If you have never experienced a workplace health plan, you can consider yourself successful. These seemingly ubiquitous programs spread like wildfire in 2010. After the adoption of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, occupational health care revenues more than tripled to $ 8 billion from 2010 to 2018.
It seems that some of these programs are an honest effort for employers to protect the health of their employees, but is it really? It can be if the incentive is to help employees be happier and healthier. In fact, the incentive is to save money by increasing employee productivity (shorter periods due to health problems) and reducing health care costs. I know this because I worked for almost a decade at a workplace healthcare company as a copywriter, and I had a front desk with tense account managers trying to show corporate clients a return on investment.
Whether the employer is managing or contracting with a third-party provider, workplace health plans have some serious drawbacks. One is that they do not really help employees to be healthier. The other is that in some cases they can harm the health of employees.
Does workplace health improve health?
The 2018 research paper describes a comprehensive workplace health plan that researchers have developed and implemented for an employer with more than 12,000 employees, randomly assigning employees to the appropriate group. A year later, they found no significant differences in medical expenditure, productivity, or health behavior.
A 2019 study of 32,974 employees of a multifunctional company found that randomly assigned health programmers in the workplace, which included diet, physical activity, and stress reduction modules, were more likely to engage in regular exercise and weight management efforts. compared to other employees, but after 18 months there were no significant differences in other self-determined health և behaviors. There are no differences in clinical health parameters, such as cholesterol, blood pressure levels, health care costs, absenteeism, or work performance.
An article in the Harvard Business Review states that some companies offer a huge range of health benefits to compensate for work stress, but this is not the antidote that should be advertised. Indeed, if your boss expects you to respond to email.
When “health” means weight loss
One of the key factors in occupational health programs is that they focus on weight, based on the idea that losing weight is not just a matter of personal responsibility, but if you are “overweight”, it is your employer’s responsibility to your ‘partners’. – Workers lose weight. This focus can intensify the obesity that is likely to already exist in any workplace, as well as turn the workplace into a minefield.
I have clients who recover from eating disorders or just get rid of many years of chronic diet and strenuous exercise. They: horror Each new stage of fitness և weight loss challenges in the workplace. Avoiding diet and talking about family and friends may be difficult, but should it also be tolerated in the workplace?
Kathy, a resident of three cities who asked to be identified only by her name, said her company had recently changed the name of their health plan to “some formulations.” However, the content has not changed. They are still focused on weight management.
“When just one partner talks about their whimsical diet, I can usually turn a deaf ear or even just say no to dieting,” said Kathy. “But when a company runs a program, it encourages people to talk about diet.”
For people with limited eating disorders, which can be fatal, talking about dieting over a water cooler or coffee machine can disrupt months or even years of recovery. Weight-based health care programs are more than just normalizing deep-seated conversations. They mention it. This contributes to the creation of a work environment that often eats away at employees with disabilities, making it a very awkward choice to choose between a “potential recurrence” of work.
When someone weighed a common area of his office, a common coffee pot, and posted his food diary on the wall, Kathy complained that it might be harmful to people with eating disorders. He got the answer. If someone has an eating disorder, they should get a formal job. Given that eating disorders are a condition of mental health or with serious medical complications, mental health is unfortunately a stigma, which is a real obstacle to being safe in the workplace. In addition, being in recovery can take a long time after someone is in active treatment for an eating disorder, assuming they have never been officially diagnosed.
Even programs that focus primarily on health activities, such as activity levels, biometric tests, can lead to eating and exercise disorders. For several years, my company was facing the challenge of losing weight and exercising. Who could lose the maximum weight, lift the most steady steps or record the most minutes of training? I feel happy that I do not seem to be genetically predisposed to eating disorders, because for the first year, I threw myself into an over-the-top physical activity schedule, overcoming two exercise challenges despite several equally distracted colleagues chewing on my heels. Looking back, I am convinced that one of these partners already had a limited eating disorder.
Is there a place for health in the workplace? I think so, but to really help employees be healthier and happier, they need to deviate significantly from current norms to focus on real health, not weight. It should also be combined with a workplace culture that allows employees to use their free time without guilt and set limits on working hours. It just made me think.