Some day (hopefully soon) we’ll have a period of capitulation and shed these five myths that have limited our ability to help Americans lead healthier lives.
Myth #1: Wellness programs reduce health-care costs and produce a significant Return on Investment (ROI).
Truth: Programs don’t and can’t because of arithmetic. Those claims of fantastic savings don’t add up and can’t stand up to even my simple math scrutiny. Besides, when the overall population is unhealthy, all those people not working at the healthy workplace create a huge demand for health-care services. You may build an island of healthier people, but the sea of illness surrounding you will raise your costs, too.
Myth #2: Wellness programs need to be “comprehensive” and should start representing a small percentage of a workplace’s total health-care spend.
Truth: Programs should be simple, easy and fun, and supported by free public resources. The best wellness programs should require very little cash.
Myth #3: Wellness programs should use health risk appraisals (HRAs) to establish a basis to reduce health risk for individuals.
Truth: The data represents self-reported nonsense and already known health issues. Plus, HRAs introduce a host of privacy and regulatory issues.
Myth #4: Wellness programs should tie incentives into the premium structure of the group health-care benefit plan.
Truth: Healthy people will take advantage, and unhealthy people will not. Besides, your most valuable employees (who may be focused on the core competency of the business) may have poor lifestyles. Is the boss ready to say goodbye to these employees over your wellness incentive policy?
Myth #5: The workplace is an ideal place to implement wellness programs.
Truth: Workplaces don’t exist to put on wellness programs. All size workplaces can become part of community-based wellness initiatives and events without undue distraction or expense.
I’ve addressed all these issue on my blog, The Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz! Browse the site if you want to read about any of the above issues in more depth.
And now that the truth has set you free, here’s what I’d do next…
What the C+ Student Would Do if Put
in Charge of Your Workplace Wellness Program
1. Change the mission: Focus on making the environment a healthful and productive place. Think about recruiting and retaining top talent. The avoidable cost of re-training and recruitment, and the added value of experience, unique capabilities, etc., could go into the metrics that evaluate your overall HR policy. Blend wellness & health-related activities into the HR mission.
2. Change the meaning: Focus on primary wellness (lifestyle improvement), and take a holistic approach that includes a wide variety of interesting things. For example, a program to improve the socialization of people who may be spending a lot of time alone. Get at the core issues that make being healthy challenging for people.
3. Change the venue: Instead of thinking about just your workplace, think about tying into other workplaces and the surrounding community. Use a five-mile radius in your event planning.
4. Change the expense structure: My attitude would be to use everything our taxes and donations have already bought. It’s entirely possible to put on a great wellness program with very little cash outlay. If I had to pay to use tools and resources that were available online for free, I would not do it.
5. Change the power structure: Let go. Give the wellness program (or the workplace-sponsored activities) to the employees, their family, and friends to organize. Use an all voluntary leadership committee and field volunteers. Offer them structure in planning, scheduling, announcements, etc., but let these individuals run the whole thing. Just help them accomplish what they think is important.
6. Change the focus: Instead of health risk, make communication the base of the program. A wise use of social media, electronic publishing, and promotion should drive the program. Give people who like using those mediums a big role in planning and reporting events.
We would have probably been a lot better off if the term “wellness” had not evolved to mean the practice of secondary and tertiary care at the workplace that it is now. Let’s just think about how to help people perform well, enjoy their work, and make a healthful, less stressful life easier to experience. You’ll know you’re there when you hear employees say, “You know, this is a great place to work!”
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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.