Today at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, we heard a panel discussion on employee wellness programs, presented by folks who have a vested interest therein: mostly directors of such projects.
It was interesting, particularly as an effort to persuade corporate leadership that employees’ health bears, in ways obvious and subtle, on the bottom line. And the discussion pushed one of my buttons.
Among the strategies the panel presented is a program in which workers are coaxed, by way of a $15/month bonus added to the paycheck, into submitting to tests to determine whether they’ve been smoking tobacco. There are similar thrusts in these programs having to do with diabetes prevention and control, obesity control, and the like. But this one exemplifies most perfectly, to my mind, what is wrong with such Big Mommy schemes. Videlicet:
What you choose to do about your health maintenance is none of your employer’s business.
Your health care is between you and your doctor, not between you and your doctor and your department manager and HR.
While I personally do not smoke, chew, or snort tobacco — and no offense, dear nicotine-loving friends, but I fear people who do are a little stupid — the stuff is a legal product available freely all over the country. There’s no law against smoking tobacco. And your employer has absolutely no business telling you that you can’t engage in a lawful activity on your own time, outside of the plant.
And your employer has even less business (we’re in the negative numbers now!) demanding that you submit to a test to confirm your word that you do not smoke. It’s an unwarranted and unacceptable intrusion into your private life.
Whence this anxiety to insert a whole new level of nosiness into our private lives?
The almighty dollar, that’s whence. The hype generated around the so-called “obesity epidemic,” which was recognized as hooey when it first arose and which some inquiring minds still question, represents a vast money-making opportunity. As in billions and trillions of dollars. The very folks who, over today’s lunch, regaled us with the glories of in-house “wellness” programs themselves stand to profit. Whether they work as wage slaves for companies that institute the programs or whether they own businesses contracting to companies to run such programs, they’ll profit.
If we’re all being bribed — or ordered — to take tobacco tests, what will be next?
Alcohol use is one hell of a lot more detrimental to productivity than puffing tobacco on your own time. It really would make more sense to test people, regularly, to determine how many cocktails or glasses of wine they had with dinner the night before.
Sugar: Exceptionally bad for you. Will we all be required to take blood glucose tests on Monday before we sit down to work?
Salt: Worse yet! You don’t even have to be fat for salt to drive up your blood pressure. How’s about we add a blood sodium level while we’re drawing blood for those glucose tests? No more hot dogs and potato chips at those Sunday afternoon football games for you, pal!
Folks. We have got to get a grip on this kind or exploitation. And somehow, someday Americans really need to come back to a basic fact of pre-Facebook, pre-Google, pre-Big Brother life: what’s your business is your business. And no one has any right to demand to poke their corporate nose into it.