Why most workplace wellness programs fail

The wrong approach could lead to increased obesity

Why most workplace wellness programs fail

If weight management programs aren’t catching on in your workplace, then there’s a possibility that employees are feeling the stigma associated with weight loss and weight gain – and those who have less control over their weight end up feeling bad.

In some instances, this employee-focused approach has even led to increased obesity and decreased wellbeing among workers.

Wellness programs that push workers to take control of their weight may be leaving a negative impact on those dealing with obesity, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Workers who are made to feel “increasingly responsible” for their weight end up perceiving they have less control over it, while those who are unable to keep up with peers face increased stigma and discrimination.

“Who is responsible for obesity?” said Laetitia Mulder, professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and a co-author of the study.

“We are often told that it’s someone’s own responsibility, but people tend to forget that the institutions that shape our immediate environment strongly influence our behavior.”

Employers can take an active part by providing workers more affordable, healthier food options at the cafeteria, the study suggested.  

Posting messages such as, “Watch your weight and choose healthy options!” also places the responsibility on employees. Previous studies on employee-focused weight management programs, however, have been shown to have a negligible to modest impact on employee weight, the researchers noted.

“When developing a health program, organisations should not solely focus on employee responsibility, but should look at what the organisation can do to bring about healthy behaviour,” Mulder said.


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