As I was visiting downtown Detroit recently, I was able to visit the Ren Cen and General Motors headquarters. It inspired me to write this post, on a topic I talk about regularly. I was fortunate enough to work for a Fortune 500 company that had a comprehensive corporate wellness program. In addition, I was also lucky in that the company had a long history of working with the University of Michigan’s Health Management Research Center and Dr. Dee Eddington.
Sometimes people have a hard time understanding what corporate wellness is. Corporate wellness is really just a matter of trying to manage health care costs, both in dollars and quality of life. Many companies, both small and large, offer their employees health insurance, which can be very expensive. In order to manage those expenses, corporate wellness initiatives aim to control, manage, or even reduce those expenses. The approach that is taken to deliver corporate wellness varies by company. Some workplaces offer sporadic educational workshops or fitness classes as ways to inspire employees to make healthy lifestyle choices.
While I applaud any effort a company is willing to make on behalf of their employees well-being, I also believe that true, comprehensive corporate wellness programs are much more than an occasional opportunity. Companies should be looking to create a culture and invest in the quality of life of the employee so that in return, they gain (through managing costs) on that investment. For example, when I was working in this setting, my employer not only owned and operated a fitness center for it’s employees, it went as far as having it’s own on-site medical staff. That included doctors, nurses, and physical therapists. They were able to save the company millions over time by offering injury prevention education. In the event that employees were injured, they were addressed and treated in-house. Health screenings were offered annually and cash incentives were offered to participate. Health education was available in every manufacturing plant and healthy food choices were everywhere. As you can see, it required a considerable investment of time and money by the company. But, it all had a positive impact on their bottom line.
In terms of job opportunity, the field is growing. Many people refer to this as if it is a new concept, which isn’t true. There are companies that have over 30 years of history of not only offering these types of initiatives but have also tracked and quantified the return on their investment. If this is an area you want to know more about, I would suggest you familiarize yourself with Dr. Dee Eddington’s work and the companies he was worked with. WELCOA is also an organization that companies who offer corporate wellness can join. These are great places to start to understand corporate wellness and what it entails. You can also look under my internships and jobs link, which has several resources that post corporate wellness opportunities. It also helps to begin to look at some of these job postings to see the types of skills, credentials, and certifications that employers are looking for. More and more corporations are looking beyond just a typical fitness certification, and more so towards wellness related certifications. Examples of these would be the ACE Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach or a Wellness Coaching certification. There are certainly others. The best way to find out what employers want is to start looking!