American workers overestimate their health status, according to the poll. The dark bars above are the total number of respondents; the red bars are those who feel encouraged by senior management….who eat healthier, have more energy, less stress, lower blood pressure and lower cholestereol.
Employers can help by leading by example when their CEOs lead and create a culture of health: an important Nielsen assessment in partnership with the American Heart Association shows the power of the workplace in restoring health.
That’s certainly true in my practice: including my patients who are CEOs. 74 percent of employees reported being in very good or good health. But actually 42 percent of those employees had been diagnosed with a chronic condition, including high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
CEO participation in workplace health programs matters. When I was trying to get Chef Clinic accepted as a disease management program, the fastest route was to start at the top…or with the CEO’s partner or spouse. When the leader of an organization starts to get in shape, it can’t help but rub off and set a model for colleagues and employees. That’s true for every organization I’ve encountered.
This study showed that employees who feel encouraged by senior management to participate in workplace health programs are nearly twice as likely to report improved health (61 percent vs. 34 percent) and significantly more likely to report healthy eating (60 percent vs. 33 percent), weight loss (41 percent vs. 27 percent), and reduced blood pressure (28 percent vs. 15 percent) and cholesterol (23 percent vs. 14 percent) as a result of program participation.
Nearly half of employees (49 percent) say that a company that offers wellness programs is extremely or very attractive.
And the ROI of wellness programs is remarkable. There are great programs available with significant track records—not just with weight loss and cholesterol control and step counts, but with dollars and cents. There are organizations of Chief Experience Officers struggling to figure out how to improve work environments so they are less arduous and more embracing. There is conference food that improves performance at meetings. But wellness programs that create actual change are not widely adopted.
The missing ingredient: leadership, from the top. My feeling: hands on business-like skills with knives and fire would help.
I’ll also have the privilege of speaking in Cambridge at Harvard on 9.11.14 on culinary medicine and though there won’t be time or space for knives and fire, it is scheduled to be at lunch time, so who knows? Maybe there will be a chance to lead by example and point out a CEO who has done the heavy lifting, for himself or herself, and the company they lead. I can’t wait!