My father discussed in a previous post the controversy over whether or not to institute mandatory health and fitness policies (gym requirements, special classes, etc.) for students. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “College Employees Lose Weight, and Privacy, in Campus Wellness Programs” looks at the way in which employees are affected by the country’s new health obsession:
Campuses, like most workplaces, used to be places where employees shared donuts around the coffee pot and talked about last weekend’s excesses. Some people still do. But with the advent of wellness programs, college employees are more likely to be sweating next to one another on a treadmill and swapping information on blood pressure and body fat…The change has helped lots of people get in shape. But it’s also had unintended side effects–opening up a part of people’s lives that used to be private and, in some cases, making it fair game for coworkers to examine one another’s bodies and habits.”
The article talks about the ways in which this cultural shift blends personal life and the workplace in new ways. Some colleges are publicizing staff members’ weight loss results on their websites, and Miami’s website even features a video of a former administrator who explains how she lost 100 pounds by using the StairMaster and a rowing machine. Some schools have instated biggest-loser type competitions, and weigh in every week.
These sorts of competitions can get nasty–at North Idaho, employees have ratted on people they think are breaking the rules. Human resource director Mr. Larson has received telephone calls from employees saying: “Do you know so-and-so is smoking in front of Albertson’s?” He then must give these smokers ultimatums: quit smoking and abide by the wellness program (which can earn you up to 2000 dollars a year in medical expenses), or continue smoking and be disqualified.