The average working professional spends forty plus hours at work each week. And those hours are important, dictating many aspects of a person's life outside of the money they make and the career they pursue. Those hours may dictate how often a gainfully employed person can exercise, what kind of food they eat, and how well they sleep.
The damaging health effects of working in an office have been well-documented in numerous studies and listicles online. But the response from the health and wellness industry has been weak at best. Cheezy mobile apps, throwaway achievement prizes, and nauseating inspirational videos have been touted as keys to inspiring healthier living in the office.
Furthermore, until recently, no health and wellness company has had its methods tested and verified by independent scientific review. Provata Health, a workplace wellness company based in Portland, Oregon, finally broke through that barrier.
"We took the time to study years, decades, of clinical trials when we sat down to create our program," says Alex Goldberg, CEO. "Then we went the extra mile to have our program tested by a third party."
A third party review of the method may seem like standard practice, but according to Goldberg, Provata is the first. Oregon Health & Science Univeristy released their findings in a study called Healthy Team Healthy U: a prospective validation of an evidence-based worksite health promotion and wellness platform.
The conclusion of that study reads in part, "A research tested, comprehensive team-based health promotion and wellness program, combined with digital technologies, improved employee health behaviors, mood, sleep, elements of co-worker cohesion, and biometrics among a diverse multi-site workforce."
These findings come at an important time. Medical premiums have skyrocketed in the last ten years, and not because medicine has gotten that much better. Instead the system is being flooded with patients who are experiencing medical difficulties resulting from unhealthy behaviors. According to the CDC, one third of adults, or about 80 million people, are obese. One in four adults has two or more chronic diseases. Problems like arthritis and diabetes are rising in adult, working-age populations.
These issues are most concerning to the individuals who are limited by their conditions and who need support in regaining their health, but there are other consequences as well, namely the overloaded healthcare system and America's suffering workforce productivity. The number of Americans on disability has skyrocketed in recent years, in part due to issues that a workplace wellness program should be able to prevent.
Employers know that motivation is a key element of productivity. But how do you motivate your team when many of them struggle to get a full night's sleep, suffer from mild to severe depression, or lack energy due to other avoidable health issues?
"Our program is designed to do more than help people lose weight. We have created a comprehensive way of encouraging healthier living that improves both physical and mental health," says Goldberg. "The study by Oregon Health & Science University notes that employees who indicated depression and stress prior to participating in our program reported higher levels of happiness and lower stress levels after participating."
Those gains are not marginal either, with many employees reporting significant increases in mood.
What Provata Health has accomplished could be a profound first step for corporate wellness. Demonstrable results, which have been lacking in the industry, are important for winning the support of employers. It is possible that in the near future it will be commonplace for companies to invest in their employees' health, and that is good for all of us.