Human Resources Vs. Wellness Professionals - Who Does Employee Wellness Better?

A discussion on the state of employee wellness, and how it became its own unmanageable monster.

Seriously, where did employee wellness come from?

And why do we think that very smart, hardworking, human resources professionals can change the mindset of a few million employees regarding wellness?

I love HR pros, they do amazing work!

They are truly employee advocates from anything ranging from benefit management, company moral to high level people decisions.

But, let’s be honest here…overall wellness regardless if it’s:

  • Mental health
  • Financial health
  • Physical health
  • Organizational health

It is out of their scope of practice. It’s not fair to put them in a position where they have to fix a systemic issue that is facing our nation today.

Look at the numbers regarding obesity:

  • Obese adults spend 42 percent more on direct healthcare costs than adults who are a healthy weight.
  • Per capita healthcare costs for severely or morbidly obese adults (BMI >40) are 81 percent higher than for healthy weight adults.6
  • In 2000, around $11 billion was spent on medical expenditures for morbidly obese U.S. adults.
  • Moderately obese (BMI between 30 and 35) individuals are more than twice as likely as healthy weight individuals to be prescribed prescription pharmaceuticals to manage medical conditions.

Now, lets look at the numbers regarding mental health:

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.

Is it fair to expect health outcomes from our human resources departments?

And if so, how do we expect them to do a better job than either the 400 year old mental health industry (it’s way older than that FYI) or the 80 billion dollar fitness industry?

HR Professionals, we know you’re wearing 50 hats on a daily basis. From hiring, firing, operational standards etc. that’s a lot!

Maybe there is a better way to do this…

Let’s look at the employee wellness industry:

The employee wellness industry is projected to be roughly a 90 billion dollar industry by 2026. With the main driving factor being the cost of obesity as it relates to increased insurance costs for both the company and the employee.

Current trends in the space:

  • Health risk assessment segment led the market in 2018. Stress management will be the fastest-growing segment from 2019 to 2026 due to rising preference for on-site yoga and meditation services
  • Large-scale organization is likely to be the dominant end use segment in the corporate wellness market in 2018 as infrastructure in these companies makes conducting wellness services easier and convenient
  • Wellness services providing organizations led the market in 2018 and fitness & nutrition consultants segment is anticipated to witness the fastest growth over the forecast period

The employee wellness industry is still young. So how did it grow so fast?

Enter self funded insurance programs

Self-funded health care is a self insurance arrangement whereby an employer provides health or disability benefits to employees using the company’s own funds.

This is different from fully insured plans where the employer contracts an insurance company to cover the employees and dependents.

In self-funded health care, the employer assumes the direct risk for payment of the claims for benefits.

Wait, what? The risk is on the employer and no longer the fully insured plans?

Not to get too much in to detail here, but from a financial perspective, companies that utilize self funded insurance programs are virtually forced to implement a wellness program.

But do employee wellness programs work to decrease health care costs?

If you read my previous blogs you would recognize the white whale analogy regarding employee wellness and how it is very much a Moby Dick story.

A great mission, but a forever search.

With engagement rates less than 15% across the board and no demonstrable ROI in regards to spend, it’s a very daunting process to understand how and if the employee wellness industry is impacting our employees.

Let me ask you another question, could we be doing it better?

Is there a 80 billion dollar fitness industry to leverage?

Is there educated, passionate, financially motivated wellness professionals out there, that are 100% incentivized to help our employees get healthier?

Yep. And they all want to earn your business.

Now who am I and what does my company do?

I’m a previous wellness professional, turned startup founder at LEON. I’ve coached professional athletes to the Rio Olympics and helped people like your mother or father lose 75 pounds.

I’ve tried to read as much as possible. Attended seminars. Tested training methods on myself.

So have people like Pat Davidson, Jim Ferris, Don Saladino, Mike T. Nelson, and Andy Mccloy to name a few.

Not to mention the other 500k fitness professionals in the U.S. who are all about helping your people get better.

Also, about the 65k gyms and fitness studios in the U.S. who work everyday to understand user psychology, marketing trends and engagement rates? All built on motivating your employees to exercise more.

They understand that wellness is not a one sized fit all program.

And that wellness is a subjective and personal decision.

And that the health of our nation is much more than yoga at lunch or buying your whole team Fitbits.

Where do we go from here?

Do you implement a wellness benefit and allow your employees to decide how they engage in wellness?

How about we buy everyone an Equinox membership?

Maybe a combination of both mixed in with a little bit of yoga at lunch and step trackers?

I don’t know. Maybe all of it will work for some people, but not for everyone.

But, I do know that we need to take a long hard look at the employee wellness industry as whole, and figure out ways that we can leverage what is out there, and who is passionate about helping people.

And let’s leave the HR people alone. They have enough on their plate already.

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