When physical and emotional problems affect the productivity of your employees, it can be costly.
Employee health problems cost employers roughly $226 billion each year, according to a study by Rutgers University. Of these costs, about 70 percent come from reduced productivity, with the rest coming from work absences due to illness.
“If you do not address your employees’ health care needs, your workplace is far more likely to experience the negative effects of both absenteeism and presenteeism,” says Ron Filice, president and CEO of Filice Insurance. “If you can commit time and funds to help your employees get and stay healthy, however, you will reduce medical and pharmacy costs and increase productivity.”
That commitment is often a challenge for leaders to make, especially in these times when companies are working harder with fewer resources to get work done. It’s that increased pressure, however, that makes it even more essential that you find a way to keep your team healthy.
Smart Business spoke with Filice about how small changes can lead to a healthier workforce.
What are some easy steps to encourage healthier behavior in the workplace?
Obviously, any problem that causes decreased productivity and increased absenteeism is one that you want to address in your own workforce. The first step is to analyze your workplace environment for areas that perpetuate poor lifestyle behaviors.
For example, if you subsidize the cost of vending machine food that is high in sugar and sodium, you’ve created an enabling situation that promotes poor food choices. If you allow a smoking break or a smoking area on-site, you’re letting your employees know that it’s OK to be a tobacco user at work.
How do you keep employees from reverting back to old habits?
Cash is king.
You need to provide the appropriate incentives to employees to spark a change. Using cash or discounts on contributions to their health plan is a great start.
Keep in mind that cash is a short-term solution — over time employees will see these incentives as entitlements. In the long term, however, the carrot approach of using monetary rewards leads to wellness fatigue. You need to focus on the real long-term benefits such as being healthier, having more energy and reducing health care costs.
Transform the behavior so it’s not seen as simply a path to a prize, but rather as a way of living a healthier and longer life.
What role can leadership play in the success of these efforts?
Leaders need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
Leadership needs to embrace wellness by participating in it. If you, as the leader of the organization, are not following your own wellness program’s prescription, then employees will not think it is meaningful.
Dedicating money to fund the wellness program is a great start, but putting the time and energy into the program itself is a responsibility of all individuals, not just employees.
If there is a group of employees walking during their lunch hour or bringing in healthy snacks to eat during the workday, you need to find a way to take part.
Demonstrate that you are just as committed as your employees to making healthier choices in your life.
What’s the impact on the bottom line of a healthier workforce?
Health promotion and education enables the individual to know when it is appropriate to seek out medical care and when to not over-consume the resources of their insurance program.
This can create a potential savings in the form of rate reductions or rate increases that are lower than the industry norms at renewal time. ●
Insights Insurance is brought to you by Filice Insurance