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November 18, 2006

Microsoft fights cubicle disease

Posted by David Hunter at 9:49 AM ET.

With the US Thanksgiving holiday next week, here’s a Microsoft story with a holiday twist – More Micro, Less Soft:

Alas, the eating season is upon us. And with the recent news that mouse jockeys are more supersized than ever, Microsoft and a growing number of companies are on the attack against fat. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight, with the problem adding an average 20% more in costs to company medical claims. Indeed, more than ever before, Cubicle Land is becoming a place of McMansion bodies and big backyards.

To fight back, employers are doing everything from ripping out elevators and installing stairs to building parking lots a five-minute walk away, as Sprint Nextel Corp. did at its Overland Park (Kan.) headquarters. But with Microsoft the biggest loser in Corporate America, the company’s pioneering on this front offers lessons in managing excess worker waistage.

Rather than simply adding tips on the low-cal life to in-house newsletter MicroNews, or popping for some Jenny Craig, Microsoft created a weight management benefit (employees already get free medical coverage). The software giant picks up 80% of the tab–up to $6,000–for a comprehensive, clinical weight-loss program. Expensive, yes. But Cecily Hall, Microsoft’s director of U.S. benefits, says the company has already realized a one-to-one return on investment since the program began in 2002. “These people are coming off of prescription drugs, they’re seeing their primary care physician less, and not having as much hospitalization,” says Hall.

Microsoft’s weight management benefit includes up to a year’s worth of sessions with a personal trainer, behavioral and nutritional counseling, support groups, and medical supervision. Its war against weight started in 2002, about the same time Ballmer, then all puff and jowl, lost a fast 50 and turned taut and lean. His newly restructured physique was the inspiration of Redmond, and soon 800 Microsofties were forgoing the logger-man portions in the cafeteria and subbing diet sodas for the free pop.

There’s more by following the link, but I think I’ll just have another helping of pumpkin pie, thanks.

Filed under Employee Retention, Executives, Financial, General Business, Microsoft, Steve Ballmer

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