build, manage, or sell anything; run a hot-dog stand at noon hour; or meet a peanut payroll. And many talking heads on the daily financial news seem to have photographic memories but can’t think beyond 36 hours into the future as they make their next earnings prediction.

Still, there does seem to be a trend developing within the financial/business community that is starting to notice that workplace cultures matter.

Nothing Negative to Report on Workplace Wellness. Everything is Wonderful. Keep Putting Money Into It.

I just searched the phrase, “How do I get out of my workplace wellness program?” And came up with a little more than 8 million hits. Oh, wait! That was my other search, “How can I get my toes in the water and my ass in the sand like Zac Brown?” Sorry about that.

Anyway, all is good in the workplace wellness world according to the supreme authority on all things: Goggle®.  Apparently, the Internet teems with so much great news about workplace wellness that you’d have to spend a month on the galactic calendar to find any negative comments. In fact, you can type in the most negative words and phrases about wellness you can dream up, and the searches keep coming up all roses for wellness.

Workplace Wellness: The Hidden Diseases and the Hidden Agenda

Sometimes when I suggest to clients that their wellness programs may be resulting in unnecessary treatments and procedures, I feel like I grew a third eye in the middle of my head. At this point in the meeting, the (previously happy) clients believe they have a lunatic in the room.

After all, if we find disease earlier we can intervene earlier and improve outcomes. Only makes sense. Just like the fact that if everyone started taking regular walks tomorrow morning then the nation’s lifestyle healthcare crisis would melt away by next Thursday. Looks good on paper. Sounds totally reasonable, doesn’t it?

Drop Traditional Wellness Programs? Here’s WHAT to do… HOW to do it… and WHY you should

Find out in the new, amazing, FREE eBook, “What’s Science Got to Do With It?”

Some of my knuckle-headed friends like simple explanations that are not “rocket science.” Hey Connors, “You’re into all that health stuff; how do I lose a lot of weight real fast?” At which point I suggest they, “put on a fully loaded weight vest and sprint up sand dunes in the afternoon sun. Everybody’s doing it. You’ll look great in no time!”

There’s a nearly 100 % chance your IQ is higher by some magnitude than some of my friends. You might actually question my advice instead of saying, “OK, cool. I’ll give it a try.” If critical thinking is not a skill set, at some point one does something stupid because it was easy to understand, and that’s the way everyone is doing it.

Over the past couple months I’ve been watching billions and billions of episodes of “COSMOS, A Space Time Odyssey,” hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson. This stuff is rocket science. And it’s wonderful.

One Simple Question About the Future of Workplace Wellness and Healthy Cultures

I recently read Dr. Michael O’Donnell’s article in the “American Journal of Health Promotion,” titledFour Lenses Through Which to Develop Wellness Incentive Policies.”

The incentive parts for the ACA law were based on positive ROI data for a wellness program that did not exist. (Read about the Safeway Amendment.) As much as I respect Dr. O’Donnell and find areas of agreement with him within health promotion, I can’t understand his tolerance for the use of extrinsic incentives in workplace wellness programs when they are clearly refuted by science.

Add This Element to Your Wellness Communication and People Will Thank You in the Hallways. Guaranteed!

If someone were to challenge me to come up with the fastest way to:

1. Think of one healthy activity most people would consider doing…
2. Get people’s attention and interest immediately and hold them…
3. Generate piles of testimonials from those who did it. And capture great data, too.

Could we pull that off? No, you say? Impossible!  “Oh, ye of little faith,” as our editor Jen would say.

How to Have Healthy Workplace Cultures Might Be the Wrong Question. The Best Question May Be: Can We Do Without Workplaces?

The reason I raise this subject is because employees seem to be craving more autonomy and flexibility in when and where they work. In fact, when you talk to people who have this freedom in time and geography, they seem very satisfied and happy in their work.

So being a Capitalist Pig at heart, when I get a hot, new, multi-million dollar business idea that is a sure bet, the first thing I do is become Walter Mitty. I daydream about it. And then, if it still seems cool, I write a sales letter as if I were pitching the business I imagined.

An Anarchist’s Alternative to Traditional Wellness Programs

A few years ago when I would argue against the typical, clinical-oriented,  “comprehensive,” poke-and-prod wellness model, I got a lot of push back. I was always relieved not to be run out of town, arrested, burned-at-the-stake, imprisoned, mugged, or hung. I know, the day isn’t over yet. But it does seem a shift in thinking is taking place.

Today I find myself making that same argument about not doing traditional wellness programs, and everyone starts shaking their head in agreement. It’s as if I’ve been in this brutal tug-of-war and all of a sudden the other side just let go.

The Zappos Way – “Return on Community”

Don’t miss this great article, Return on Community, about Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. The article is not billed as a “wellness article.” But I’d rather follow Tony Hsieh’s lead and example of how to treat people and serve communities than any of the short-term, knuckle-headed concepts on incentives, health risk, BMI weight-loss schemes, HRAs, interventions, blah, blah, blah.

And while you’re at it, check out Zappos’ Wellness Program.