What we have learned and where we are going next
Worksite wellness programs are not a new concept. After all, Hershey Foods built a rec center with a swimming pool for employees in the 1930s. But the goal of these programs and the coinciding way of measuring their value has changed over the years. With each generation of employees, employers have reassessed and refined their programs. Looking back on the evolution gives us a better idea of what works and what doesn’t and suggests best practices for moving into the future.
The Early 1900s – The Beginnings of the Wellness Industry
Before the information age, work was much more physical in nature. Stronger, more physically fit employees could work faster, more efficiently, and longer. Employers realized this and in the early 1900’s, the National Cash Register built an employee gym and instituted twice-daily exercise breaks. In 1911, they added a 325-acre recreation park for its workers. The goal was clear. Keep the employees physically strong to match the demands of often physical work.
1950 to 1990 – Focus on Overall Health & Safety
Employers in the 50s continued to recognize the value of physically fit employees. Progressive firms like Texas Instruments and Xerox instituted fitness programs. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) were also established during this time. First created to help employees with alcohol addiction, EAP grew to address other work-life issues. In 1970, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) was established with an emphasis on preventing accidents and illness. Both EAP and OSHA were aimed at improving productivity and reducing costs.