Lila MacLellan, The story behind the health-conscious startup accused of being a “fit supremacist”, Quartz, March 9, 2018
Too Health Conscious
The startup, Health IQ, is a life insurance brokerage that provides low rate coverage for health conscious people. The critique included charges that the company was cultish, and a “fit supremacist,” after some descriptions of the culture, which dripped of “bro” values, were discovered and shared.
“Every employee who joins takes a pledge to celebrate the health conscious while they work here and for the rest of their life,” the Mountain View, California-based company boasted on its careers page, which has now been edited. And that was just the beginning.
Through the WI Lens
This article raises the fundamental questions of “how far” companies are willing to go to promote health in the workplace. The example of Health IQ is of course extreme, but it highlights the pitfalls of the obsessive quest for wellness pursued by many start-ups – particularly in the US.
Much too often, businesses equate wellness with fitness. The reductionist definition misses the point about the ‘holistic’ dimension of wellbeing: a framework that encompasses physical and mental health, but also a sense of purpose at work, of belonging to a community and also of financial wellness.
Job satisfaction is what ultimately matters to wellbeing at work. It has more to do with policies and how employees are treated than with encouraging them to engage in triathlons.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.