Recent financial reports from Weight Watchers are showing a drop in revenue and a resulting drop in share price, but in the midst of the gloom is a very unusual, and telling, bright spot. One area of the company that is growing is their workforce division (a 30% jump in the last quarter). This group works with other companies to help implement wellness and weight loss programs and interest from the business community is growing steadily.
With health care costs and obesity rates rising, keeping a lean workforce makes sense for most businesses on several fronts. Next year, provisions of the Affordable Care Act that encourage obesity prevention kick in and that is certainly an incentive. But when you step back and look at real world issues, the reasoning is even more compelling. Healthier, slimmer workers get sick less often, use their healthcare benefits less often, and are more productive, and thus, cost less to keep on staff. That’s just common sense.
So Weight Watchers, despite being pummeled in the mobile space by free apps and online by free sites (theirs costs a user $18.95 per month) is finding that their business partnerships are a steady source of income and employers like the results. The programs take a variety of forms that range from meetings on company property during work hours, reduced online fees, reduced healthcare costs for workers who attend a certain number of meetings and so on.
The bottom line is that American workers need to slim down and companies see that as clearly as our doctors do. It’s in everyone’s interests for these programs to succeed and for Weight Watchers, it could mean a healthier stock price too.
My only worry is that we already know that there is weight discrimination in the workplace and in hiring. Can programs like this end up making things worse and putting undue pressure on less healthy employees? Could it be used by unscrupulous businesses to get rid of heavier employees if they choose not to participate? Any good intentioned program always has a darker side and this kind of thing will need to be watched closely.
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