Wellness programs are becoming increasingly common in the workplace, but, unfortunately, they are far from being as effective as they could be because they are not being implemented in the right way, according to some health experts. Many workers are opting out as a result.

Some of the most common problems with these programs involve the wrong kind of incentives and practices that have no medical validity.

The programs are supposed to help employees take control of their own health, but often they become heavy-handed confiscation programs where employees are penalized for not reaching certain goals. What’s more, there is scant scientific evidence to support these kinds of penalty programs. They do little to improve overall employee health or contain healthcare costs.

Wellness programs also ignore medical evidence for best practices in their zeal to sign up more members – administering lab tests for those who don’t really need them, as well as requiring annual physical exams for people without chronic diseases, which can do more harm than good.

To improve these programs and make them more responsive to the needs of employees and more effective, there are things companies can do, according to health experts.

One is using the guidelines of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for health screenings, rather than those from the wellness program vendors. The Task Force recommends, for example, that people without any health problems only need to check their cholesterol every five years. Employees can have blood pressure checked more often, but if they do it each year only at vendor-sponsored health fairs, they are not likely to get an accurate reading.

Some experts are also encouraging companies not to place so much emphasis on employees’ weight. There is little evidence of any connection between a person’s weight and productivity. Moreover, if there were a proven method to help employees control their weight, it would have been discovered by now. Instead, what we have are vendors all using their own methods.

Another recommendation is that companies only encourage those employees who really need them to get annual physical checkups. These employees include people with chronic conditions, or those who have a number of risk factors.

What type of employee program does your company have? Do you consider it a success? What benchmarks are you using to call it so?

If you’re a New York company looking to improve the “fitness” of your job candidates, contact the recruiters at Winston Resources. We’ve been matching great candidates to great NYC companies for decades and we’d look forward to doing the same for your firm. Contact us today.

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