About Wellness Corporate Solutions

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Value of Wellness Programs: Discuss, Please

The Business Week “Debate Room” blog recently tackled this timely corporate wellness topic: “Businesses should stop trying to meddle in their workers’ health and fitness habits. Pro or con?”

There were some interesting points on both sides.

First, lawyer Harvey A. Schwartz from Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz made the argument that “Haranguing workers isn’t healthy.” A snippet:
“Cutting-edge employers are climbing over one another to help employees lose weight, quit smoking, stop drinking, get buff, and turn into all-around better human beings. Welcome to the wholesome workplace of the 21st century. Right? Wrong…

Some [employers], at least for now, are helping employees to “voluntarily” clean up their acts.

Others make it mandatory: Quit smoking or lose your job. Lose weight or lose your medical insurance. If employers really want to help their employees live better lives, let the workers pocket the millions spent on corporate gymnasiums, social programs, and other paternalistic efforts.

We stand at the peak of a slippery slope. How long before “voluntary” programs become mandatory? How long before “we don’t hire smokers” becomes “we don’t hire people whose spouses smoke, fat people, couch potatoes, skydivers, or people with high cholesterol”?

Only one type of employer got to control workers’ private lives, but the Civil War put an end to slavery.”
Wow. When you play the "slavery" card, you know feelings are running high.

In the opposite corner, attorney Amanda Layton of WolfBlock argued that “Wellness Benefits Everyone.” Some of her points:
Workplace wellness programs have the potential to reduce medical care costs for both employers and employees and typically provide employees with additional benefits such as access to health education programs, medical screenings, and discounts on health services. Such programs should not be considered “meddling” in employee health but rather a wise and potentially mutually beneficial course of action…

Employers certainly do not “meddle” in employees’ health by sponsoring wellness programs. When implemented within the proper legal framework, these programs may mutually benefit employees and employers, providing both financial and emotional incentives for employees to control their health, while also serving as a cost reduction tool for employees and the organizations for which they work.
Not surprisingly, this debate provoked all sorts of thoughts and opinions from readers. Feel free to add your two cents, too…

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