brilliant mistake, health care, Toby Elwin, blog

Fast Start — The brilliant mistake of health and wellness

Brilliant Mistake, Fast Start, health and wellness, Carol Harnett, Human Resource ExecutiveFast Start conversation:  Some believe employee health and wellness programs save employer-related costs. A few, after review of real health data, discovered a brilliant mistake about the impact of health and wellness.

A healthy employee is a productive employee and health and wellness programs roll out across corporate America to capture this. Human Resource expert Carol Harnett was a corporate wellness advocate, but went to look to peel back financials.  In her Human Resource Executive article, A Brilliant Mistake (link broken), Ms. Harnett outlines data that reveal flaws with wellness objectives.

If a leading voice as brilliant as Ms. Harnett is in the health and benefits world lets data reverse opinion then the business table may yet have room for other HR executives comfortable with data.

What is the variable that effects short- and long-term disability?

If a productive employee is a healthy employee what makes an employee really healthy?

Is your executive willing to air a recent brilliant mistake they made within company rank, let alone as publicly as Ms. Harnett did?

I have a lot of respect for her.

Further great ways to Carol Harnett and her thoughts:

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Comments 6

  1. Wouldn’t you think employee satisfaction would be be improved by a wellness program in addition to a better relationship with his/her supervisor. Why does it have to be one or the other? Shouldn’t the goal be both for a holistic approach to employee satisfaction?

    1. Post

      I believe the article and comments look at wellness intended to affect a change in employee behavior that decrease healthcare costs, short- and long-term disability costs, and absenteeism lost productivity for companies. Wellness programs are not currently achieving these.

      In another Human Resource Executive column, Do No Harm, wellness programs may prove hazardous to employee and employer. Seems counter-intuitive. Tom Emerick and Al Lewis, interviewed in the article, dig deeper into expectation around employer belief that employers can affect behavior change towards healthier lifestyles. The article highlights further findings from their book Cracking Healthcare Costs.

      Employee satisfaction is less about physical health and more about mental health around the relationship with their supervisor. Wellness programs pull resources and attention away from the deeper quality of professional satisfaction that set engagement level: leadership and employee satisfaction. The engaged employee is a healthier employee.

      Wellness without satisfaction discredits wellness as mere snake oil.

      Can one have true health without having a healthy mind?

      Thank you for your comments Kim. I welcome your thoughts on the above.

  2. I would argue with you that wellness programs aren’t acheiving all that is claimed– I suppose different studies are going to show different results.

    According the the U.S. Department of Labor (from the RAND employer survey), 60% of employers reported that wellness programs reduced health care costs and 80% reported that they have seen a decrease in absenteeism and an increase in productivity since incorporating wellness programs. For example, Nabholz construction corporation (largest commercial contracting company in Arkansas) reported that after implementing a wellness program their employees had significant decreases in blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. The company says it has saved them about $600,000 (due to savings in health care and increases in productivity).

    Now, I realize that the statements above are all about $$ for the company, That’s what companies do, they make money, and that’s why the employees are there… companies want to make money and if they can help their employees be healthier and make more money as a result, I think that is positive for the company and it’s employees. It’s also better for the nation as a whole given the obesity epidemic we are facing.

    So, once again, I say– Yes, work on improving employee/supervisor relationships, but don’t discount the importance of wellness.

    1. Post

      With company-related health care costs I see 2 challenges:
      1. Reduce insurance costs and
      2. Have people at work
      A healthy person is on the job and performing. That is a good goal for a company.

      Where does a company have the ability to affect health over traditional expectation. 2 quotes from the HRExecutive Online article lend argument include:

      … is that feeling like you’re making your employees and your company healthier, makes one feel very noble . . . . If [employees’] families can’t prevent [an illness], their doctors can’t prevent it, and their specialist can’t prevent it, what makes you think an employer is going to do something about it?

      I, like you, do not discount the importance of wellness, but want to hold the importance of total wellness: mental, physical, structural, relational.

      Companies that have effectively rolled out process improvements where, in short, they’re not [looking for] someone to blame when something goes wrong — [such an approach] can actually affect the health of the people in the organization because it takes stress away from them. If you can change your demands from your company, put in something to make the work/life more tolerable, your population’s health will improve. I’ve seen it in companies that have done this. Their workers’ compensation claims go down, their absenteeism and turnover rates go down.

      Wellness in the workplace is total not selective.

      I appreciate your sources and your insight as a health professional, is there a larger shift in the discussion that should take place that does not from the original article intent in the Fast Start above?

  3. Thank you so much for posting this article and for the extra reading and researching I can do. I appreciate that you shared these information with us! Keep up the good work!

    1. Post

      This is a great part of social dialogue, the shared learning. I guess we each have Carol Harnett to thank for writing the original article.

      What is a nugget in the articles, to include comments, that intrigued you?

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

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