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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

A Transition To REAL Worksite Wellness Invites A New Breed Of Experts

Thursday June 4, 2009

"Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which the obvious is overlooked as a matter of principle. The obvious must be observed and re-observed and argued for. This is a thankless job. It carries with it an aura of petulance and insensitivity. It is, moreover, a job that the atheist does not want. It is worth noting that no one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist.
~Sam Harris, "An Atheist Manifesto," TruthDig, May 26, 2009.

"Aworksitewellnessism" is no more a philosophy than is atheism. Nor is it a view of the world. It is, however, a neologism that can be applied to one aspect of the wellness movement—worksite programming. In my opinion, a rather obvious reality about worksite wellness has been largely overlooked. I am not sure this is done as a matter of principle. The time has come, I believe, to observe, re-observe and urge the adoption of REAL worksite wellness, not the imposter, phantom imitation version that does not justify belief. Here is the bare, unfettered fact: Worksite wellness is NOT really worksite wellness. Stating the obvious might be a thankless job and carry with it an aura of petulance and insensitivity. It is not a job that I, an "aworksitewellnessist," want. But, though I have no need to identify myself as a non-astrologer or non-alchemist, I do feel it is my duty to come out as an "aworksitewellnessist."

My purpose in this essay is to explain why I do so and, far more important, to urge you to become an "aworksitewellnessist," too. Perhaps together and with many others we can, in time, persuade worksite wellness leaders to evolve these programs. Our goal might be to support the expansion of worksite wellness in order that no one else will ever have to become an "aworksitewellnessist."

As a non-believer in the existence of worksite wellness (i.e., an "aworksitewellnessist"), I have to explain my position to believers all the time. Advocates for existing worksite wellness programming have grown up as career professionals immersed in the dogmas, rituals and ceremonies of this cult. They believe deeply in sacred truths of worksite wellness. They have been acculturated to believe what their colleagues all believe—that worksite wellness mythologies are true. When they encounter folks who do not believe, who claim that reason, free inquiry, common sense, science and rational thinking all cast doubt on their worksite wellness claims, heresy is suspected. If such apostasy comes from those who themselves promote supportive environments for quality of life at the worksite, well, that's bewildering, at best, but more likely blasphemy. It's enough to flummox an ox.

So, without further ado, here is the basis for my "aworksitewellnessism." Worksite wellness in the U.S. is, in my opinion:

I recommend unnatural (human guided) evolution of worksite wellness programming. What is being offered today should be called something else—"health promotion at the workplace," maybe, but the terms used matter less than expanding the content and purposes of the programs.

No surprise—I'd like to see REAL wellness skill areas incorporated into the mix. Keep the existing programs and the current staffs—highly motivated, skilled and capable of managing prevention and related activities. Bring in guest lecturers, mostly from local resource centers such as universities, to guide employees in explorations of new, REAL wellness skills. This means channeling worksite wellness toward reason, exuberance and liberty—a REAL quality of life orientation. Worksite wellness participants are likely to welcome skill building in such dimensions as happiness, meaning, ethics, effective decision-making and environmental awareness.

Richard Dawkins wrote that a reasonably educated person today "... could give Aristotle a tutorial ... and could thrill him to the core of his being ... such is the privilege of living after Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Planck, Watson, Crick and their colleagues." The goal of REAL worksite wellness might be nothing shy of learning adventures that thrill employees to the core of their being. This will never occur from completing a health risk appraisal or a weight loss class.

If REAL wellness is added to the menu of worksite wellness, many employees will be liberated from modest expectations (for example, hopes that things don't get worse), inhibitions, prejudices and insular ways of thinking.

Most employees are likely to welcome refresher updates on such ideas and ideals, on new and challenging topics beyond medicine and health. There can and should be more to worksite wellness in the years ahead than what has been offered in the years to date.

Like anything worthwhile, it won't be easy, but now is a much better time to start than later.

In time, there will be no "aworksitewellnessists" if this transition or evolution in worksite wellness takes place. I'll be among the first to profess my belief in the higher power of REAL worksite wellness.

Be well. Look on the bright side of life.

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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