The math is clear. Healthy employees cost less. Employers have a strong economic incentive to lower their healthcare costs by motivating their employees to improve their health and develop healthy habits. Unhealthy workers cost employers an average of $11,176 per active employee per year. A survey done by Aon Hewitt with 800 large and midsize employers in the U.S. found that 83% use some kind of carrot or stick to try to nudge employees to improve their health. Of those, 79% offer rewards, 5% imposed penalties, and 16% used a mix of both.

This is a very functional way of looking at employee wellness. It’s important but not adequate. Wellness programs have the potential to improve employee engagement and foster a supportive, enjoyable work environment. In order to achieve these goals they need to be designed with a laser focus on employees and the jobs they are looking to get done in their lives.

A job to be done is a problem a person is trying to solve. Customers don’t really buy products; they “hire” them to do a job. Companies need to start by looking at wellness from their customer’s perspective, in this case the employee, and observing what jobs they have and how they are solving them today. At my company we don’t sit around at lunch talking about how to save our company money on health benefits. We talk about our Fitbit devices that make it easy for us to track our activity level and see how we stack up against each other (and maybe taunt or cheer each other on) and how we use apps for our smart phones, like MyFitnessPal, to stick to eating healthy. We organize mid-day walks to keep our energy high and get to know each other better and share what we’re working on.

I’m excited to use Jobs to be done at TEDMED to develop innovative solutions to employee wellness that address not only functional jobs for the employer but also emotional and social jobs for employees and their families.

Learn more about the TEDMED breakout group here.

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