How Employee Benefits Can Support Weight Loss
Obesity has reached astronomical proportions in the last couple of years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 35.7 percent of all adults are considered to be obese. Nearly one in 20 adults is considered to be morbidly obese. Around 74 percent of men are classified as overweight and around one-third of women are in the obesity range.
The costs of health care are typically higher for obese people who are suffering from other health-related problems, which can affect plan premiums. Therefore, it is not surprising that more employers are trying to find ways to help employees to maintain good health and reduce the incidence of obesity, by creating benefits programs that support weight loss and fitness goals.
When Corporate Wellness Programs Go Wrong
The problem is, often these well-meaning efforts actually work against benefit programs in that they seem to target obese employees. It is a prevailing myth that all obese people are unhealthy. Although preventable diseases can be caused by obesity or obesity is a factor or symptom, it does not mean that every obese person is sick or out of shape. Many are very healthy and stay physically active throughout their lives. Being large can be caused by a number of things including genetics, hormonal challenges, injuries and illnesses that make it hard to shed extra weight.
Often, a workplace that is hyper-focused on wellness can alienate employees who are considered obese. They may feel singled out, guilty, and threatened by corporate initiatives to reduce obesity. This is when benefits and wellness programs backfire.
It is important that all employees, regardless of size or shape, be treated with respect and compassion so that they are receiving positive reinforcement instead of negative looks and comments. With more sensitivity to the diversity of human beings, there can be more positive results.
Here are some ways that employers can support weight loss and increased physical fitness for all employees to reduce obesity.
1. Make it About All Employees
It can be easy and tempting to highlight only your obese population of employees. But this is actually discriminatory by its very nature. Instead, any employee benefits for wellness programs that are geared towards supporting fitness and weight-loss must be communicated and promoted to all employees. Never pull an obese employee aside and grill them about participating in the wellness program. This will have the opposite effect. Instead, continue to educate and inspire all employees to reach their health goals with positive reinforcement.
2. Provide Access to Affordable Weight Loss Services
It has been estimated that it can cost as much as $20,000 for weight loss surgery. Millions of dollars are spent every year by obese people on weight loss products and services. It is unnecessary for employees to have to go into debt to lose a few pounds. Make sure that your employee benefits are affordable so that all employees can access weight loss services like nutritional counseling, fitness center memberships, and medical care.
3. Give Employees Ongoing Support
Weight loss is a complete lifestyle change. It is not a temporary fix. Therefore, if your organization is going to get involved with employees who are trying to lose weight, you should expect to be in it for the long haul. Make sure that employees have access to on-site support such as peer-to-peer groups and counseling when needed. Set up fitness teams and encourage all employees to participate each week in at least one physical activity.
4. Encourage Employees to Reduce Stress
Stress is a huge problem in America. People are overworked and continually dealing with stressful situations that can cause cortisone levels to increase. Science has shown that cortisone can result in added belly fat and the tendency to overeat. Along with physical aspects of weight loss support and medical benefits to cover office visits, provide safe spaces for employees where they can de-stress and have quiet time when they need it.
5. Set Up Fitness Options That Fit All Levels
If your company opts for an on-site fitness room or walking paths, it is important to make sure that they are accessible for all levels of employees. You may have employees who are experiencing mobility issues. Therefore you will need to modify some of your facility to make sure they can participate. If you are sending employees off-site to a fitness center, take the time to visit it and find out about handicap accessibility. These are the things that can make a big difference for an employee struggling to lose weight.
6. Offer Healthy Food and Beverage Options
It can be very motivating for employees to have healthier options around them in terms of food and beverages. Even your snack machines can be stocked with healthier choices to reduce the chance of employees being tempted to indulge in sugary and salty snacks. Every department should also be furnished with a water cooler to encourage more water intake. If your facility allows, set up a small kitchen area where employees can bring healthy lunches to work, or you can have a catering company provide a healthy meal at least once per week.
7. Provide Fitness Wearables to Track Success
A great benefit to offer employees is the opportunity to utilize a wearable fitness device. This can also be very motivating because employees can track things like the number of steps they've taken, calories burned, the stairs they've climbed, and how many miles they walked. Wearable Fitness devices also can be connected to online communities of other folks who are trying to lose weight and get fit. Set up a team page for your company and friendly competitions so that all employees can jump on board.
Provide incentives for reaching important milestones and be sure to recognize employees who reach their goals.
By following the above advice, your employee benefits will be much more geared towards helping employees to lose get fit. This is a win-win for your company and your employees. Remember to keep things positive and never target anyone simply because they are overweight.