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Battle of the Bulge: 3-Pronged Attack for Employee Weight Programs

Around 81 percent of employers offer a weight management program for their employees, but many see low engagement rates. These programs can be an important contributor in the efforts to get Americans to adopt healthier lifestyles and lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and a host of other chronic, weight-related diseases.  However, many companies see that their weight management programs fail to help their employees achieve their goals.

The reason may be that the traditional approach that most organizations follow simply doesn’t work. A report from NEBGH concludes that in order to make workplace sponsored weight control programs work, companies need to opt for more innovative, individualized, and multifaceted programs.

Many programs are designed to only address one form of physical wellness; a gym in the office or discounts to the local vitamin shop just aren’t enough to motivate employees. They need to be encouraged and rewarded on multiple fronts in order to ensure continued involvement.

Physical Activity

This one should be obvious, but can also be the most costly for any business. Physical activity burns calories, which leads to improved muscle tone, weight loss, and an overall healthier workforce. Encouraging your employees to be active in and out of the office is key.

  • Provide onsite fitness equipment or steep discounts to a nearby gym. Encourage your employees to use these facilities before or after work, or even during their lunch. Tip: Point out that staying or arriving early to work out will decrease the amount of traffic they will need to sit through.
  • Standing desks or conversions are a huge help in keeping your employees moving thorough the day. Standing can improve circulation, energy levels, and mood, thus making your employees more productive.
  • Create groups to play recreational sports and walk around the building on breaks. You could even put together teams to participate in local run/walk/bike events for charities.


Probably the hardest part of any employer sponsored weight management program is controlling what your employees put into their bodies.  It is important to realize overall caloric intake is not the only way of calculating a healthy diet, it is also important to control how you get those calories. Ways of providing healthier food options to your employees include:

  • Stock your vending machine with healthy options. Replace most of your soda options with fruit or vegetable juices and flavored (unsweetened) waters. Take out the candy bars and potato chips and put in healthy stacks like granola bars and dried fruit. Tip: Make the healthy options slightly cheaper than the sugary options to encourage consumption of healthier choices.
  • Make sure your company has the space and facilities to support those employees that want to bring healthy options to work. These can include a large refrigerator with markers nearby so they can label their lunch or even providing them with a good thermal lunchbox.
  • Regularly provide healthier options for free: fresh fruit basket and granola bars in the breakroom, yogurt in the refrigerator, and whole grain muffins for breakfast.

Support and Accountability

The most important part of any program is the support and accountability you provide to your employees. Unfortunately, this is where most companies fail due to a multitude of factors. There is a lack of management support, too few people in each department participate in the program, or the group momentum simply dies down.

  • Support groups that focus on individual goal types help like-minded people share their experiences, challenges and triumphs. People that want to gain weight should not be put in the same group with the ones that need to lose fat. They have differing goals and will have different experiences.
  • Reward employees for measurable results as well as active participation. Some companies offer bonuses for the person with the most changes. Other companies offer discounts on health insurance. The important part is that you encourage them along the way.
  • Offer more flexible work hours and breaks to accommodate for certain activities. Let the group that walks around the building have 20 minute breaks instead of 15. Let the people that are going to the gym early in the morning have a few extra minutes to shower and get to the office. They should feel they have the time to practice healthy habits.

If you feel that your company needs some help with helping your employees reach their fitness goals, then contact your insurance carrier or your third-party administrator to see how you can add more effective solutions to your benefits package.