Workplace Fitness Could Become Compulsory

There is a move in the USA to make staying fit and healthy a requirement in the workplace. Employers are realising that an unhealthy workforce is a lazy workforce, and that many hours are lost each year to lethargy and sick leave caused by an overweight and obese workforce. Part of the problem is that a diet high in junk food cause blood sugar crashes, which drastically reduces performance in an individual.

Some US companies have come up with a simple solution. For example, at Lincolnshire Industries, a New England metal company, the CEO Marc LeBaron now demands that his workforce stays fit. The first rule is simple – he has banned smoking. In addition to the smoking ban, employees have to have quarterly check ups to monitor body fat levels. The company runs health and fitness awareness seminars throughout the year, in which 100% participation has been achieved. Employees receive incentives for going to the gym, such as discounted health insurance, and cash awards of USD250 per year.

This method of getting workers interested in exercise again is becoming more popular in the USA. It is thought that 46% of employers are now offering a similar benefits package to Lincolnshire Industries to ensure that their workforce stays in shape. In 2006 only 30% of companies provided any incentive for the employees to get fit (source: National Business Group on Health).

Research by the Cincinnati University has shown that workplace wellness schemes do help employees live healthier lives, and this in return can boost efficiency and reduce costs of errors. Results published in the Journal of Health Promotion states that “education and counselling” are important in reducing a workers weight.

In the UK some health insurance companies are providing cheaper health insurance, or cheaper gym membership, for customers who keep fit and healthy by working out on a regular basis. In 2007 PruHealth starting running a “Why Pay For The Gym?” campaign, which offered free gym membership to those that frequented one of the participating gyms.

However, this trend may not continue, as a result of a recent legal case in Massachusetts. An employee working for Scotts Miracle-Gro was fired for smoking. If he wins his case for unfair dismissal, then this trend towards compulsory fitness at work could quickly come to an end.

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