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Invest Broadly In Wellness, or Channel Adam Smith and Let The Markets Decide?

Wellness in your company.  I'm trying to follow the topic in this space, but it's hard.  Here's a list of what I do and don't need in order to determine if wellness is something I can invest in as a HR Pro:

What I do need: Programs with demonstrated ROI, tools that can be implemented in a smallEat_smarter_2 company (under 500 employees) as well as a big one, a better understanding if I choose to invest, where I get the biggest bang for my buck, and probably most importantly, a legislative environment over the next ten years that allows me to wildly incent those who are doing the right things from a health/lifestyle standpoint.

What I don't need:  Wellness providers sending me another brochure to distribute, complete with a glossy picture of an apple on the front with the captions "Let's Eat Smart".   Please stop the madness.  Does anyone really believe that a company will help modify employee/family behavior by sending that out?  If fries are served with every meal at my house, can I really pull off the stir fry recipe?  Really?

Laurie over at Punk Rock HR commented on my article about investing in wellness in-house for companies with over 1,000 employees.  She's advocating markets and managing performance on a broad level, and I agree with most of the general thoughts (as well as Deb's at 8 hours and a lunch). I'm a skeptic of wellness (see my wellness category), but doing or investigating nothing is a bad idea.   

If you want a market-based approach and we retain the current system of companies being responsible for healthcare, you have to have broad ability to implement incentives/penalties (it's really semantics which you call it) for folks who respond to the call to live healthier lifestyles.  Of course, those penalties would have to dig into the family members who are covered to create the proper system of rewards.  See my past post on the CEO of Healthnation for a primer on what a market economy in healthcare would look like, complete with healthcare FICA score...

Is America ready for that?  I doubt it, and it's a shame, because the same factors that drive healthcare cost in a corporate environment are what would drive cost in a nationalized heathcare environment.

Those factors?  Behavior + Time.  Doesn't matter if it's Ford Motor or Uncle Sam administering the healthcare plan.  Treat everyone the same, and one things sure - no one's behavior will change as a result.



I think wellness starts first with the workplaces social norms/ culture.

Are people encouraged to bring their own (usually healthier)lunches by a clean fridge, microwave, and kitchenette? Or are the frightened off by the drain flies, like at my last workplace? Is it OK to push away from one's desk for a time and, say, go for a brisk walk or duck out to the gym? Or are employees praised for staying at their desks and working through lunch?

Instead of rolling out some Big Expensive Shiny wellness program, I'd like to see companies embrace these cheap (nearly free) ideas first.

Gary Bedrosian

We know a company that provides just what you're pining for (apples not included)...

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