Healthy Profits or Healthy Lives

Companies everywhere have started a new strategy to go after workers and make more money – Wellness Programs. Under these programs, companies punish workers if we don’t meet certain health requirements that the companies choose. Companies are setting limits on body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cigarette smoking, minimum exercise requirements and more. And if workers don’t meet the guidelines that the bosses pick, our health care costs can go up, we can be suspended, miss out on bonuses, or even be fired.

The bosses try to pretend that these programs are for our own good. But this is nothing but a sick strategy to force us to work in stressful environments that make us sick and now punish us for being sick. According to a recent survey, 94 percent of workplaces with over 200 workers are now using these programs and more companies are signing up daily. We’re supposed to believe that bosses have all of a sudden begun to care about our health? Yeah right! Wellness programs are just another way to increase the pressure on us at work and get more from us at the same time.

At many workplaces they have tried to pit workers against each other, punishing whole departments if one person doesn’t meet the new health requirements. The bosses want us to act like management and blame each other if our health is not up to par. This way management wins double – they get us to buy into their stupid program and divide us even further in the process.

How are we supposed to improve our health when we don’t have the time to do it? At work our breaks are rushed or just skipped altogether and we have to eat whatever is the quickest and cheapest. Most workers don’t have the luxury of eating regularly scheduled meals. We’re usually so rushed throughout the day that we reach for whatever might hold us over, whether it’s the vending machine or the drive-thru on the way home.

If companies cared about high-blood pressure then we wouldn’t be so underpaid and overworked. We’re forced to pick-up even more hours whenever we can squeeze them in – not to get ahead but just to keep from falling further behind. We are more dependent on coffee and energy drinks just to keep up with the pace of work.

Wellness programs are no different from companies blaming injured workers for injuries. They speed-up the pace of work, cut the staffing, have us do even more, and when we get hurt, they say it’s all our own fault for not working safe enough. It’s so bad that each year more workers die because of injuries or diseases from work than all deaths from car accidents, breast cancer, or war. At this rate the companies might as well show up to the funeral with a fine for missing work.

Of course we want to live healthy lives, have more time for exercise and take better care of ourselves. And many of us would love to kick our addictions to caffeine, cigarettes, pain meds and so on. Of course we want normal blood pressure rates and healthy cholesterol levels.

And it wouldn’t be hard for us to actually achieve this. It would mean more time off so we can relieve stress and have some time and energy left for exercise. It would mean better wages and more time so we can afford to eat real food. It would mean hiring more workers so the workload on each of us is less and we weren’t so stressed out at work.

But since when do bosses want us to have more money, less work and more time to actually improve our lives? We spend most of our waking hours at work, not to mention getting ready for, going to, and recovering from it. Our health problems come from dealing with unhealthy working conditions. And now the bosses have figured out another way to punish us for surviving.

Wellness programs are part of the same attacks we see everywhere. But they come with a bonus. The worse they make our conditions at work, the unhealthier they can keep us, and the more they can make off of us. The only thing getting healthier from all of this is their profits.