Why pay employees to exercise when you can threaten them? That is the somewhat menacingconclusion some people have drawn from a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicinelast week.
既然可以威胁员工锻炼，为何还要花钱让他们锻炼呢?这是一些人从《内科医学年鉴》(Annals of InternalMedicine)近日发表的一项研究成果中得出的有点危险的结论。
The researchers challenged a few hundred people to take 7,000 steps a day and offereddifferent incentives to different groups. They discovered that people were much moremotivated by the fear of losing money than the hope of earning some.
For the $6bn corporate “wellness” industry — which aims to cajole employees into beinghealthier — the implication seems to be clear. Employers should put down carrots and startbrandishing sticks.
The study hit a nerve with me because last year I strapped on an array of gadgets to allowmy bosses to track my exercise, heart rate and sleep patterns for a week. Companies weregiving these devices to employees as part of their wellness initiatives and I wanted to try one.
In the course of that week, I think I figured out the answer to the question of how best toincentivise employees to exercise more. It is not to bother at all.
Admittedly, it is hard to argue with the wellness industry’s sales pitch that a healthierworkforce is more productive and cheaper (if you are on the hook for employee healthcarecosts, that is). The question is how you go about it.
Wellness programmes that encourage employees to exercise more, eat better food and giveup smoking are popular but the hard research, such as it is, suggests that these “lifestyleinterventions” are the least effective part of any strategy. A seven-year study of PepsiCo’sprogramme concluded that the company did reap lower healthcare costs but all the savingscame from the “disease management” part of the programme: the bit that helped people withexisting problems such as diabetes.
There is also the risk of unintended consequences. When I was wearing my gadgets I felt Iwould be judged not just on what I did at work, but on what I did in my free time too. Onenight I walked around the block at 11pm because I was worried my “step count” was too low.My flatmate thought I was slightly unhinged.
I wasn’t the only one, it turns out. When researchers André Spicer and Carl Cederströminvestigated the effects of corporate wellness programmes, they found they often ate intoemployees’ free time and made them anxious.
事实证明，我不是唯一出现这种情况的人。当研究人员安德烈•斯派塞(André Spicer)和卡尔•塞德斯特伦(Carl Cederström)调查企业健康项目的效果时，他们发现这些项目往往挤占了雇员的空闲时间，让他们感到焦虑。
Stress and anxiety are the health risks you can miss if you are too focused on issues likefitness. A friend of mine used to work at a big management consultancy where he did longhours under a lot of pressure.
As a coping strategy, he started going to the gym late at night. He said it was the only time hefelt he had any control over his life. He was doing so much exercise he would have won a goldstar in most wellness programmes but in fact he was burning out.
This is what irks me about initiatives that simply urge employees to run more and eat better.Such wellness programmes are based on the idea that your health affects your work but ignorethe fact the reverse can also be true.
The evidence that work can be bad for your health is abundant. Studies show links betweenshift work and heart attacks, between poorly designed chairs and back pain and betweenworkplace bullying and anxiety.
Surely this should be a rich seam for the wellness industry. Tools that help you figure outwhen you the employer are the problem would be much more useful, since fixing these mattersis directly within your power.
I met a start-up recently called Soma Analytics that aims to provide employers with adiagnostic tool just like this. Its product is an app for employees’ smartphones which, it isclaimed, picks up on subtle shifts in their stress levels — changes in tone of voice, forexample, or quality of sleep. The employer does not receive individualised data but it can seewhen a whole team, division or demographic appears to be stressed out.
Johann Huber, one of Soma’s founders, hopes this will prompt companies to figure out whenthey are working particular teams too hard, so they can address the problem before peoplestart going off sick or quitting.
Soma Analytics创始人之一约翰•胡贝尔(Johann Huber)希望，这能够促使企业发现它们什么时候让某些团队工作过量了，从而在员工生病或者辞职之前解决这个问题。
Technology like this will have its critics but at least it is aimed in the right direction. Companiesshould stop urging employees to be “well” and focus on not making them sick.