12 May Wellness vs. Corporate Wellness – Are They the Same?

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Written by Jim Pshock, Founder & CEO of Bravo

In a word, “no.” Although it seems most everyone has an opinion on employers’ wellness initiatives, few, if any, outsiders have all of the facts necessary to accurately evaluate the strategy. Unlike the evaluation of a stand-alone solution (i.e. joining a local yoga class or purchasing a wearable device), corporate wellness decisions are actually business decisions based on unique populations and circumstances. As seen with the medical plan, dental plan and every other benefit offered, it’s unlikely that any organization can meet the preferences and requests of each individual. Investments made are intended to address a specific, company-wide need and provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Therefore, it’s typically inappropriate to judge a singular element of a corporate wellness strategy outside of this context.

Think about company dress codes, expense policies and guidelines for breaks and paid time off. All employees might not like them but they expect them and support their existence. Think about the employee health plan. If your data showed that a huge volume of claims were coming from elective procedures, brand-name prescriptions when generics are available and emergency room visits for non-emergencies, the health plan would immediately be changed to decrease benefits for these items and increase the employee portion of funding for the unnecessary costs. These types of changes are well known ways to reduce plan expenses which keep costs lower for everyone, even though the individuals who are inconvenienced by the changes may not be happy with them.

Consider Deloitte’s recent results from its 2015 Survey of US Employers and Survey of US Consumers. Although 66 percent of employers stated that employees view wellness and disease management programs as negative, 88 percent of employees expect them and 96 percent believe that they help control medical costs. Additionally, 91 percent of consumers think wellness programs are put in place to cut employer costs yet remarkably, the same number (91 percent) believe they are a perk and are put in place to improve employee health. These views are not mutually exclusive! Stop apologizing for your corporate wellness program shortcomings and realize that 1) the employer has no obligation to even provide these benefits in the first place and 2) it’s okay to start with solutions that help the most people and gradually expand as your budget and resources permit.

Perspective. We’ve all heard stories and experienced situations where a person’s perspective can greatly impact something that may have initially sounded silly or insignificant. A person who has experienced the pain of hunger views food differently than those who have not. A person who has risked and lost everything empathizes with the plight of business owners more than others. Individuals charged with running their company wellness program tend to treat each employee as a “patient” who has walked into their office to receive a service. Often, those responsible for their corporate wellness program have a clinical background and little exposure to benefits design or cost management initiatives from an employer’s standpoint. Make no mistake, these are your internal customers and great service is essential, but the employer’s program isn’t unfair just because you can’t always accommodate everyone’s specific needs or address challenges that are unique to them. Cut yourself some slack! Be thankful that you work for a company that even tries to address personal wellness and well-being and help each individual use what’s available to them in the best way possible.

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