Hop On The Scale: Companies Are Offering Customized Wellness Programs To Get Workers To Lose Weight

December 17, 2014  |  

If your boss suggested that you lose a few pounds, would you think she had stepped over the line? Well, don’t be surprised if your boss soon asks you to shed some weight.

“Seeking to make a dent in the intractable problem of obesity — a condition affecting roughly one-third of U.S. adults and costing companies more than $73 billion a year, according to researchers from Duke University—businesses are experimenting with new measures to encourage workers to slim down,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Some firms are offering workers wearable fitness trackers and competitions on social apps, paying for weight-loss surgeries and drugs, as well as providing mental health counseling to address eating issues.

Over at L.L. Bean Inc.’s Bangor, Me. call center, they gave employees biometric screenings that found that nearly 85 percent of employees were overweight or obese. So the retailer enrolled 24 employees in a yearlong pilot program of exercise classes, nutrition coaching, and emotional counseling, all during paid work hours.

Workers who participated lost 15 pounds on average by the end of the year. The company is now doing a 16-week version of the program in other locations, with similar results.

Such fitness programs actual benefit the companies financially. Getting obese employees to normal weight, or even overweight, can save employers an average of nine percent of the money normally spent on health care or lose in productivity due to employee sick time, according economist Tatiana Andreyeva at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

Already about a third of companies offer weight loss programs, and another seven percent are planning to offer one in the next 12 months. Also nine percent of firms offer insurance-premium discounts for participating in a weight-loss program, found a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Surprisingly, 38 percent of employers cover weight-loss bariatric surgery for workers.

“A small number of companies are warming to newly approved weight-loss drugs, including Belviq, Qsymia and Contrave, which can cost anywhere from around $50 a month to more than $200,” reports WSJ.

Some companies offer cash incentives to employees to lose weight, which experts say is not a good idea as workers may crash diet before weigh-ins and regain pounds back soon.

Is this all too intrusive?

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