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Survey indicates mixed results for workplace wellness programs

Nearly half (about 45 percent) of 850 employers responding to a reader survey by the HR Daily Advisor reported their companies have implemented workplace wellness programs.  Notably, opinion on whether they have actually improved the health of employees is almost evenly split.  Twenty two percent of the respondents indicated their wellness programs have improved the health of their workforces and about 23 percent responded that their employees are no healthier as a result of programs.  This latter data point is particularly critical insofar as the survey showed nearly 80 percent (681 respondents) identifying the growing burden of health care costs and requirements as the top human resource issue of 2011.

Workplace wellness programs can only go so far for office-based jobs where people typically sit eight hours a day and another hour or two commuting to that sedentary position.  Flexible work schedules and telework must be part of workplace wellness programs in order to free up more time time for meaningful amounts of exercise.  Particularly when information technology has advanced to the point information-based work can be done from most anywhere.  A walk in the parking lot and a few stretches are good but aren’t enough.

Plus too many jobs reward people for showing up rather than their work product.  Employers that provide employees a greater degree of control over their schedules and encourage them to use whatever unproductive time that is freed up to hit the gym and engage in sustained aerobic exercise are likely to see better results than from current workplace wellness programs.

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