Human Resources Management – Employee Fitness
Employee Wellness Management: How Much is Too Much?
Fitness apps are all the rage lately. There are apps available for your smartphone than can not only track your vital signs but suggest exercises to do to improve specific health aspects. Some of these applications even include video instructions on how to do these exercises. The only thing these apps lack is a tiny cattle prod to motivate the user to action. Now it appears the HR world is latching onto these fitness apps and will be the ones supplying the cattle prod.
Brave New World or 1984?
What happens to this fitness dynamic when the app doesn't just inform you of your fitness needs but also sends a copy of the report to the HR department of your company? Do Human Resource managers have a right to monitor the fitness levels of their employees and perhaps even make how closely they follow the app's suggestions part of their performance reviews? Just how much wellness management is reasonable and how much would be considered intrusive?
Why Would They Do That To Us?
The reason for HR's interest in our health goes beyond caring for an individual's welfare. Numerous studies have shown a significant reduction in absenteeism for employees who have embarked on fitness programs compared to those who have not. In one study, conducted by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information and published on the National Institute of Health's National Library of Medicine website, which can be viewed here, employees who engaged in a fitness regimen reduced their absenteeism by a considerable 4.8 days. Imagine the savings to business and industry if they could save 4.8 sick days per employee annually. The savings would be in the billions. It is no wonder that HR would love to get every member of their workforce to embrace such a program.
Are There No Limits?
The benefit of enhanced employee healthiness and fitness may be obvious to companies and should be to the employees themselves. This, however, does not necessarily make it good policy to force employees to embrace change in their personal health habits. If a health directive from the company is considered too intrusive and heavy-handed by the staff, the buy-in may be grudging or simply non-existent and morale may be severely damaged. Of equal concern to HR directors is the PR hit the company might bear in the world of social media if word gets out of a perceived oppressive approach. The last thing you want your company's brand to be saddled with is a perception of being "body-Nazi's". As much as fitness is hailed as A Very Good Thing in our society, acceptance of a person's body-type is also a huge consideration in the new millennium world. Even heavier fashion models are becoming in vogue.
Where Should We Draw the Line?
For fitness initiatives offered by a company, HR personnel must be very careful to appear interested in their employee's health, not in reducing absenteeism. Fitness initiatives must be offered on a voluntary basis for it not to seen as something forced on employees from the top down. Using friendly competitions to increase employee buy-in, complete with some kind of prize or reward for achieving fitness milestones would most certainly be in order. Another alternative is to offer gym memberships to employees and promote it as a perk of the job. To prevent waste, perhaps only offering to pay for half may be in order instead, Employees are more likely to attend regularly if they have paid a portion of the membership.
Employees Are Not Vehicles
Some HR directors may feel that a wristband reporting the fitness information of their employees is really no different than the new vehicle monitors now in place in many company transportation assets. They monitor speed, braking and acceleration habits, location information and a number of other values that indicate proper use of the vehicles. But employees aren't vehicles. Monitoring employees is a whole new level of employee management and, as a new concept, is fraught with pitfalls if poorly implemented. Given the modern concerns of privacy and personal security, even saving those 4.8 days may be more expensive than taking a huge morale or public relations bath. A lot will depend on the corporate culture you have already established whether a remotely monitored employee fitness program will work for your business.