Leadership / Management | Organizational Development

As wellness incentives go, feeling good is good enough


I hate to kill your summer buzz, CPAs, but tax season will be here in no time.

Seriously. It's almost Labor Day. Before you know it, we'll be handing out Halloween candy, eating turkey and decking our respective halls. After that, it's "Wake me up on April 15" -- and a whole lot of unhealthy living in between. Long days, long nights, little sleep, bad food … sound familiar?

It's kind of an annual right of passage, isn't it? But unhealthy lifestyles like that are no joke. Over the long haul, they're killing you … and they might be killing your company, too.

A new study from Brigham Young University, the Health Enhancement Research Organization, and the Center for Health Research has found that employees who make unhealthy lifestyle choices are significantly more likely to be less productive than their healthy counterparts.

Recruiter.com's Joshua Bjerke breaks it down for us. Verbatim:

  • "Employees exercising only occasionally or less were 50 percent more likely to perform at lower levels than regular exercisers."
  • "Smokers were 28 percent more likely to report decreased productivity over non-smokers."
  • "Employees eating little to no fruits and vegetables at work were 93 percent more likely to have high productivity loss."
  • "Those who felt their work environment was not supportive of a healthy lifestyle were more likely to experience decreasing productivity levels."

You get the point. Bad health is bad for workers and for business.

"But our company has a wellness program," you argue. "We're doing all we can."

You're probably not doing enough.

"Bolting a wellness program on a company that fundamentally does not care about the health and well being of its employees is doomed to failure," Mark Graham Brown writes for Business Finance. "If the company frowns on people who exercise at lunch, work an 8-hour day and refuse work assignments when they are already fully committed, a wellness program is probably going to be a waste of time."

What really works? In a world where health care costs are skyrocketing, Brown outlines a number of things companies can do to encourage employees to get healthy, but his best suggestion, in my mind, is this:

Hire healthy people.

"An effective way of making sure that fitness and health are part of your culture is to attract and hire people who already embrace this as one of their personal values," he wrote. "Forward-thinking companies today use websites and social media to communicate their culture to prospective employees so as to attract people who already embrace the same values as them."

Now there's an interesting idea -- making health a core value. And why not? It'll increase productivity and make your employees healthier and happier at the same time.

After all, writes Bruce Shutan, you can't incentivize health. For any wellness program to work, good health must be its own incentive.

How are you encouraging your employees to stay -- or become -- healthy?


Bill Sheridan