Healthier is Cheaper

Healthier is Cheaper

By the time you read this article, it’ll have been about six weeks since many of your employees made New Year’s resolutions to live healthier lifestyles. And, by now, about 8 out of 10 of them have already abandoned those plans.

Yep, it’s true. According to U.S. News, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions are in the gutter after six weeks. What’s the reason for this? Well, as the authors of the data stated, well-intentioned changes are easy to self-impose but very difficult to remain motivated to achieve. Unless, of course, you’ve got a little outside help to keep you motivated.

As an employer, there are lots of important reasons for encouraging your staff to get healthier. Altruism aside, healthier employees perform better and cost less.

That might sound rather blunt, but it’s a reasonable business strategy. For example, the Mayo Clinic published a study last year wherein they had gathered health data on over 9,000 employees of Baptist Health South Florida. Researchers conducted health risk assessments based on dietary patterns, physical activity, blood pressure, blood glucose level, total cholesterol level, and smoking and divided participants into three categories; low, moderate, and optimal.

The mean annual health care expenditures among those with a low ranking was $10,104 compared with $5,824 for moderate and $4,282 for optimal.

Health care costs are just one area where the savings are significant. There are numerous others, like better attendance, better attitude at work, better productivity, better retention, and so on.

The question is, how can we achieve this?

A Healthier Workplace Setting

How can we motivate adults in our companies to change their bad habits and start becoming healthier? Start out by creating a healthier environment in the workplace.

If you’ve got a refrigerator or vending machine stocked with waistline-expanding sodas or bladder-cancer-inducing energy drinks, then your employees are probably going to be consuming them on a daily basis. Switch to water.

Similarly, you’re not being generous by bringing in a box of doughnuts each morning. You’re only generously increasing your own healthcare costs and tempting people into becoming fatter. A bag of apples is so much cheaper in the long run and they provide a more useful form of energy without the horrible lag that sugary, deep-fried bread produces.

Put Out the Butts

12,500 people die from smoking in Indiana every year. Have any of them been your employees? Aside from the tragic loss of life, have you ever wondered what tobacco use is costing your company and its employees?

Research published just a few weeks ago by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation in Indianapolis found that Hoosier businesses lose about $2.8 billion per year in productivity due to tobacco use. On top of that, Indiana families face a combined $1,125 per household in additional state and federal taxes to cover health care costs for tobacco use.

It’s not going to be easy to encourage your employees to quit, but it’s going to be worth the effort. The first step would be to add incentives for nonsmokers; the most common of which is extra vacation time. The logic is that smoke breaks eat up time during the day, and extra time should be awarded to those who take fewer breaks. Statistically speaking, giving extra time off to nonsmokers still saves you time and money, as smokers are much more likely to miss more work from illness over time.

Secondly, it is recommended you work with your insurer to develop and implement subsidized programs in your company that can help individuals break their addiction to nicotine. You can also additionally make your entire facility and its vehicles completely smoke free and stop allowing smoke breaks.

Get Up and Move

Employees really need to get off their butts. Two studies reflected the brutal reasons why.

The American Journal of Epidemiology found that sitting for more than six hours a day can make someone at least 18% more likely to die from diabetes, heart disease, and obesity than those sitting less than three hours a day.

Secondly, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that people who sit for most of the day are 54% more likely to die of heart attacks.

Both cardiovascular conditions and diabetes are well-known to be expensive when it comes to healthcare costs. Getting up and moving is so easy, and there are several ways you can increase momentum among your staff.

Directors with Human Factors and Ergonomics at Cornell University have published materials recommending that people get up and move at least every 20 minutes. That might seem like a challenge for many business models, depending on the nature of the work. But this is one area where a little creativity can save you money.

Consider encouraging standing meetings, walking meetings, get-up-and-move breaks at least every hour, making a few exercise bikes available, and maybe even competitions. A popular way to gamify motion is to use phone apps or fitness trackers to measure how many steps an individual takes in a given day. However you choose to go about it, major payoffs are possible.

It’s Time for Some Changes

With a little bit of support and encouragement from employers, and just a few changes to company workplaces, a lot of people could be living much healthier lives. In turn, they’d be saving their companies and their local economies major dollars. Actually, they’d be making more revenue for those entities over the long run, which renders many of the minimal investments mentioned fairly moot. Healthier and happier employees will always be a good investment.

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Category Features, Health