Online stock broking company Zerodha has been at the receiving end of criticism by netizens for their new employee health program, announced by the Company's Founder and CEO Nitin Kamath.
Kamath took to social media, on the occasion of World Health Day, to announce a program according to which any employee with a BMI (Body Mass Index) less than 25 will get half a month's salary as a bonus.
The benchmark of 25 was taken as according to Kamath, the average BMI of their team was 25.3. Additionally, he announced that if the team collectively could drag the BMI to below 24 by August, they would be eligible for another half month’s salary as bonus.
We are running a fun health program at @zerodhaonline. Anyone on our team with BMI <25 gets half a month's salary as bonus. The avg BMI of our team is 25.3 & if we can get to <24 by Aug, everyone gets another ½ month as a bonus. It'd be fun to compete with other companies ???? 1/3— Nithin Kamath (@Nithin0dha) April 7, 2022
He also urged other companies to take part in the challenge.
In his defence, Kamath had added a disclaimer stating, “I know BMI isn’t the best measure to track health & fitness, but it is the easiest way to get started. With health & most other things in life, the most important bit is to get started.”
It must be noted that BMI as a health indicator has been heavily debated. While some follow it, others are of the opinion that the indicator is ancient and not suitable for all body types. For the uninitiated, BMI is an obesity indicator that is determined by a simple mathematical formula.
This didn’t stop netizens from severely criticising the new program and alleged it promotes eating disorders and comes across as body shaming and may also lead to the poor mental health of employees.
This is actually discrimination. I can still understand incentivising for doing certain no of steps, but this is going to lead to undue stress for those vying for that extra money, and more importantly those who may be body shamed for not fitting into the BMI standard.— Agamoni Ghosh (@agamoni) April 8, 2022
Hey Nithin! I really appreciate the effort of incentivising and gamifying health for employees.— Apoorva (@apooorva) April 7, 2022
But the same blanket goal for everyone can be a problematic strategy since it, at a lowest risk level, can make people associate their worth with weight or size. (Contd)
BMI is one of the most redundant ways to measure health or incentivise it. Just because it is easy doesn’t mean it’s right. You can easily have a physician in house on board to develop such a program that helps your team but that takes effort just as maintaining health does.— Dr. Radhika Tonsey (@radzzzzster) April 8, 2022
It is a bit contrary to diversity, what about those who have high BMI due to some health issues or disabilities? Encouraging is good but giving massive bonuses might be counterproductive— AC (@_ankit_14ry) April 8, 2022
Can't help point out that as compared to males, females struggle with more health related concerns that cause fluctuations in their BMI and body weight. This is feeding into the already existing gender bias in workplaces, even if you refuse to see this connection.— Rubina Mulchandani (@Rubina_BigB_EF) April 8, 2022
However, some were also in support of the initiative while some advised the company to just focus on encouraging employees to walk a certain number of steps.
After the criticism, Kamath said the idea behind the initiative was to get people to move as employees have been sitting for long hours due to WFH. “The average age of the team has gone up to 30 (we haven't really been hiring), and the health levels have dipped in the past 2 years due to WFH and the pandemic stress. So as a company, the onus is to do whatever to nudge everyone on the team to think about their health.”
“The plan has been to get everyone to a diagnostic centre once a year to track health, but has been a challenge given WFH & most on our team aren’t in Metros. Instead of procrastinating, we thought a good way is to get started with something,” he said.