The age of trim

The Australian - The Deal - - First Up -

Do cor­po­rate health pro­grams work? Not al­ways, re­port two Euro­pean re­searchers who claim some pro­grams back­fire, in­crease work­place stress and make em­ploy­ees less healthy. In their book, The Well­ness Syn­drome, Pro­fes­sor An­dre Spicer, of Lon­don’s City Univer­sity, and Stock­holm Univer­sity’s Carl Ced­er­ström, say there is an alarm­ing trend of peo­ple judg­ing oth­ers at work on their weight and eat­ing habits. Em­ploy­ees of­ten are ex­pected to be in peak phys­i­cal con­di­tion in or­der to progress. “We are in­creas­ingly con­fus­ing lead­ers with life-coaches,” Spicer says. “Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers such as Aus­tralia's Tony Ab­bott try to dis­play their lead­er­ship qual­i­ties by mak­ing a show of their ex­er­cise rou­tine. Only a decade or so ago, well­ness was some­thing that age­ing hip­pies would be in­ter­ested in – to­day it is at the top of CEOs’ agen­das.” Sam Buck­ing­ham-Jones sought ex­pert com­ment:

Nigel Hobbs Founder and CEO, Wel­niss Labs

We spend more than 90 per cent of our time in­side, and for most peo­ple, that’s in an of­fice. We get up in the morn­ing, we get on a bus, we go to work, we come home, and we sit on the couch. It’s a huge part of our life. It’s vi­tal for well­ness pro­grams to in­clude ev­ery­one as much as pos­si­ble. Carte blanche is not nec­es­sar­ily a good idea; feed­back, and hear­ing dif­fer­ent view­points, is es­sen­tial. What is well­ness for one per­son might be dif­fer­ent for some­one else. One per­son might need to eat bet­ter, another might need to fo­cus on stress re­duc­tion.

Julie Cogin Di­rec­tor, Aus­tralian Grad­u­ate School of Man­age­ment

Well­ness pro­grams are ev­i­dence an or­gan­i­sa­tion cares for its em­ploy­ees. If a goal is set with­out sup­port to achieve the goal, or there is co­er­cion to take on the goal, then a neg­a­tive cli­mate can be fos­tered. A bet­ter way is to build com­mit­ment to­wards well­ness goals by pro­vid­ing ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion of the ben­e­fits, and al­low­ing staff to opt in (or out). For well­ness pro­grams to be suc­cess­ful you need to in­tro­duce prac­tices to en­able goal achieve­ment. For ex­am­ple, swap the bis­cuits in the kitchen for fruit, and have fil­tered wa­ter on hand. En­cour­age staff to take turns plan­ning a walk­ing lunch break or, if the bud­get al­lows, bring in a trainer be­fore work or at lunchtimes. Try stand­ing meet­ings rather than sit­ting meet­ings, give staff pe­dome­ters, and con­sider friendly steps-per-day com­pe­ti­tions. And, im­por­tantly, share suc­cess sto­ries.

Michael Stone Di­rec­tor, Holis­tic Ser­vices Group

Any goal that aims to change an en­tire work­place needs to be care­fully planned and im­ple­mented, whether re­lated to well­be­ing or oth­er­wise. Just al­lo­cat­ing funds to im­prov­ing well­ness is not suf­fi­cient. For your pro­gram to suc­ceed, it must be tar­geted at health fac­tors rel­e­vant to your or­gan­i­sa­tion, and needs to en­gage your team. I can un­der­stand why the track­ing of per­sonal habits can seem as judg­men­tal rather than a two-way, co-op­er­a­tive process be­tween em­ployer and em­ployee. That’s why I al­ways rec­om­mend face-to-face work­shops or group fit­ness classes, rather than pe­dome­ters and gym mem­ber­ships.

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