Work in Blue and Yellow

Striking Contrasts in Workplace Wellness Strategies

Even a cursory look at employer wellness strategies reveals some striking contrasts in what employers are up to. But one thing is clear. Engaging employees in health and wellness is an area of growing focus and obesity continues to be a key target for such efforts. Mercer, an employee benefits consultancy, said yesterday that 42% of employers are planning to add and expand upon wellness initiatives in the coming year.

The contrast is between employers who are doing everything they can to support employees pursuing good health and employers who are penalizing employees who don’t do as they say or fall short of arbitrary health goals.

Speaking at a forum of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, Jill Berger described a culture of health at Marriott Hotels that serves a singular purpose: to increase the total well-being of front-line employees who serve their customers.  They see it as an imperative for their core business objectives. Berger, who is Marriott’s VP for health and welfare, described how Marriott turned away from wellness incentives and penalties because they found them to be a counter-productive source of ill will.

That approach stands in sharp contrast to other employers, doggedly pursuing new ways to  impose penalties on employees who don’t do what they’re told about their personal health or who miss goals for health benchmarks like BMI.

In a report published yesterday, the New York Observer cites the experience of Cheryl Renfro, whose employer was not fully satisfied with her weight status even after she lost more than 200 pounds by pursuing bariatric surgery. She needed a note from her doctor to avoid being assigned to a bare bones health insurance plan as a penalty for being considered overweight by her employer.

Supportive employers deserve kudos for health and wellness strategies that have integrity. Employers eager to penalize their employees will get what they deserve: a less engaged, less productive workforce.

Click here and here to read more about approach to a culture of health. Click here to read more about punishing wellness strategies from the New York Observer. Click here to read more on employer trends from Mercer.

Work in Blue and Yellow, photograph © Thomas Leth-Olsen / flickr

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August 17, 2015