Has Wellness Been Hijacked?
Wellness is a excellent concept. It brings happiness into health and encourages a in truth holistic approach to life. Wikipedia defines wellness as a healthy balance of the mind-body and spirit that causes an overall feeling of wellness.
It sounds like exactly what every one is looking for. But when you start to talk about corporate wellness, or corporate wellness, all life goes out of the concept. Total solutions, disease management and health testing do not inspire visions of enjoying life and living it to the full.
They start from the assumption that sickness is here to stay and needs to be discovered, managed and controlled but can never be healed.
The wellness industry is growing phenomenally fast. Wellness guru, Paul Zane Pilzer, has labeled it the next trillion dollar industry. But wellness has two different faces.
On the one hand there are the small companies – people working from home or in small centers selling all kinds of wellness products and services at a speed of growth that is escalating rapidly.
On the other hand corporate wellness is also exploding but in a very different direction.
The baby boomers who are driving the popular wellness revolution have been described as the first generation to refuse to accept the inevitability of death.
They are actively looking for ways to prevent aging, stay healthful into old age and enjoy themselves more than ever before after retirement. This is a radical departure from current notions of old age, which are often dominated by pictures of sickness, frailty and suffering.
The businesses have been largely forced to take on wellness. This is partly through legislative pressure, with many countries introducing laws to make businesses liable for stress-related sickness in their workers.
It’s also financially motivated, as research has repeatedly shown the gigantic costs of absenteeism (and increasingly of presenteeism as well).
Whereas the baby boomers are actively looking for new solutions and new lifestyles the corporations are struggling to organize largely traditional and mainstream health systems, such as physicians, nurses, insurance and screening systems.
The problem is that the traditional health system does not have solutions for the problems that people are handling.
Nobody ever went to see a physician to get happy, because a physician doesn’t have any clue how to make people happy. and many stress-related medical problems are described as chronic illnesss, which means that they last for a very long time – or maybe for the rest of your life – because there’s no medical cure.
Counseling is a common offering in corporations for emotional problems, but whilst it might provide a useful pressure valve it is not a powerful treatment for stress, unhappiness or depression.
Imagine walking into a business where the staff members are happy, healthful, full of inspiration, fit, love working, have meaningful family lives, active social lives, and enjoyable relationships at work and in their community.
That kind of corporation would be a pleasure to work in and bound to be successful because people would be working to their optimum capacity.
So can we develop a system of true wellness that’ll serve the development of the corporations and their staff members and will pay for itself because of the benefits that both sides will gain?
First of all we’ve to face the fact that we can’t place all the responsibility into the hands of the current health system. Absenteeism, stress, depression, the very roots of the wellness revolution, haven’t been solved by the current system.
When they’d been we wouldn’t have this revolution, we would all be much more well. So we need to look elsewhere for solutions.
We also cannot rely on makeshift feel-good wellness offerings, like the on-site massage team which visits the office once a month or the wellness day that raises awareness for a little while but leaves most people unaffected. They are easy to organize but have little or no real effect on staff member wellness.
Corporate needs are different than individual needs and many of the new small wellness companies that are springing up simply don’t have the capacity to serve the corporate market.
Notwithstanding it is in the best interest of both businesses and employees to find and develop systems of wellness that really work – that benefit people to be happy, handle stress, love working, and to have enough energy to go home at the end of the day and enjoy their family and social life.
So far the corporate world has hijacked the concept of wellness and turned it into a modern version of occupational health. It is time to increase the vision and find out how to make in fact healthy, happy workplaces where people thrive.
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