April 29, 2019
As a business, your employees are your greatest asset. Regardless of whether you have a fantastic product or service, you still need your employees to create, sell, and promote your business. Healthy employees are happier and more productive. As a result, promoting health within the workplace can be a great benefit to you. However, I see a lot of companies missing the mark when it comes to health at work.
First and foremost we need to separate health from weight. People come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and programs that encourage individuals to strive for the same body size are not only unrealistic but can be very detrimental to your workplace culture.
According to the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH), health exists on a continuum that varies over time and circumstance for each individual. Health is a resource available to all regardless of ability level or the presence of chronic or acute health concerns. The pursuit of health is not a moral nor individual obligation. An individual’s health status should NEVER be used to judge, oppress, or determine the value of an individual.
ASDAH defines five distinct HAES® Principles which you can read about in detail here. The five principles are weight inclusivity, health enhancement, respectful care, eating for well-being, and life-enhancing movement. All of these principles contribute to ending weight stigma, weight bias and inequalities in accessing health care based on body size. At the end of the day, everyone is human and we were not designed to look the same or be the same size and there is nothing wrong with that.
Supporting HAES® in the workplace seems like a no-brainer. How someone looks has absolutely no bearing on how they are as an employee. However, assuming that larger bodies are unhealthy or abnormal has unfortunately become a cultural norm. According to Levine and Schweitzer (2015) and Flint et al. (2016), employees living in larger bodies are less likely to be hired by a company, less likely to be assigned desirable job responsibilities, less likely to be promoted within an organization, and on average, earn less than their smaller-bodied colleagues doing the same job. So while it seems like a no-brainer, it’s clear that weight bias does exist in the workplace and in order to remove it, you first need to acknowledge and address it.
So what can you do as a business to support HAES® at work?
A business is the product of its employees. As such, you want the best people, regardless of their size, ethnicity, or gender. As an employer, it is amazing to value health in the workplace. Just remember that health isn’t mandatory and it's not visible. It’s so important to be inclusive, supportive, and above all else, non-judgemental.
ASDAH (2019). The Health At Every Size® Approach. Retrieved from https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=152
Flint, S. W., Čadek, M., Codreanu, S. C., Ivić, V., Zomer, C., & Gomoiu, A. (2016). Obesity discrimination in the recruitment process:“You’re not Hired!”. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 647.
Levine, E. E., and Schweitzer, M. E. (2015). The affective and interpersonal consequences of obesity. Organ. Behav. Hum. Decis. Process. 127, 66–84. doi: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2015.01.002
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