If your company is like many these days, it has an employee wellness program in place – or one is under consideration. In fact, according to a 2012 report by the Rand Corporation, 92 percent of US companies with more than 200 employees offered a wellness program. Wellness initiatives continue to grow in popularity, largely attributable to ever-rising healthcare costs.
Might we conclude, therefore, that a wellness program is a good idea? Well, yes – but beware of a few caveats. Implementing a wellness program and building a culture of health takes much effort and a long term investment in order to realize positive results. This incentivemag.com post by Leo Jakobson outlines some of the challenges involved and recommends best practices for developing and implementing health and wellness incentive programs.
Jakobson cites the Rand Corporation report and also points out that according to a 2011 Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) study – “Energizing Workplace Wellness Programs: The Role of Incentives and Recognition” – when these programs are successful the ROI can be impressive. The IRF study showed documented returns of 3 to 6 times investment among the programs analyzed.
Seems an easy choice, right? As it turns out, it’s like eating carrots.
Many of us were told from an early age to eat our carrots in order to have good eyesight. Our mothers told us that carrots could improve our vision, and it was widely believed that night vision would be particularly enhanced. Fundamentally, eating carrots is good for you and can contribute to good skin, a good immune system, and healthy eyes – but they cannot improve eyesight or produce super night vision.
This myth was started by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Battle of Britain. Karl S. Kruszelnicki discusses the myth in his article entitled Carrots & Night Vision, providing the background and story of a fighter pilot named John Cunningham.
“In the Battle of Britain, in 1940, the British fighter pilot, John Cunningham, was the RAF’s top-scoring night fighter pilot, with a total of 20 kills. Some pilots were better flying in daylight, while others, like Cunningham, were better at night. His nickname was “Cats’ Eyes”. The RAF put out the story in the British newspapers that he, and his fellow night pilots, owed their exceptional night vision to carrots. People believed this to the extent that they started growing and eating more carrots, so that they could better navigate at night during the blackouts that were compulsory during WW II.”
The real story wasn’t the carrots the pilots were reported to consume, but the use of radar – which was the reason they were able to locate Luftwaffe bombers at night. The RAF invented the myth as a cover story to hide their working radar systems. Carrot-enhanced super vision wasn’t the reason for their success.
While wellness programs are popular, Jakobson points out that according to RAND, the typical wellness program has less than 20 percent participation rate, which may indicate ineffective planning, poor execution, or unrealistic expectations for a quick return on investment.
When effective – given time to work – wellness programs can be very beneficial. Ignoring these best practices would be like Cat’s Eyes Cunningham eating his carrots and flying off into the night without the benefit of radar.
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