01 March 2014

Assumptions, Part Two

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it gets better. A couple of months back I ranted about the online fitness programs not just offered, but forced upon me and my fellow co-workers by our Mighty Employer. Forced, as in at the end of a financial gun: do this stuff, or you’ll lose real dollars. (If you missed that episode [at this link], it’s required reading before you move on.)

Now, we all know that employment is entirely about the concept of do this stuff, or you’ll lose real dollars, but we expect that the stuff in question has something to do with what we do for a living and what business our employer is engaged in. But Mighty Employer has deemed that healthy living is important, and while I agree whole-heartedly with that, I find their assumption that we’re all not living healthy today to be at best misguided, and at worst rather insulting. And I find the stuff that they deem translates into healthy living to be little more than an online game, and not a terribly captivating one at that. At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that if I click on web sites, I get money. Sounds like a scheme from a late-night infomercial.

As I’d noted last fall, I met with the benefits manager behind this wacky scheme. As you might have guessed, that meeting when nowhere. Her mantra was simply that everybody’s doing this. I won’t argue whether that’s true, but that doesn’t make it sensible. No amount of reasoning would sway her from the program. It didn’t matter how much I already ran or what sort of evidence I could provide to substantiate my miles, I had to waste time and click the buttons.

But hey, I was already on my way to earning my cash, because as you also read last fall, I’d already enrolled in the Energize® program and had already been fed that thrilling report that told me to use a bathroom on a different floor. I expected the onslaught of helpful tips, coaching, chiding, and scolding to start gracing my inbox any day. But something even funnier happened.


Maybe it was because I’d told the Electronic Overlord that I wasn’t a slug. Maybe the nameless faceless application decided it trusted me. Or maybe it was simply lame. But for whatever the reason, absolutely nothing happened. Not one email. Not one communication of any sort, once that initial seventeen page bucket of blather report started my journey to better health. Nary a peep. Nor for Dearest Spouse, who’d also signed up.

Knowing that this was for real cash (for which, I note, tracking and assuring credit became a career in its own right), I wasn’t satisfied to let it rot. I duly signed on to the corporate wellness website, where there were still absolutely no messages of encouragement, status, or anything. After a month, I had to hunt for the link to the thirty-day progress survey I’d been told about within that famed Seventeen Pages of Vapid Verse. I’d tell you about said sad survey, but it would spoil the fun, because I knew I wouldn’t reach my goal – which had nothing to do with exercise but everything about the coin – until the ninety day progress survey, at which point I’d be deemed to have completed the program.

Between thirty and ninety days, I again felt lonely, ignored, and emotionally abused through neglect by this program. Oh, the excitement they’d promised! Oh, the benefits I’d gain! Oh, the help they’d offer! And I got nothing. Remember that song from A Chorus Line? I felt nothing…

Ninety days, and yes! The progress survey link again appeared in that magical website. Certainly this one must be comprehensive, complete, and captivating, a true capstone! Silly man! To expect such wonder! No, I’m afraid it was exactly the same survey as I’d seen at thirty days, except that first it asked me if I wanted to take the program again. What program? The program that didn’t do anything? After refusing the repeat, the same three brief pages I’d seen at day thirty reappeared. That was it, three pages.

Page One: You made it! Can you fathom that you achieved your goal of getting though three months of Energize®? It must have been so hard with all the requirements we sent you, which were…oh yeah, nothing. And so when they ask if, as a direct result of this program, has anything changed, can I lie? If I did so, my self-esteem might suffer, and they do seem to be concerned about that, so I’d better be honest.

Page Two: Not worth reproducing here. You said you ran, hiked, and lifted weights. Did you?

Page Three: Are you confident you can increase your level of activity? What, are you trying to kill me? As if I’m not doing enough now? I cannot tell a lie. NO! Are you tied to an Almighty Pedometer tracking device? (Remember this, it comes back to haunt us later.) And, my favorite question: Does your life suck or not? If I say yes, do I get a gold star for working so hard?

Now, after the intensity of that questionnaire, I’m just worn out, but fear not, it’s over. Yes, that was it. And that helpful information they promised me at the end? Just another empty promise. So it’s time to bid adieu…because, Can you believe 3 months have passed since you first took Energize? Holy crap! I took Energize? I thought that was ibuprofen!

For all that, I get fifty bucks. Four hundred and fifty to go.

There are other ways to earn this glitter, but being as the accounting system behind this scheme is considerably less than optimal, you’d better keep playing the game and racking up bonus points to be sure you’re not shorted. And so I am now merrily wasting time clicking on another web site, using that Almighty Pedometer (remember that question? …yeah, they sent me one) to count my steps to supposedly walk across Europe with a bunch of my co-workers. Oddly, though the goal is healthy living, no other form of exercise matters to them, just steps…so yes, I convert everything to steps, wouldn’t you? Game the system, click the website… Of course there’s no assurance that any of the numbers that any of the participants in this curious program are punching into the web site are real. But I’ll give them credit that this one at least leverages peer influence, and this time they are peppering me with annoying emails, some of which actually have some good advice, like…

Let’s face it, they’re singing my tune here. Are you able to pick your kids up from school on foot? Sounds like my Pre-Marathon Rant blog post from a couple years back. Leave the car and do errands on your own two legs? I ran to City Hall at noon a couple days ago. Heck, I might have actually appreciated Energize® if they’d given it some sensible teeth like this.

Thus I return to my statement from last fall. Americans do desperately need to change their ways. And it’s not wrong for employers to try to push people down that path. Healthy encouragement is, well, healthy. But treating everyone like the average and ignoring the accomplishments of those who are doing what is called for – and on top of that, threatening financial loss for not lining up for a dose of this inanity – is a recipe for serious dissention. And creating programs that measure success by solely by counting website clicks is completely counterproductive insanity.

Must go now, I need to enter today’s steps into that web site…

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