Hide the Doritos! Here Comes HR!

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Has anyone seen this article in Business Week?

  • HR types swarmed the New York Marriott Marquis hotel in February to learn how to implement lean-worker campaigns, biggest-loser contests, and strategic-eating seminars. During breaks over yogurt and fruit, the attendees swapped war stories about how overweight workers eat up health-care dollars. As one executive from a major software company quipped: “We’re waging a war on fat people.” Junk food lovers, beware. These people are serious.

First of all, I’ve been to the Marriott Marquis. It’s a nice hotel, although it’s not as nice as The Alex, but the HR people are ‘swarming’ there because it’s in the heart of Times Square — and most HR people don’t have a good excuse to travel anywhere fun. You want me to attend a wellness seminar in NYC? Hell yeah, I’m there — and forget wellness, I’ll be at the Elizabeth Arden Salon & Day Spa on 5th Avenue. I’ll be working on the wellness of my toes. My dogs are barking and I need a sea salt pedicure.

But let’s get back to the article. I don’t know about you, but I personally started working in Human Resources because I’m interested in waging a war on fat people and implementing strategic eating seminars. Hey, I’m a talented HR professional and I’m interested in pilates, low-fat yogurt, and traveling back to 1962 so I can implement a program of Soviet-style calisthenics for the workers at the munitions plant.

I’m a dreamer, and I’ll finally achieve my goals in HR when employees have a chance to do knee-bends and listen to Marxist propaganda on the PA system while assembling bombs at a military-run factory located on the outskirts of Moscow.

::sigh::

I hate to break it to my Kashi-and-high-fiber-loving colleagues in HR, but isn’t a conclusive link between employee wellness programs & productivity. Employee wellness programs (which sound great but can be used as a tool to illegally collect employee data and discriminate against sick & overweight people) are a fad that some Human Resources professionals will ride because they’re not asked to participate in things that really matter.

So what really matters? We’ve covered this before, guys. What doesn’t matter is counting the calories of your workforce. If an executive tells you to implement a program to slim down your workforce, quit your job. If you can’t quit your job,

  1. Ask your management team to implement a program to achieve work-life balance so employees can sleep more often.
  2. Request more vacation time for your workforce.
  3. Ask your executives to improve healthcare coverage to include comprehensive annual physicals, more frequent screening for common diseases, and 100% coverage on all catastrophic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
  4. Demand full coverage for your employees who want to change their lifestyles and visit dietitians, personal coaches, and alternative healthcare practitioners such as acupuncturists and reiki massage therapists.

I’m not as articulate on the subject of obesity as the bloggers at Shapely Prose, but I feel strongly that waging a war on fat people will not help the bottom line. If we’ve learned anything from American history, waging wars — on fat people, drugs, terrorism, illegal immigration — is a recipe for disaster.

There’s a moral component to this discussion, as well. Waging a war on a specific segment of your workforce is an abhorrent way to run a company; furthermore, focusing on weight under the guise of a ‘wellness program’ (as if weight = healthy) is a short-term act of desperation by your company’s management team to reduce benefit costs instead of addressing some of the real issues in our culture that contribute to unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Want to wage a war on something or someone? Feel free to go thermonuclear-ape-shit on any executive who walks into your office and tells you that it’s your job to improve the food choices in the vending machines.

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