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Where did we come from(corporate wellness)?
By: Michael Winter

Wellness for workplaces has been around for quite some time now. But did you know that its history stretches back more than a century?

These early initiatives (think executive stretching and employee housing) aren’t necessarily what we think of when we think of wellness.

Corporate wellness began with an occupational health-focused program for executives — which paved the way for the programs we see today.

THE EARLY DAYS
The roots of corporate wellness predate the first World War.Ford and other manufacturers invested in these early programs because they thought they’d see increased production out of healthier employees. These initiatives were the exception, not the rule — and they were crude by today’s standards. But they started a revolution. Companies saw the benefits of a vital workforce, and they began tapping into the programs long before the establishment of health insurance.

By World War II, major companies had introduced corporate health and
wellness benefits.
1879 Pullman Company establishes an athletic association in its employee-only housing
1880-1900 National Cash Register institutes twice-daily exercise breaks and builds an
employee gym
1926 Ford introduces the 40-hour work week
1930s Hershey Foods builds a recreation complex for its employees
1950s — 1970s

Post-World War II, companies started paying for employee healthcare coverage and offering employee assistance programs and other benefits.

In conjunction with the Surgeon General’s report of the dangers of cigarette smoking,
leaders began to understand that their employees’ behavioural decisions affected the
state of their health.

Even so, leaders were mostly concerned with illness prevention — only one small aspect of a person’s well-being. Their primary concern was to prevent absences and injuries in the workplace, rather than promoting healthy behaviours in their employees.

1950s-1960s Companies like Texas Instruments,Rockwell and Xerox all launch employee
fitness centres
1965 The U.S. Congress passes the Cigarette Labelling and Advertising Act
1970 The U.S. Dept. of Labor establishes Occupational Health and Safety Administration to prevent workplace accidents and injuries

LATE 1970s
The first smoking cessation programs launch

1980s — EARLY 2000s
In the late 20th century, programs like smoking cessation, stress management and
nutrition became commonplace. Focused on treating high-cost employees, companies created employee wellness programs that only targeted those with the highest risk for health issues. Leaders (especially in the ’90s) felt this was the most efficient use of their resources since these employees cost more to insure. But low participation rates and high failure rates made these programs unsuccessful.
By the early 2000s, research from Dee Edington overhauled this high-risk-only approach. Edington found that people naturally flow from high-risk to medium and to low-risk, and from low-risk to medium to high risk. So the best programs encourage healthy behaviours from everyone, in addition to helping the high-risk population reduce risks. This realisation shed light on a key component of wellness: the importance of the well-being of all employees.

EARLY 1980s Johnson & Johnson is the first company to release reports that tie the effectiveness of wellness programs to the productivity and profitability of the company
1982 The world’s first wireless wearable heart rate monitor becomes commercially available
1984 Boeing is one of the first large companies to ban smoking in the workplace
1992 USDA publishes the Food Guide Pyramid
2001 Dee Edington introduces “Changing the Natural Flow” concept, revolutionising the wellness industry

MID-2000s TO PRESENT
Some companies never got out of the healthcare-costs-only trap of wellness. As healthcare expenses continued to spiral upward, they depended on wellness providers to help them keep these costs in check. But punitive measures against unhealthy employees — such as increasing premium costs — became less and less effective as diminishing returns on these programs set in. This model drove employees away from the program, which ultimately led to its failure.

Companies that spent so much time on the employees who were most expensive to insure missed the point. They ignored all the other employees who needed encouragement and a number of other factors that play a role in the well-being of their people — including stress level, job satisfaction, fitness, nutrition and sleep.

2002 WebMD Health Services forms
2003 Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are established
2005-2007 Insurers add wellness components that primarily focus on disease management
2010 The Affordable Care Act passes
2011 NIOSH launches the Total Worker Health (TWH) Program
2012 A record number of employers controversially ban tobacco use, even at home, while obesity rates (and the costs associated with it) continue to rise
2013 Launch of healthcare exchanges

The Internet, along with social media sites,such as Facebook and Twitter, brought forth
and shared new ways of thinking and new fields of research. Around the same time, Daniel Pink wrote on motivation, BJ Fogg spoke on Tiny Habits, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman researched positive psychology and Dr. Laura Hamill applied behavioural science to the workplace.
These thought leaders blazed the trail for the masses to adopt these philosophies and
behaviours for a more holistic, mindful lifestyle.

2009-2011
Fitness trackers from Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike bring everyday exercise monitoring mainstream
2011-PRESENT Studies show that the risk factors of sleep, stress and depression can be as high as traditional health-only markers (like high BMI and metabolic syndrome)
2014 Corporate wellness industry is worth more than $40 billion. 79% of U.S. companies offer a wellness program

Corporate wellness is about your people. Within the last decade, employers have started taking a holistic approach that embraces the whole employee — not just their health risks. And there’s a lot of evidence that shows the value of creating an authentic program that focuses on, engages and challenges the whole employee.

More important, leaders now know they can’t tackle one area of health and well-being and hope for success in all areas. They have to take a whole employee approach that respects an individual’s physical, mental, social and even financial health.

Resources:
1. Khoury, A. (2014, January 29). The Evolution of Worksite Health. Corporate Wellness Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/worksite wellness/the-evolution-of
2. Vesely, R. (2012, July 18). Shaping Up: Workplace Wellness in the ‘80s and Today. Workforce. Retrieved from http://www.workforce.com/articles/shaping-up-workplace-wellness-in-the-80s-and-today
3. National Cancer Institute. (1991). Evolution of Smoking Control Strategies. Monograph 1: Strategies to Control Tobacco Use in the United States (pp. 35-61). Retrieved from http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/tcrb/monographs/1/m1_2.pdf
4. McLellan, C. (2014, June 2). The History of Wearable Technology: A timeline. ZDNet. Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/article/the-history-ofwearable-technology-a-timeline
5. Global Wellness Institute, Global Spa & Wellness Economy Monitor, September 2014. Retrieved from http://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/
images/stories/gsws2014/pdf/GWI_Global_Spa_and_Wellness_Economy_Monitor_Full_Report_Final.pdf
6. O’Donnell, M. P. (2001). Health promotion in the workplace.
7. National Business Group on Health,. (2015). Companies are Spending More on Corporate Wellness Programs but Employees are Leaving Millions on the Table. Retrieved from https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/pressroom/pressRelease.cfm?ID=252
8. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2015). Total worker health. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/twh/totalhealth.html
9. National Conference of State Legislatures. State actions on health savings accounts (HSAs) and consumer-directed health plans, 2004-2015. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/hsas-health-savings-accounts.aspx

Added: 11-05-2018