Meet ‘Melissa’, after 20 years with the same job and years of struggling with
body image and weight gain, she decided she need to make some changes in her life. She interviewed with a company for a new job. During the interview process she was pleasantly surprised to learn about the company’s welll-being program. She got the job and felt lucky to be so supported by her new employer. She was inspired by those around her who were excellent role models for making healthy choices. Melissa participated in the company pedometer challenge, then joined the company Weight Watchers program and decided to train for a 5K race. Over the next six months, Melissa lost over forty pounds and exclaims each day she is able to give more on the job and off because she has so much energy.
Melissa’s story exemplifies the three reasons why managing personal energy as a dimension of well-being should be intertwined in the workplace culture. Some companies may ask “Why should I care about or invest in my employees physical health?” Here are just a few reasons why:
- When companies consider supporting employee well-being, they often do so to decrease direct health insurance costs. When employees lose weight, as Melissa did, they can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. So how does that affect health care costs? People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures over two times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.[i] A single heart attack can cost about $750,000.[ii] A diagnosis of cancer would cost much more. These are real dollars the employer and the employee would rather spend somewhere else.
- While decreasing medical costs has historically garnered all the attention, there is a much larger employee expense and management opportunity from productivity-related measures such as:
- short-term disability
- long-term disability
- presenteeism - being physically on the job, but not being engaged in one’s work because of a health and/or personal issue—represents the greatest cost burden because of lost or subpar productivity.
These often ignored indirect costs— being the majority of the cost burden. For example, obese employees have 4.2% higher health-related productivity loss, equal to $506 per employee per year.[iii] Several studies have also shown that obese workers generally experience more injuries and more expensive claims than their non-obese counterparts.
- Last but not least, having a well-being program can help your company be seen as a great place to work. Melissa noted she was pleasantly surprised her worksite had a well-being program. She felt supported by her employer and inspired by co-workers to live a more healthy life. There is no doubt she was a more engaged and I would argue productive employee with her newfound health and vitality.
Lou Holtz, a renowned American college football coach once said “There are three questions everyone wants answered. Do you care about me? Can I trust you? Are you committed to excellence?”
By committing to a workplace well-being program, your organization can definitely answer yes to the first question and I would argue make a positive impact on the last two questions as well.
Employees who are engaged translate into higher profitability. Towers Watson research shows that companies with low engagement had average operating margins of 10 percent. Those with high sustainable engagement had operating margins of 27 percent—nearly three times higher. The same study found that disengaged employees are more than twice as likely to leave their employers within the next two years, compared to highly engaged employees.[iv]
So perhaps the question is not why should energizing employees with a workplace culture of well-being, but why wouldn’t it be?
Valorie Bender, CWPM
[i] Zhuo, X., Zhang., P, Barker, L. , Albright A., Thompson., T. J., Gregg. E. (2014)
The Lifetime Cost of Diabetes and It’s Implications for Diabetes Prevention.
Diabetes Care September 2014 37:2548-2556; doi:10.2337/dc14-0093
[ii] Vernon., S. CBS Money Watch (2010)How Much Would A Heart Attack Cost You?, Retrieved, October 16, 2014, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-much-would-a-heart-attack-cost-you/
[iii] Gates, D.M, Succop, P. Brehm, B. J., Gillespie, G. L., Sommers, B. D. (2008)
Obesity and presenteeism: the impact of body mass index on workplace productivity. J Occup Environ Med. 2008 Jan;50(1):39-45. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31815d8db2.
[iv] (2012). Global Workforce Study, Engagement at Risk: Driving Strong Performance in a Volatile Global Economy. TW-NA-2012-25644. towerswatson.com