Can Employers Increase Productivity and Reduce Healthcare Costs at the Same Time?
Employers can and should encourage healthy lifestyles from their employees. It not only improves their productivity which is good for the company, it DIRECTLY saves health care costs!
Duke University just came out with a very interesting study. The study looked at workers’ compensation data for 11,728 Duke University employees who received health-risk appraisals over a seven-year period.
What were the results for obese employees (compared to those who are not obese) as published in the Journal of Internal Medicine?
* Obese employees filed twice the number of workers’ compensation claims
* Obese employees’ medical costs from those claims were seven times higher
* Obese employees stayed out of work 13 times longer after a work-related injury or illness
* Obese employees medical claims cost per 100 employees per year was 51,019 USD compared to $7,503 USD for non-obese workers
* Obese employees lost 183 days of work per 100 employees as compared to 14 days for non-obese workers (thats 13 times more!)
Yeah but those guys were OBESE. Well it doesn’t look good for the overweight/mildly obese either…
* Overweight employees took four times the number of days off after being injured or getting sick at work.
* Mildly obese employees took five times as many days off after being injured or getting sick at work.
And what are employers doing? The study reveals that…
“As many as 40 percent of employers are giving workers products, cash or health insurance discounts to lose weight,” said Laura Linnan, the study’s principal investigator and a professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health.
Employers are getting scared off as well. Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, assistant professor of medicine and health economist at Stanford University co-authored a 2005 study that showed employers compensate for anticipated higher medical costs of obese workers by paying them less than slimmer employees and passing them over for promotions.
What are we gathering from this?
Being obese or overweight is bad enough for the person who it affects… but it is also bad for employers because health care costs eat into profits.
The problem is quite basic, but the solution may not be as easy. We need to approach this troubling issue with a corporate fitness solution. 3 actions that employers must take…
1. Adopt a fitness culture starting from the CEO knowing that it is best for the company
“We all know obesity is bad for the individual, but it isn’t solely a personal medical problem — it spills over into the workplace and has concrete economic costs,” Dr. Truls Ostbye -author and professor of community and family medicine
Well, if its not a personal or private medical problem then it becomes a community problem. The means that the problem is really big, but once it is solved, the solution is more lasting. Solutions that involve the community simply work better. This works for problems like gang violence or addiction to other vices as well. From my experiences as a fitness professional, community solutions work for health goals as well. Kickboxing, pilates, yoga, aerobics and other fitness classes or group activities have a higher penetration rate (about 12-15% in most health clubs) than personal training (2-3%). groups classes encourage people to stay on longer as well.
A community solution to corporate fitness has to be built into the company culture. Usually this is dictated by a CEO or a board of directors. If they spend time reading articles such as this one, they are probably knowledgeable about the problems facing corporations in today’s world. They are also probably aware that companies which have an adaptive culture that is able to handle changing circumstances tend to do really really well. 2-3 times as well profit-wise according to some studies. In addition, setting a fitness culture shows concern for employees (and allows them to be more productive) and in the long run costs less than paying for medical bills. As a minor side note, your employees will look healthy too and that in itself has its own host of benefits.
Once the CEO has decided that a fitness culture is needed and is in fact the course that the company needs to take, he can implement it in the same way he makes most culture changes
* Align your company culture with your strategic goals (being fit saves money, makes your employees more productive and more attractive to customers, and increases profit)
* Develop a specific action plan that can leverage the good things in your current culture and correct the unaligned areas. (free employee breakfasts on Fridays may be good, but making it doughnuts and pancakes is BAD)
* Brainstorm improvements in your formal policies and daily practices. (allocate some work time to fitness and health education and activities, ensure managers lead by example, bringing healthy food into the cafeteria, allow 15 min breaks during work for healthy snacks)
* Develop models of the desired actions and behaviors. (how many hours a week minimum that an employee must exercise, social support and encouragement to make healthy eating not just acceptable but preferable, all management staff must enthusiastically take part)
* Communicate the new corporate fitness culture to all employees (tell everybody about it)
* Over-communicate the new corporate fitness culture and its actions to everyone. (tell everybody about it again and again, with checks to ensure that the new culture is followed)
Remember, often people don’t do what you EXPECT. They do what you INSPECT.
2. Look for a professional you can trust
A respected fitness professional is a real asset to a corporation. Think about it. Companies get accounting firms to do their accounts and taxes, they get law firms to do their legal documents, and they get business consultants to check their business processes. Shouldn’t they get a fitness professional to handle corporate health and fitness?
Not at all. The best fitness pros will know how to approach corporate fitness. A fitness professional will be able to help you set up and run a health facility, fitness classes, provide talks to encourage employees to live healthy, design individualized training for those who need it, and provide good care for those with extreme obesity or past injuries and medical conditions.
3. Only accept success
No CEO would accept sub-standard work by an employee, neither would they accept failure on important projects, they wouldn’t accept a lack of integrity with regard to finance either. Shouldn’t this be the case with the company fitness program?
Like point 1 mentioned, this brand new program has to be enforced. It’s a kind of “tough love” that needs to happen. Hey Mr. CEO…take attendance at fitness classes, walk around the cafeteria at lunch to see what people are eating, do your managers speak as positively and motivationally about the fitness program as they do about meeting project deadlines?
There are only good things that can come out of a corporation that has a fitness focus. Corporate fitness has come a long way. I do know of companies that have gyms and health facilities for their staff.
But as usual we need to look for the person before we provide the place and the program. In this case there are 2 people. The CEO who is willing to implement change, and the fitness professional who knows how to get results.
About the Author
Coach Jonathan Wong is Singapore’s Top Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert. He is a sought after author on corporate fitness and is a member of Men’s Health Advisory Panel. Organizations come to him to help them boost staff productivity and health. He has helped hundreds of Singapore residents achieve their fitness goals. Get a free 1500 page e-book and constant newsletter and blog updates at http://www.coachjon.com
Tax Soda & Pizza to Cut Obesity, Researchers Say
Obese men spend nearly $700 more per year on medicine.(Obesity): An article from: Family Practice News
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