It’s the New Year! The time is upon us once again when we, along with many of our friends and colleagues, embrace the symbolic opportunity to begin anew, embrace forgotten goals, realign dreams and LOSE WEIGHT! I’m sure we have all experienced the wave of new diets, spike in gym memberships and the annual office weight loss competition. Even within the Helios organization a few of our Business Partners joined together in support of the quest to lose a few pounds. Fortunately, there is now supporting research that encourages work place weight loss competitions. According to one study, paying people to lose weight works, but encouraging competition or group effort may make it work more effectively.
Various studies have shown the office is a great environment for workers looking to shed extra pounds. A Tufts University study found that workers who completed a weight loss program and behavioral counseling program at their place of work lost an average of 18 pounds over a six-month period. “Offices are really wonderful settings for weight-loss groups,” said Sai Krupa Das, a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University. “Co-workers have established relationships, creating an automatic support system and level of comfort. There is also the benefit of not having to set aside as much additional time for weight management. It can be built right into the work day.”
Have you thought about implementing a weight loss program or competition in your organization? There are several reasons an employer should support health initiatives in the workplace. Following are only a few of the many benefits of having an employer supported weight loss program:
- Having healthier employees improves attendance as well as job performance.
- Encouraging employees to lose weight can strategically lower health insurance claims, which in turn helps reduce the potential for annual rate increases.
- Weight loss competitions promote employee interaction, build relationships and encourage team members and become more active participants in the work place.
- Employees that achieve a level of success in the weight loss competition, weather they win or lose, are proud of themselves as well as their teams. This pride creates self-esteem and willingness to participate in other team initiatives.
A US News and World Report article outlines the details of a workplace weight loss study conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren. In this study, there were 105 employees of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia participated. Their ages were between 18 and 70. The participants were considered obese and their weight loss goal was one pound a week. The members were divided as follows: (1) a group financial incentive, (2) an individual financial incentive and (3) control group with no financial incentive.
In the individual approach, employees were offered $100 for each month they met or exceeded weight-loss goals. For the other, groups of five employees were offered $500 a month to be divided equally among only the members who met their goals. Those who didn’t meet their goals received no money. And lastly, a control group was created to compare the two strategies to one in which people had no financial incentive. Those participants got a link to a national weight-control website, along with monthly weigh-ins supported by email or text reminders. The potential upfront cost to an employer was the same for either of the financial incentive strategies.
After 24 weeks, participants in the group-incentive plan lost about 7 pounds more on average than those who were in the individual plan, and an average of almost 10 pounds more than those in the control group. Twelve weeks after the program ended, those in the group incentive plan maintained more weight loss than those in the control group, but not more than those in the individual incentive plan.
An analysis of the study supports that “Some amount of money constantly at stake each month — a goal and a reward — does seem to be a mechanism to help people make slightly better decisions,” said Riis, a researcher in the study and an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. In general, people seek immediate gratification. This is reason enough that businesses should consider offering frequent cash incentives that incorporate at least a weekly progress report.
Implementing a weight loss program is a win-win incentive for both the employee as well as the employer. The opportunity to provide an engaging, fun and healthy purposed competition can be fulfilling and encouraging for the team. Following are links that may provide helpful resources for implementing or improving your organization’s weight loss program.