German Companies Keep Workers Fit for Long Term Employment

As skill sets become increasingly more complex in the modern workplace, employers are working harder to guarantee the health of their employees further into the future to save on training costs.

What's the Latest Development?

Building a BMW motorcycle is a physically demanding job which also requires a high level of automotive skill. It's for this reason that the German automaker is taking new steps to ensure the health of its employees far into the future. One of the company's tools is an "age suit", essentially a body suit equipped with weights to inhibit movement, which they lend to individual workers for a day. Once employees feel what its like to be old--having inhibited movement, sore joints, etc.--the thinking goes they will become more amenable to company-run health programs, which include exercise regimes and healthy eating guides.

What's the Big Idea?

Because the success of preventive health programs are difficult to measure (their success is marked by an absence of illness data), companies are slow to dedicate large resources to them. Dr. Ralf Herfordt, an on-staff physician at one BMW facility, also recognizes some resistance from employees who want the freedom to live as they please. "'Workers do not respond to the finger-shaking approach,' he notes. So he trains volunteers as 'health ambassadors' to talk others round, but says sometimes he dreams of being able to introduce mandatory measures, like collective gym breaks in Asian companies."

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