| Go To Part I
"Of the top 7 causes of death, 6 are what we call 'lifestyle diseases'. This means that they are caused by a person's lifestyle choices, at least in part, if not in whole. "
Wellness in the workplace has many benefits, and employers who have tracked their employees' wellness, as well as those who have contributed to their employees' wellness, have enjoyed increases in productivity, decreased healthcare costs, decreased workers compensation costs, and increased employee loyalty and higher morale.
|American employers lose over 300 billion dollars of productivity annually due to illness, sick days, absenteeism and sub-par performance ("presenteeism").
For every dollar an employer spends on salaries and wages, they spend a minimum of an additional 10 cents on health insurance and workers compensation costs. This is above and beyond the unintentional and often unrecognized costs noted above.
Why is wellness important in the corporate environment? Why should employers be concerned about their employees' wellness?
The average employee misses 8.4 days annually due to illness or injury, totaling over $63 billion nationwide. The employee with a serious or chronic condition (diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, cancer, etc.) misses 72 days annually, and works at diminished capacity when present. Nationwide, over 2.5 billion work days are reduced or lost completely. Do you think this is the kind of workforce employers intended to employ? Do you think they budgeted for this reduction in productivity?
Everyone gets sick from time to time, right? Maybe so; maybe no. Even the common cold is subject to a person's immune system letting it occur, so if some employees are in stellar health, they may well not miss a single day or even be under the weather for years at a time.
Which would you rather have? A workforce of vital, energetic hard-working individuals focused on results and available to work when and where you need them? Or a workforce of average individuals who use up most of their sick leave, (if not more than their fair share), and come to work dragging their heads and underperforming?
Some common ailments can be alleviated by weight loss and/or stress reduction brought about through an appropriate exercise program.
Benefits of Wellness in the Workplace
Although good health and vitality benefit an employee in every aspect of his or her life, they also specifically benefit the employer as well. Just as investing in an employees' training provides a better, more valuable resource, investing in their health will provide an employer with a more effective and consistently available resource.
The costs of unhealthy employees is staggering. "Soft costs" such as absenteeism and reduced productivity are calculated as costing four to seven times the amount that employers pay in health insurance premiums and workers compensation premiums combined.
The American population is sadly unhealthy overall. So if an employer's employees are average, in terms of their health, they are most likely overweight, 30% of them are obese, many are at risk for or already have diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory compromise, and/or heart disease. Employers need to take a look at their staff. Who is overweight?
Who has a flushed face and is breathing hard just walking in from the parking lot? Who are the couch potatoes? Who's on medication for high blood pressure or other chronic impairments? (Bear in mind here that discriminating against employees due to medical disability is certainly not encouraged and in most cases is illegal. But we're just talking about getting a sense of the overall health of their entire staff.)
If employers look at their workforce from this perspective, are they pleased with what they see? Or do they have a rising sense of discomfort when they write out the check for their health insurance payment or their workers compensation premiums? Or when one of their employees calls in sick for the 15th time this year with a migraine? How can you be mean to someone with a migraine?
But is a migraine a sign of lack of stress management? Or is it a debilitating illness that springs up in a volume? Would providing stress management and exercise opportunities, and even strongly encouraging those with incentives, get employers more consistently available and performing employees?
What Is Wellness?
The Random House definition of wellness is:
I'll be incorporating both of those definitions into the topics discussed in this series of articles.
- The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, esp. as the result of deliberate effort.
- An approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.
Some people look at wellness simply as the absence of any apparent or disabling illness. But being "healthy" is not simply a matter of being average in terms of having illnesses that are common and treated with over the counter drugs or with barely a raised eyebrow from the medical community.
If you look at the life insurance weight tables, you'll see numbers that reflect the average of what people actually weigh, which is not the same as the weights recommended as healthy. The casual observer believes that if their weight falls within those on the table, he or she must be "okay." That is not the case. It just means that he or she is within the statistical norm.
The same disconnect exists in our perception of the health of those around us (and ourselves!). We become used to what's the norm, not what's actually healthy, and we use "normal" as the benchmark for "healthy." It's not. Vitality, energy, stamina, and systemic strength are what's healthy.
Chronic disease, even low-level, missed work, repeated colds, sore throats, sinus infections, headaches, etc. are all signs of an unhealthy body and life. And they will all respond to wellness intervention if the employee is willing to participate. More…