“What can you expect in a Blue Zone community? Better health, greater civic engagement, lower healthcare costs, happier citizens.” That’s a claim from Blue Zones’ Website, which rings true, unlike similar claims from clinically oriented workplace wellness programs. (Blue Zones is a movement to help people live longer, better lives.)
If you’re getting that uneasy, just below the surface feeling that workplace wellness programs may not be working, and may in fact be causing harm, you’ll be joining a growing list of the disenchanted (and enlightened). Welcome to the Jedi Enclave.
The really hard part of this self-doubt is that if we can no longer poke, prod, intimidate, single out, and punish employees (for $350 PEPY) who are not biometrically acceptable, or even somehow pre-diseased, well, really, what is one to do?
Quick Study, Slow Learner
I am admittedly a quick study but a slow learner. Years ago an aide to a political personality with whom I had an appointment told me that people who meet with his boss usually present some type of gift. At first, I had no idea what to do. A gift? The guy I was meeting with was an advocate of small business, so I gave him a print of Thomas Edison and his Menlo Park team who invented the light bulb (and more importantly the power generation and distribution that went with it).
I’ll never forget the guy’s face as I explained the significance of the “gift.” It was like he was waiting for the punch line. Once he realized I was serious he said, “That’s the most unique gift I’ve ever received.” Then suddenly he remembered he had to be somewhere (anywhere) else and left. Being a quick study, I knew I had to show up that day with a gift. I had to have something in hand.
A Blinding Flash of the Obvious
Now, this is the absolute truth. Fifteen years later I was walking down the sidewalk in the health-promotion capital of the world, Kalamazoo, Michigan, (and home of Bell’s Brewery) and it came out of nowhere what that guy really wanted. Money! That is some deep learning on my part. It’s an intuitive feeling, an instant sense of understanding and clarity. I couldn’t stop laughing. If you ever notice me somewhere laughing hysterically all by myself, it will be because of a moment like that. I have lots of them.
The Cable Guy once said, “I am like Brad Pitt only different.” If you’re part of running a workplace wellness program, you’re like me only different. You’re a quick study because you’re doing something about the poor health of the nation. But maybe it’s not the right thing?
Let’s All Take a Minute and Breathe into a Bag
My friend and colleague, Dr. Rosie Ward reminds me, “We must first change our thinking.” What would the world look like without the practice of workplace wellness? Much better I think. We have to make some fundamental improvements in the way we work with, treat, and trust people. That’s why this article — “Want Happier Employees? Build Trust” —on Blue Zones’ blog is so refreshing. Common sense is such a beautiful thing. It has wings.
Grass Roots Solutions to Helping Employees. Take Down Walls.
A big shift in thinking could be to adopt a holistic approach to health and community. Let’s spend some time getting away from stereotypes that build walls, and let’s not be limited by the physical walls that separate us from those who live all around us. You don’t need hyper-generated CEO support to be successful at this. Don’t forget that one-in-20 of them are probably sociopaths anyway (speaking of stereotypes). Just start. Build from the ground up.
Check Out Blue Zones’ Community Programs
Think about community instead of workplace. You might have heard of the book, “Blue Zones.” Now there is an entire platform built around that book to help entire communities improve health and connect with one another and the surrounding environment. It’s the future. Check out the Website Blue Zones. They have a community section, case studies, and tools you can put to use immediately.
Note: For all my fellow “conscious capitalists” seething at me for contributing to the destruction of your workplace wellness business model, I have some advice: Pick up the phone! You really can make more money doing the right thing for the right reason, than the wrong thing the right way.
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.