Symbolic wellness programs will remain just that – and get bubkes for results

Yahoo! provides an example of a highly symbolic participatory wellness program that isn’t likely to significantly improve the health status of Yahooligans.

Here are some excerpts from the story by Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

In an effort to whip its desk-bound, tech-loving workforce into shape, Yahoo! (YHOO) is offering free Jawbone Up fitness bands to all employees—with a few conditions. If workers want use the gizmo (retail price: $129.99) to tally their every action while exercising, commuting, sitting, and eating all that free Yahoo food, they must first agree to run or walk at least 100 miles in 30 days.

While commuting? Few Yahooligans likely walk or cycle to the Yahoo! campus, instead most arriving on site after long and stressful Silicon Valley commutes (among the worst in the nation) that degrade their health status.

Yahoo already offers such old-fashioned health resources as onsite fitness centers with classes in yoga, cardio-kickboxing, pilates, golf, and so forth. Even those who work in locations without a fitness center receive $100 quarterly reimbursements toward health-club memberships, according to the company’s website. Sure, the wristbands can reveal depressing data about how many hours a person sits in front of a computer monitor and how many doughnuts are consumed. Whether the results can persuade a user to hit the gym isn’t something a device can control.

Yahooligans stressed out from the commute can release some of that stress in the on site fitness center. While management decreed earlier this year all Yahooligans must to show up on campus every work day, hopefully it doesn’t expect them to spend the day in their cubicles since that isn’t going to score points on their fitness bands.

Instead of nannying staff, a better wellness approach than this highly symbolic, one size fits all PR stunt would be would be to treat people as adults and give them control over when and where they work. Wellness is a personal lifestyle choice. People must have the freedom to make that choice according to their individual needs and devote the necessary time to achieve it.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email or call 530-295-1473. 

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Frederick Pilot

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