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The Folies of Forced Wellness

Published by Richard Fedele in Opinion Blog · 24/8/2015 14:13:44
Tags: ForcedWellness

Richard Fedele
Lifestyle Wellness Benefits Inc.


What is forced wellness?
In a bid to capitalize on the publics greater interest to improve their lifestyle and subsequently improve their quality of life, established entrepreneurs began creating wellness models that they felt were a more effective way of getting results.  They assumed that forcing employees to create wellness through negative reinforcement would yield greater results.  Penalizing employees with higher benefit premiums, reduced pay and at times going as far as firing the employee if they do not "clean up their act".

It has been a few years since this reactive model for wellness has been introduced and the numbers paint a different picture than the marketing suggested.  Immediately after implementing a reactive model for wellness, the usage in a health and pharmaceutical plan goes up and the increased cost of the benefits follow.

Had the corporations’ HR department or executive staff applied the core wellness definitions to their decision making when choosing a program, they might have avoided the wasted money and damage created by these cowboy tactics from established entrepreneurs.

Core Wellness
Wellness in a corporation yields impressive results that benefit the company’s bottom line substantially.

For wellness to encourage wellbeing, some common sense must be utilized when trying to achieve your objectives.  As corporations are, relatively speaking, inexperienced with corporate wellness, they rely on enterprising new age systems that they believe is successful in creating wellbeing simply because they are effective at marketing.

Wellness Industry
Wellness industry is the culmination of products and services that promote wellness by utilizing wellness mechanisms.

Wellness is a state of being whereby an individual's quality of life is maximized for optimal balance and joy.

Wellness Mechanism
Wellness mechanism is a product or service that elicits a change in the lifestyle of an individual to improve their quality of life.

Implementing Wellness that works
Without getting into the details of an effective plan, one can still utilize these core definitions to accept or reject a program based on the results.

Using forced wellness as an example, it is easy to see why they are so ineffective.

In a forced wellness program, the first objective of the program is to assess the physical health and/or mental health of the employee.  As negative reinforcement is the key motivator in these programs, the employee will be punished if they do not submit to either signing over their doctors reports or visiting the medical professional invited to assess the employee.  From here, depending on the provider you use, a recommendation goes to the employer pinpointing the employees that are the greatest risk to the company’s bottom line.  What the company does with that information is anyone’s guess.

The employee is given a regiment of options to improve their wellness with diet, medication and exercise whereby improvement will mean lifting the punishment inflicted on them by their employer for being unwell in the first place.

Obvious problems
The example given is not indicative of all forced wellness programs.  Some are worse and some are more mindful of the wellness process.  From the example given, the obvious shortfalls to creating wellbeing are:

1.    The program immediately promotes stress and anxiety in the workplace.
2.    Negative reinforcement is the first strategy avoided for wellness to be effective.

3.    Physical health is assessed by medical professionals whose primary means of treatment and maintenance is synthetic chemicals. This increases drug usage and dependency for more employees.
4.    Only 1 to 3 of the 7 possible wellness issues are addressed.
5.  Choice and flexibility are the cornerstones of creating optimal wellbeing.  Forced wellness has none of these.  Rather, forceful intimidation is used which is the cornerstone of the reactive model.
6.    Inducing fear of job loss or income loss is counter wellness.
7.   Medical professionals are part of the reactive pharmaceutical model and thus have no experience promoting overall wellbeing.
8.  The plan design is indicative of anger and punishment for the employee by the company’s administration.  This is the opposite of what you should look for in a wellness program.

There are many deficiencies in the forced wellness model.  The ones listed are the most obvious from a core wellness perspective.

Where did they come from?
Why is forced wellness even an option for corporations?

When established entrepreneurs attempted to capitalize on the rise in wellness interest, the first thing they do is research the market and the options they have in the current environment.  As pharmaceuticals have influenced the landscape of corporate benefits, their reactive model design was viewed by new programs as the only options for quicker profits.  From a sales perspective, this is the best way to approach new product development.  

Companies with limited knowledge and experience in wellness immediately recognized these forced wellness models as the valid option because they follow the same train of thought when assessing programs.  It’s the "quick fix" to shut up their critics and employees.  What they didn’t realize was that a reactive wellness program does the opposite of a true wellness program.  Reactive wellness will inevitable reduce productivity and increase the usage of health and pharmaceutical benefits, thus increasing cost and reducing their profits.

Unfortunately, for the employees, no benefit is realized for themselves or their families when a reactive program such as forced wellness is used as their wellness program.  Without education, choice and flexibility in a proactive and preventative model, there is no wellness to influence greater wellbeing.

The next time you review a wellness program for its potential effectiveness, you should consider whether the profit model of the supplier is based on optimum results for the employee or simply to maximize profits by giving the public what they are accustomed to.  Wellness is relatively new in its reintroduction into the mainstream.  Being mindful that wellness cannot be effective in a reactive business model and thus cannot operate within the confines of existing medical and pharmaceutical models will help to distinguish between effective and non-effective wellness.

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