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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Setting an Example for Wellness at the Top

Has it ever occurred to you--or the employees--that top management isn't exactly walking the walk when it comes to wellness?

Sure, the folks in the C-suites may fund and vocally support wellness programs. But are their lifestyles really good models for employees? So many books on business talk about how examples of good work habits need to be set at the top. You don't always hear that about wellness programs.

As we've found at Wellness Corporate Solutions, after you get buy-in from company executives, it's useful to encourage them to set a public example by eating healthy, getting exercise and dealing with their own stress levels. Having them participate in health fairs, join employee walks and attend wellness events can help a lot.

I was reminded of this when I read about a program in the Small Business Times in the Milwaukee area: a "Fit Execs" program for business leaders. Sure, it's inspiring to read about the exec finalists' athletic achievements of running triathlons, taking five aerobics classes a week, and so on.

But I have two thoughts about this:

1. A program that supports high-profile recognition of executive health and fitness can easily backfire. If a company's leaders appear to be showing off--or devoting too much of their energy to their own athletic accomplishments--it may breed resentment and bad karma.

2. That's especially true if, as the Milwaukee-area example reveals, a lot of the winning execs haven't created wellness programs for their employees! So the boss is an award-winning jock but doesn't bother to fund or support basic health and wellness for their own employees?

Maybe the people who run executive fitness competitions should include only business leaders who have implemented wellness programs in their own companies. Otherwise, are they just rewarding wellness hypocrisy?

It's probably a lot more valuable to have top management participate in lunchtime walks than train for the Ironman.

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