Poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion annually, according to the Integrated Benefits Institute, a health and productivity research company. To put that in perspective, that amount adds up to more than the gross domestic product of Belgium.
Aside from now being required to provide health care to your employees through the Affordable Care Act, there are steps you can take that will improve the health of your employees and cost you less in the long run.
Implement flex time
How difficult do you make it for your employees to get adequate exercise? Many companies are turning to “flex time”, which essentially states that employees just have to work a certain amount of hours in the day, regardless of when those hours are. While that contrasts the strict 9-to-5 most businesses are used to, it allows your employees to choose the best time to get in a quick workout. Additionally, it breaks up the work day, which may result in increased productivity. Parameters can easily be set for flex time; for example, saying that employees must log eight hours between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. allows time complete a workday and get an hour of exercise, too.
Allow unlimited sick days
This idea might sound extreme, but the spread of disease in a workplace costs you more than you think. One sick person can quickly turn into three or four, which means your health care costs could quadruple. Allowing for unlimited sick days communicates to your employees that you’d rather let them take time to get well instead of infecting everyone around them. If the thought of having such extreme leniency makes you uncomfortable, opt for allowing sick employees to work from home instead. The goal is to establish that communicable diseases do not belong in your office and that you support your employees taking time to rest and recover.
Implement wellness programs
If you’re serious about cutting health care costs in your workplace, consider implementing a workplace wellness program. This can either be done on a basic level by someone in your office such as the human resources manager, or you can hire an outside company for a more comprehensive approach. For example, Vistakon, a Johnson & Johnson company based in Jacksonville, hires a wellness company to be on site at their campus. They have an on-site gym, walk-in clinic, mental health practice and cafeteria with healthy food options. In addition, the wellness team performs an annual health assessment of employees to highlight potential risk factors, such as diabetes, that cost the company the most money. Knowing where the risks are allow the wellness team to create health education programs to tackle diabetes prevention and self care, which reduces the company’s bottom line.
The Center for Disease Control has a library of resources on how to improve the health of your employees and ideas on how to create your own wellness program. Visit www.cdc.gov/nationalhealthyworksite for more information.
Amanda Purser is pursuing her master’s degree in health education and behavior at the University of Florida. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org