This post was written by Emily Lauten, Communications and Advocacy Intern
These days everybody is cutting corners. Times are tight, and frankly have been for what seems like too long. But health can’t be one of the things that companies cut back on. In fact, it’s time for businesses to start making investments in employee wellness, investments that are ultimately the smartest business moves to make.
Americans spend a lot of time at work. The majority of our waking hours during each week are spent at the office. More and more, we’re working longer hours just to keep up. This often means sitting down for hours at a time, rushed fast-food lunches, and a lot of stress. None of that adds up to healthy living, and it can also lead to debilitating chronic diseases.
June was National Employee Wellness Month, sponsored by Virgin HealthMiles, an enterprise designed to help companies understand the value of helping employees to maintain their health and to share strategic ways in which to incorporate healthful behaviors into the workday. More than just a feel-good campaign, investing in employee wellness is a smart business decision year-round.
As we look back on Employee Wellness Month, here are four ways that addressing employee wellness just makes good cents, pun intended:
1. Reducing Health Care Costs
Americans spend incredible amounts of money each year on health care. The U.S. spends trillions of dollars annually, and this amount is only continuing to grow. Businesses are taking a large part of the burden. Instead of paying for care after a disease has developed, greater investment should be made in prevention. Obesity-related medical costs alone cost the U.S. $168 billion dollars annually. Something can be done about this. Companies can chose to act now or to suffer the financial consequences later.
“The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Healthways calculated that US companies could save an average of US$ 700 per employee per year on healthcare costs and productivity gained if they address inactivity, stress and harmful use of alcohol over five years,” says the Workplace Wellness Alliance. Paying attention to employee wellness now will save businesses millions later.
2. Healthy Employees Perform Better
The healthier an employee is, the fewer sick days they are going to take. Healthy parents also often lead to healthier families, which cuts down on days taken off to care for sick children. Preserving the health and happiness of employees is critical to ensuring that a skilled workforce is healthy enough to continue working. “Increasing demand for talent, ageing and NCDs carry significant implications for employers, impacting both capacity and productivity of their workforces,” states the Workplace Wellness Alliance. Most simply, present employees are more productive than absent ones.
Additionally, employees that feel better cared for by their employers are going to feel better motivated to perform. Because personal health is such an intimate issue, investment in wellness can, when executed appropriately, create deep bonds.
3. Preventing Chronic Disease means employees stay stronger, longer
Employee turnover is expensive. Hiring people is expensive. Healthier employees are happier employees, and happy employees are less likely to leave. According to the Workplace Wellness Alliance, “Being absent from the job (absenteeism) or underperforming while working (presenteeism) is estimated to cause productivity losses worth US$ 389 billion due to cardiovascular disease and US$ 1.6 trillion due to mental health conditions, in a time when baby boomers are retiring and cannot be replaced easily.” A skilled workforce is a critical asset; as the current workforce ages, companies need to take care of them. If a company provides employees with tools to avoid or better treat these diseases, their employees are going to be able to work longer without taking time off to take care of complications related to NCDs like diabetes.
4. Businesses need to keep up with their global competitors
Businesses have more competition from an increasingly global marketplace. A healthier workforce makes it easier to keep up. “In a highly competitive global economy, health and wellness strategies impact not only competitiveness but also the bottom-line results. Successful multinational companies recognize that early screening and prevention, effective intervention through appropriate management of chronic disease, and other innovative approaches to employee wellness are the keys to building and to retaining a skilled and effective workforce,” Ken Thorpe, Executive Director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease notes. In order to remain fiscally competitive, workers need to be in fighting shape.
As part of our overall goals to fight chronic disease globally, Arogya World works to tackle many of these workplace wellness concerns. “Chronic Diseases are an urgent, global issue and Arogya World is leveraging workplaces as a platform for chronic disease prevention in India. We believe that reaching software and IT professionals with workplace prevention programs is a smart approach,” said Dr. S Kumar, senior consultant to Arogya World in India. Our two-step approach entails a Healthy Workplace Recognition Program and 16 week Diabetes Prevention Sessions. The goal is to recognize organizations that are succeeding in their efforts to promote healthy living for their employees, while providing further information about how to prevent debilitating chronic disease.
Every year, more and more companies are implementing campaigns to address employee health. But still only about 26% of companies have programs in place to prevent chronic disease and promote healthy employee living. Businesses can do better.
Ultimately, caring for employee wellness is a win-win situation. Employees reap the benefits of preventing chronic disease and living longer healthier lives, collecting income and doing more of the things they love. Businesses make investments that will lower health care costs, increase productivity, and improve workplace morale, all of which lead to economic benefit.