Employees’ health and happiness appear to be a win-win situation for the employees and their employers. Healthy employees and those who are happy at work not only perform better but they also cost less. This is the conclusion of a six-year study conducted by health insurance company Humana and the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.
It is a fact that more and more organizations work to advance the health and happiness of their employees, anticipating better performance, productivity and personnel retention. Companies are now offering incentives, rewards, reduced fees and more to help their employees reach their healthcare goals and stay healthy and happy. Employers know, for example, that employees who are obese, have a higher rate to develop diabetes and heart disease, and those who smoke are more likely to develop heart disease, emphysema or cancer. These diseases result in reduced productivity, absenteeism, reduced sense of well-being and increased health care costs for the company, both in the short and the long run.
According to two Harvard School of Public health (HSPH) experts, many employers believed they could reduce their health care costs by influencing employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. One example is the state of Alabama, where state employees were used to paying zero toward their health care premium. A few years ago that changed when they were made to pay a $50 dollar monthly premium – unless certain incentives were met. Employees who did not use tobacco got a $25 dollar discount. $25 dollar wellness premium discounts were offered for employees who met standards for important health markers like blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and BMI. Other employees were able to receive a voucher that covers the co-payment for a doctor’s visit. As of 2011, employees could receive a discount if they have shown that they are within set boundaries, or are taking steps to get healthier.
Other companies offer incentives such as paid gym memberships, free health coaching or points to redeem for rewards or prizes. The point system could work after the employees show their attendance at a gym, enroll in a diet program that helps them choose healthy foods and meals, or “weigh-ins” that show progress at the place of business. Points can be turned in for prizes like gym bags, t-shirts, gift cards, acknowledgement of the employee in the company newsletter and even paid time off.
Some insurance companies are also offering health related programs at discounted rates or free to employees. Things like acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic and herbal supplements may be covered according to Jo-Ann Laing, author of The Consumer’s Guide to Health Savings Accounts. Gohealthinsurance.com reports breast reduction surgery could be covered if causing health problems.
Just how much money is lost to poor health? The Integrated Benefits Institute, which represents major U.S. employers and business coalitions, says the U.S. economy loses $576 billion dollars a year due to poor health. According to a Forbes story released in 2012, $227 billion of this money is due to lost productivity from employees being absent from work (absenteeism) or showing up to work ill (“presenteeism”), and therefore not performing at their best. Between absenteeism due to illness and the cost of disability and workers’ compensation, poor health costs the U.S. economy more than half a trillion dollars a year, according to a new study by a nonprofit research organization.
Due to the high economic costs and the potential huge benefits if this cost is curtailed, employee happiness, well-being and health are the focus of very intensive research.
To your health!
- Dr Anthony