Workplace Wellness Professional Code of Conduct
By Wellness Compliance Institute Board of Directors
Workplace wellness professionals come from varying backgrounds and experience, which may include health education and promotion, public health, fitness or athletic training, diet and nutrition, human resources, insurance and complementary and alternative medicine professions (such as acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic, homeopathy). Workplace wellness professionals deliver services in a variety of settings, including large and small private companies, schools and colleges, health care systems, government agencies, and others. Workplace wellness professionals may belong to or have credentials issued by other organizations, such as WELCOA, National Wellness Institute, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the Medical Fitness Association, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC), to name a few. Each of these organizations may have their own standards of practice, professional competencies, and/or code of ethics. Some workplace wellness professionals may be guided by state-issued license requirements, such as for dietitians, insurance agents/brokers, chiropractors, acupuncturists, or massage therapists. Other workplace wellness professionals may not be guided by any code of conduct, or at least by a code that applies to specifically to individuals involved with workplace wellness programming.
The Wellness Compliance Institute (WCI) supports the codes of ethics, standards of practice and professional competencies of all organizations to which workplace wellness professionals belong. WCI also supports the Code of Ethics developed by Ethical Wellness.
Despite the existences of all these standards, competencies and codes, workplace wellness professionals lack a unifying code that all professionals, regardless of their credentials or experience, can adhere to. Workplace wellness professionals share the goal of promoting wellness, which the National Wellness Institute defines as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” Workplace wellness professionals should also recognize that achieving wellness depends not only on individual behaviors and choices, but also organizational culture, mental and spiritual well-being, and environmental and social factors.
Using this framework for workplace wellness, this document provides guidance on professional expectations and proper behaviors for workplace wellness professionals, regardless of one’s setting, education, certification or experience. The Code of Conduct is founded upon ethical principles that focus on the ideal rather than obligatory rules (although following rules is part of acting ethically). The Code of Ethics emphasizes the character of professionals and their relationships with whom they work rather than on solving a specific problem. It is the responsibility of wellness professionals to aspire to meeting this Code of Conduct and to encourage other workplace wellness professionals to do the same. Those who subscribe to this Code of Conduct will help advance workplace wellness as a discipline and a concept that is not only possible, but worth expending resources to achieve.
Workplace Wellness Professional Code of Conduct
A workplace wellness professional shall:
- Practice the workplace wellness profession with honesty, integrity and accountability.
- Maintain a level of competency in professional practice to provide high quality services. If the workplace wellness professional maintains a credential for purposes of delivering workplace wellness products or services, the professional shall comply with all requirements of obtaining and maintaining that credential.
- Avoid involvement in any false, fraudulent or deceptive activity.
- Promote an individual’s right to privacy, confidentiality and data security. Have a thorough understanding of the HIPAA Privacy Rules, in particular “need to know” and “minimum necessary” provisions as well as rules and obligations surrounding access to employee health data.
- Use professional knowledge and expertise to accurately inform employers or clients of possible positive and negative outcomes of workplace wellness activities, products, and services in an effort to facilitate informed decision making.
- Respect, assure and protect an individual’s dignity by supporting his/her right to make informed decisions regarding personal wellness.
- Acknowledge and respect that individuals hold diverse values, attitudes and opinions about their overall health and well-being.
- Actively seek to understand an individual’s social, cultural, economic, educational, and environmental background in an effort to place an individual’s wellness behaviors and decisions into context and to address diverse wellness needs in a more holistic manner.
- Model and encourage nondiscriminatory standards of behavior in interactions with others and in implementing, designing or delivering workplace wellness programs and services.
- Do not misrepresent qualifications, limitations of education, training, expertise and experience, such as by using misleading titles (e.g., a wellness coach using the title “Disease Manager” when the wellness coach has no clinical training).
- Be transparent about personal qualifications, knowledge and experience with the delivery of products and services being recommended.
- Do not overpromise on workplace wellness results.
- Accurately report the story that data tells, good or bad, with no “spin” to fit a desired storyline.
- Do not exaggerate or take undo credit, especially when it trying to translate improved health into “health plan savings”. Additionally, a workplace wellness professional will not take credit for the work of clinical professionals by classifying successful patient care as “wellness success.”
- Provide explanations of products or services in a manner that is consistent with level of education, experience, expertise, and professional competence.
- Maintain, improve, and expand professional competence through continued study and education, certification, membership, participation and leadership in professional organizations.
- Encourage, accept, and participate in responsible critical discourse to protect and enhance the workplace wellness profession.
- Address real and perceived professional conflicts of interest, and promote transparency of conflicts by disclosing competing commitments, interests (such as financial interests, bonuses, commissions) or endorsement of products or services.
- Openly communicate to employers one's expectations of job-related assignments that may conflict with the wellness professional’s ethics.
- Free of self-interest, openly and honestly advise employers about services that may not be working for them or that they don’t need.
- Openly communicate to colleagues, employers and professional organizations when they suspect unlawful and/or unethical practice that violates this Code of Conduct.
- Use products, strategies and methods that do not pose a risk of harm to individuals but rather promote well-being and that are grounded in and contribute to the development of professional standards, evidence-based guidelines, theories, data and experience, as verified by a neutral, reputable organization.
- Actively collaborate and communicate with professionals of various educational backgrounds and acknowledge and respect the skills and contributions of such groups.
- Maintain a commitment to improving an individual’s well-being above all other stated or unstated wellness program goals.
- Provide leadership and consultative services to stakeholders in achieving regulatory, certification and organizational compliance in the delivery and creation of wellness programs, products and services.
- Ensure that the wellness team responsible for implementation and ongoing management of workplace health and well-being initiative has the appropriate and necessary skills and tools to implement wellness programs or activities, and achieve improvements.
- Seek to identify root causes of workplace wellness program problems rather than focus on individuals or specific events.