Three years ago I wrote a column poking fun at corporate wellness programs. I saw them as well-intentioned but poorly executed, with low participation rates and indifferent results. It didn’t seem to matter whether companies invested thousands in state-of-the-art gyms with gleaming equipment and enthusiastic on-site fitness trainers, or whether unused storerooms were equipped with a treadmill and an old set of weights — nobody was working off the pounds. Cafeterias that banned junk food and served nutritious food and healthy snacks stood empty while employees crowded the food court craving their Timbits and fast-food fare. The promise of increased productivity languished while waistlines expanded and stress levels continued to go up. HR managers scratched their heads in exasperation and employees continued to ignore the message of “work-life balance”.
Well, I am pleased to report that a lot has changed in three years, and all for the better. Wellness has made a comeback in the workplace, now driven by motivated and informed employees, whose expectations for psychologically healthier workplaces are the norm, not the exception. In the war to attract and retain talent, savvy employers are listening carefully, and responding with innovative programs.