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Wellness in the Workplace: Opportunity or Obligation?

Less than one semester stands between some students and their entry into the professional workforce. For many of these students, the job hunt has already begun. While most people are researching the usual aspects of a position such as the salary, benefits, and time off when considering different employers and offers, a company’s insurance enrollment requirements and wellness programs may also be worth asking about.

Wellness programs are theoretically a win-win situation- employees have the opportunity to access resources to improve their health and take more control in managing or improving chronic health conditions, and with healthier employees, employers are able to lower their costs for both insurance premiums and money lost due to sick days and other productivity losses due to health reasons.

The problem occurs when wellness programs and health screenings come with penalties for opting out, rather than incentives for participating. These compliance penalties are legal under the Affordable Care Act and have been upheld in court, however, they have not been met with unanimous support, especially considering the health information privacy issues and ethical implications of these coercive strategies for employee compliance.

Employee wellness programs are typically positive opportunities, however, it’s good for both employers and employees to be aware of the potential drawbacks and continue to work toward collaborative solutions to control healthcare costs and to create a positive culture of health in the workplace.

For a more in-depth discussion of the debate surrounding employee wellness programs, check out this week’s article in the New York Times.

  • ariagray

    I think that wellness definitely needs to be incorporated into the workplace, but individuals definitely don't need to be penalized for not wanting to participate in programs. The programs that I have seen in former workplaces were inconvenient for me and I already had an established routine. I think an important step before incorporating programs in the workplace is to make workplaces more wellness-friendly. This could include: making standing desks and walking desks an available option, allowing individuals to change their schedule from the traditional 9-5, and encouraging individuals to get up and away from their desks at lunchtime.