I’ll admit it. Until a couple of years ago, I thought corporate wellness programs were a silly waste of time.
I didn’t get it. I was uninformed, naïve and ignorant about why any company would want to invest their time and money in corporate wellness.
Then, I took a job leading the HR team for an organization that had been investing in wellness in one way or another for nearly 15 years. I suddenly needed learn about it in a hurry.
Over a 12-month period, I both studied and experienced what corporate wellness looks like and how it works. And my perspective changed from “why have wellness?” to “why wouldn’t you have wellness?”
The clear cut case for employee wellness
The business case for wellness has gotten fairly clear over the past several years as the costs of health care and health insurance continue to skyrocket. The expense for company-paid employee health premiums is the second largest in many organizations behind salary costs. It has become a strategic priority for HR to manage this increasing expense.
There are a lot of ways to approach this challenge, but the only way to succeed in a sustainable way is to help your employees and their families to become healthier and less dependent on the health care system. This is an obvious and uncomfortable truth. There is no data to suggest that the cost of health care or insurance is going to do anything but continue to increase, so what other choice do we have?
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As HR leaders, we can’t control the cost of health care, but we can do things to help employees become healthier.
Two reasons why you may be holding out
So, why are you still holding out? I think that there are two main reasons.
- You argue that a company getting actively involved in employee health crosses a line. You have convinced yourself that we (corporate) shouldn’t be telling an employee how they should live their lives. Really? That might be a better argument if we weren’t spending millions of dollars to provide employees with health insurance every year. Our companies are paying enormous sums of money to insure employee health. Based on how we treat other corporate assets, this should give the organization the right to aggressively get involved in how employees treat their own health. For example, if you organization has company vehicles that you insure, you probably dictate to employees when and how they can use these vehicles. Why wouldn’t we do the same with all of the company assets we insure? Employee health may be one of the greatest assets we have.
- You know that you can’t champion wellness without getting well yourself. If you are the one rolling out wellness, you are probably going to have to make some lifestyle changes to get in better shape. It’s true. And shame on you if this is why you are avoiding wellness. If you are going to bring forward a wellness program, you had better be willing to look in the mirror.
Since joining my current organization, I’ve gotten into the best shape of my life. The pressure to be a role model has helped me make some positive changes in my own health. It is a happy benefit of being the executive champion for wellness. I personally can’t stand in front of a group with any integrity and tell them that wellness is important if I’m not living it myself. That doesn’t mean you have to be a perfect physical specimen when you start a wellness program, but you need to be willing to commit to improving your health and sharing your journey with others. Once you do it, you won’t ever turn back.
For HR, the health of our employee population has rapidly become a top strategic priority because of its potential to impact the bottom line. It’s not a fad, in an imperative. It’s time to drop the resistance and get busy getting our organizations healthy.