Fat businessman eating junk food while working

According to a recent article by Reuters, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control report that obesity costs U.S. employers more than $70 billion every year, due to absenteeism and healthcare expenses. This is money that could be better spent on higher salaries and more jobs that would result in better productivity. It should come as no surprise, then, that corporations are looking for strategies to help their workers slim down and get fit. We’ve already seen cases where corporations and insurance companies provide employees with fitness bands to try to reduce overall costs.

According to experts quoted in the Reuters article, however, these programs could produce results that are exactly opposite of what is intended. One expert pointed out that the digital communications mean that workers are connected to their job around the clock, every day. They rarely out of reach of email or text messages, and the expectation is that they will respond to communications promptly. The modern workplace is more stressful than ever for employees, and chronic stress is known to have a negative impact on health and even life expectancy.

Adding fitness monitoring to this mix can just add to the stress. If an employee’s physical activity is being closely monitored by an employer or insurance company, that individual may worry more about the possible financial rewards (or penalties) that might be assessed because of their performance. The trick for companies is to find a way to build a positive culture around fitness, and help workers be more relaxed and happy so that they can be more productive. As with so many complex problems, this is easier said than done.