Workplace Wellness Meets Reality
Workplace wellness is coming to terms with reality. A year ago, expectations were soaring that financial incentives would be just the ticket to persuade people to turn away from obesity. Sunny brochures were promising that programs like Healthy Blue Living would send everyone on their way to a healthy lifestyle and a BMI under 30. Never mind that many of the people targeted had not seen a BMI less than 30 for much of their lives.
Now employers are adopting a more realistic tone. Delta Emerson, Chief of Staff and Executive Vice President of Ryan LLC, told NPR recently:
Fifty-six percent of the employees that tested are overweight, which was a little shocking to me because we have a very young population. The average age is in the high 30s. But we have to be very sensitive about the fact that there are some people that are not going to want anyone to have a conversation with them about that, even indirectly.
Employers are learning that obesity is not entirely a matter of choice. Disability law and other regulations increasingly protect people with obesity from arbitrary and unattainable hurdles or disparate treatment.
Glib assumptions about conquering obesity simply by living the healthy lifestyle are fading. More thoughtful, evidence-based plans are slowly taking their place. Smart companies are investing in a healthy work environment and providing better access to a full range obesity treatments.
The real goal must be to empower every employee to be his or her healthiest self.
Warped Reality, photograph © Filipe Brandão / flickr
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