A Workout At Work

Want to get ahead? As Wyatt Andrews found, in some places you need to break a sweat. Really.
How many of us work for companies that want us -- make that encourage us -- to go to the gym during lunch? Not many, right? But let's keep going. How many of those companies feel so strongly about workers staying in shape, they're willing pay cash as incentive? The list of these companies is short right now --but that's changing. The idea of worker "wellness" is in vogue.

As part of our series, "Prescription for Savings," producer Jill Rosenbaum and I traveled to IBM headquarters in Armonk, NY, when in any given year an employee might pocket up to $450 cash by taking advantage of the company's full range of wellness incentives. You get a one time payment of $150 to stop smoking. Then its $150 every year you agree to exercise 3 times a week, and another $150 for every year you fill out a personal health record -- a private, online survey--that once complete, tells you where you run the highest risk of future disease and recommends a personalized plan of prevention. The hallways at IBM headquarters are so full of power walkers, the place has the feel of an indoor track. And the gyms are full of people giving themselves raises by working out.

(Note to bosses at CBS: IBM workplaces have gyms!)

IBM officials aren't spending all this cash to be nice. This is a corporation saving money. And it is saving by targeting the health cares woes Americans largely inflict on themselves: diseases related to smoking and obesity. IBM knows with certainty it's $130 million investment has been paid off by fewer sick days, greater retention and by the diminished frequency of heart attacks and diabetes.

Outside of IBM, wellness has grown into a nationwide cottage industry, as employers and insurance companies discover the payback. Wellness incentives include discounted insurance rates, discounted gym memberships or a reward point system for workers to redeem merchandise.

(Note to bosses at CBS and CBS News. How come WE don't do this?)

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.