Treating employees like human beings instead of mindless automatons has been the struggle of businesses for decades. Despite generally good intentions, many business owners may find it difficult to accommodate for a variety of needs among staff members. Implementation of company healthcare plans may have eased this particular burden, but with a myriad of lifestyles in any given office, a new genre of program has helped keep employees happy and healthy.
Employee wellness programs—designed to address physical and mental issues, have become more and more popular in the last decade.
And they’re certainly diverse. From homegrown initiatives handled by HR staff to external companies looking to peddle the service of good health, these programs offer services to fit the needs of any questing company. Often, wellness programs will begin with a physical or biometric scan to identify possible latent issues, followed by a suite of remedies planned at the discretion of the company.
This is, in part, a cost-cutting measure for businesses, allowing them to ideally save on healthcare costs further down the line. Additionally, government stipends have allowed some companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, to cut even more off of their healthcare bill. It would seem that employee wellness programs would be beneficial for all parties involved, especially given the enduring subculture of healthy living, encompassing such trends as veganism and Crossfit exercises.
However, there’s inevitably more to it than that. Any good wellness program needs to be flexible and account for differing employee needs. Some choose not to participate in these programs, driven either by a distaste for exercise or a skepticism about a company’s motivations. And, of course, this is okay, as long as employees are given the freedom to choose how their personal plan is executed, something that has been the subject of multiple legal disputes as of late.
As this is a relatively new phenomenon, firms purporting to offer wellness programs are often specialized and highly divergent. Compare, for instance, Zipongo to ComPsych.
The former is a nutrition-focused company offering a smartphone-integrated program meant to enable employees to make healthier meal choices. Zipongo won’t improve a workspace’s lunch menu, but it does give individuals the tools necessary to be more conscientious about what they eat, even offering suggestions based on a company menu.
ComPsych, on the other hand, is a bit more proactive in working with employees. Their program offers weight loss, tobacco cessation, and lifestyle coaching options to account for a melting pot of health issues.
Really, both companies are viable in their own way—the debate then comes down to whether a company is content to simply encourage healthier living as part of a program, or submit employees for inspection and tackle their problems as impactfully as possible.
Good health has always been associated with higher levels of productivity, and companies are striving to capitalize on this. And, again, some would rather not burden themselves with working to improve their own health. When companies decide to adopt an employee healthcare program, they change their culture in addition to changing their policies. As the industry moves forward, one hopes that newer, even more comprehensive plans will address the dual matters of employee compliance and program flexibility.