Creating an organizational wellness culture for the 21st Century
BenefitsPro.com has posted an item forecasting four employer wellness trends for 2013 featuring Stephanie Pronk of Aon Hewitt. Pronk emphasizes a point for every employer interested a healthier workforce and lower healthcare costs: that employee wellness cannot be seen simply in the context of the work site, but must create a lifestyle change. “When you think about why safety programs are so successful in organizations, it’s because they’re engrained in the culture,” Pronk is quoted as saying. “It’s part of the way they do their work every day, so we need to work at health and wellness in the same way. We need culture changes to support healthy behaviors in the long term.”
A major health safety hazard of the information and Internet economy of the 21st Century is holding onto outdated 20th Century practices that assume knowledge work can only be performed in a central office location between 8:30 and 5, Monday through Friday. That forces knowledge workers into a sedentary existence that can lead to and aggravate chronic conditions associated with lack of exercise. Riding the commute-to-cubicle treadmill (in a seated position) also sucks valuable time out of their lives, leading many to justifiably claim they lack the time for meaningful, regular exercise and even sufficient sleep. And that’s not even counting the adverse impact on employee engagement and retention. The commute-to-cubicle treadmill isn’t merely a job – it’s a default lifestyle – and an unhealthy one.
Employers that are truly committed to helping their staff members adopt healthier lifestyles must give them the freedom and responsibility to do so by giving them control over their daily schedules. As this blog has noted previously, recently released research has shown the potential of schedule control to support health promoting behaviors – and by extension, healthier lifestyles. Schedule control enables knowledge workers to function whenever and wherever they are productive with the proviso that they stay in communication with their team and management and fulfill their job functions and tasks. It’s an elegant, low cost wellness program that leverages the power of today’s Information and Telecommunications Technology (ICT) and truly represents the kind of organizational cultural change for the 21st Century that Pronk correctly observes is necessary to achieve a healthier workforce.