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Open Enrollment

By Steve Jones,

My wife and I are in "open enrollment" for benefits where we have to choose our medical plan, our dental, vision, life insurance and more. It's an annual process that is thankfully simpler since I haven't had any benefits to compare against for a few years. That may change at some point, but I'm glad we don't have to go through two plans and compare them. It's enough of a chore to go through one.

We managed to fit in a lunch together, and listened to the call from her company's HR person. It was interesting to hear the presentation and how her company is pushing proactive health. They're using a carrot and stick approach with physicals and "health coaches" to try and help employees live healthier lives. The presenter mentioned that healthier employees do a better job and save the company (and themselves) money.

What was very interesting to me, and inspired me to write this, was a question at the end. This is a high-tech company that develops computer telephone systems and like many of the companies I've worked for, they are mostly composed of white-collar workers that put in lots of hours. One of them asked this question regarding the healthier lifestyle promotion: if the company wants employees to be healthier, than will it give them time to exercise?

The question was taken under advisement, supposedly to be presented to management. I haven't heard anything back on an answer, but it was definitely a question embraced by the employees, but one that made management nervous.

I thought it was a great question, but it's a hard benefit to apply equally. There are plenty of people who won't exercise or do anything to improve their health, there are some that take it to an extreme, there are some how eat well, some who don't, and some who are naturally very healthy because of genes. Note that you could fall into more than one of those categories. I know I do, with exercise to keep in shape, but not the best diet in the world.

As computer-based workers, we tend to be fairly sedentary and couple that with poor dietary habits overall, it's certainly a burden that employers have to bear when our health worsens. I tend to look at that as part of the cost of doing business. Just as you can't hire all superstar DBAs or developers, you won't hire all healthy people.

The corporate culture, however, can easily make things worse. No facilities on site (for larger companies), no healthy meals, a lack of subsidies for gym memberships are all neutral in my opinion. They are nice, they help, but a lack of them doesn't hurt. But time is important. Not allowing time for employees to work out, if they want to, with brutal work or travel schedules, is detrimental to an employee's and the overall corporate health.

Most of us can exercise, and many of us will if we have time. However it tends to rank below work and family time. By giving employees some time around work, making it a "benefit", you build a lot of goodwill and breed loyalty by showing you care about the employees.

It's the action, not the words, that matter the most.

Steve Jones


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Robin Stine

The podcast feeds are now available at sqlservercentral.podshow.com to get better bandwidth and maybe a little more exposure :). Comments are definitely appreciated and wanted. You can get feeds from there.

Today's podcast features music by the beautiful, jazzy, Robin Stine. Check her music out at www.robinstine.com.

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