Wellness Program Seems More Like Harassment

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a “wellness” program:

Our company has set up a “wellness” program. If you have a chronic condition, you are automatically enrolled. Once you are enrolled, you are harassed everyday with phone calls that amount to “nag” sessions. The information they give you is pithy — You can get better information about treatment or disease management from WebMD. Many people who are having problems are having them because of our bad management (last company survey said that only 29% of the employees trust them) and the fact that we are looking at a 60% reduction in force in October. How can we legally tell them to quit calling us?

Signed, Tired of Being Nagged

Dear Tired of Being Nagged:

I can imagine it would be frustrating to get a phone call or email every day, with medical advice you consider to be so basic as to be unhelpful. And yet, the concept behind it is laudable and logical. It would be rather difficult to say that a company is wrong to provide medical advice to people who have diabetes, lung problems, heart problems, and other chronic and long-term diseases and illnesses. Many employees would think it was wonderful to work for a company who did such things. On the other hand, unhelpful advice that interrupts the workday creates bad feelings that work against the good motives.It sounds as though the organization might have a hard time making employees feel good about any decision at this point, so that is likely a big issue as well.Perhaps you and others could write to the health care resource and ask that medical advice be limited to once a week. At the same time you could mention your complaint about the quality of the advice and provide some resources for them. Do some research and find a company who does something similar and see how their program is received. Maybe there is a better way that you could suggest.

Keep in mind as well, that often people with chronic conditions tend to feel rather defensive about them, as though others are accusing them of causing it. Some chronic conditions clearly are made worse by individual actions, so, it’s not easy to find a way to teach about it without sounding naggy. But many are genetic or the result of accidents or injuries. Often in those cases people are more willing to listen to any and all advice, because they do not feel they are being condemned or criticized.

If you have a chronic condition, maybe you can ask your doctor to recommend resources and information. Perhaps you can get a letter saying that the advice you are being given is not applicable in your situation and that advising should be left to him or her. As a last thought, if you approach this in a civil way, saying you appreciate the concept, but the delivery is irritating and negative feeling, you might be able to bring about a change. If your company has hired a contractor to provide medical tips (a common practice) maybe your company could even reduce costs by not having such frequent communications.Best wishes as you deal with this. Perhaps making this one situation more acceptable to everyone will help in other ways as well.

Tina Lewis Rowe