Building your wellness roadmap takes time, planning, and commitment

As a small business leader, you are constantly analyzing your benefits programs, taking into account growing healthcare expenditures and the personal health and wellness of your employees. To address this, you may have already taken the first step by joining a wellness program such as CBIA Healthy Connections. The program was designed with this key tenet in mind: To reduce costs, employees need to become engaged in both their healthcare spending and in reducing their health risks.

But remember, while one obvious goal of any wellness program is to reduce costs, it is not the primary message. Wellness is about people and improving their quality of life. Successful programs place heavy emphasis on personal outcomes. Employees benefit from access to fitness facilities, and access to healthcare education and information on topics ranging from stress management and exercise to healthy cooking. Employees also benefit from smoking-cessation courses and materials, and through an understanding of their own personal responsibility in ensuring their health and wellness.

When you integrate wellness and intervention programs, you have the opportunity to educate employees about how the connections between their healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices relate to their premiums and other healthcare costs. And these efforts also are rewarded through improved teamwork, increased productivity, fewer sick days, and enhanced quality and service.

How to get started

It’s already February, and if you’re like most of us, January just flew by. Blink and it will be summer. So, if you’re thinking of implementing a more proactive health and wellness program in 2013, you have to dig in now by identifying initial action steps, setting goals, and implementing your program.

A critical first step is to take advantage of interactive, online health and wellness programs. You’re at an advantage here because as a member of CBIA Health Connections, your company can join CBIA Healthy Connections for free! This program was developed to enhance the health and productivity of employees and support a more complete system of care.

Pulling together members of your team to discuss and build a road map, or plan, is the next step. What do you want to achieve? What is reasonable, given time, costs, the business you’re in and your culture? Will you shoot for the “low-hanging fruit,” or try to implement a more comprehensive program?  Once you’ve had these discussions, and have determined what you can reasonably achieve, you have to establish a timetable and a communication plan for building consensus, promoting action steps, and rewarding successes.

The next step is encouraging your team to complete the free, in-depth health assessment offered through CBIA Healthy Connections. This online assessment yields revealing, yet actionable information for the individual, and can be used to help guide the employee to programs and actions that will address his or her health needs. There’s also a popular incentive:  Each employee who completes an assessment receives a $50 Amazon gift card, and your company is automatically entered into a raffle for a $500 gift card.

Quality educational courses and materials, accessible fitness activities and effective communication are all core components of a successful wellness program. Employers must make the connections between medical costs, health risks and personal responsibility. The more we understand that health risks, many of which are modifiable, drive health utilization and cost, the more effective we can be in helping our employees adjust their behaviors and attitudes toward wellness.

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If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Give the Gift of Health and Wellness

As the year wraps up and you contemplate all the ways of thanking and giving back to your staff for their time, effort, hard work, and contributions to your organization’s success, don’t overlook the gifts of health and wellness. That doesn’t mean you have to cancel the office party or return the eggnog! But when it comes to long-term value, appreciation, positive morale and team building, demonstrating a proactive commitment to areas of your employees’ lives that matter outside of the office or workplace are priceless.

As wonderful as this time of year may be, the holidays are typically a time of overindulgence. We eat too much rich, fattening food, drink more alcoholic beverages than usual, don’t sleep or exercise enough, run around like fruitcakes, and generally wear ourselves out. We know this about ourselves, however, which is why many people make their year-end “resolutions” to eat less, sleep more and exercise regularly in the New Year. Savvy employers can play a role in helping their employees achieve these goals through encouragement, open communication, setting team goals, and offering rewards for healthy behaviors.

You can start by encouraging employees to complete an online personal healthcare assessment. Available for free as part of CBIA Healthy Connections, these assessments are simple screening tools that don’t involve any testing or medical intervention, and help people set benchmarks and identify wellness and health items they’d like to improve. Based on their assessment, people can set goals and determine steps for improving key health items like reducing weight, eliminating smoking, exercising more regularly, improving their diets, reducing stress, and more.

Depending on staff size and location, you can consider having healthcare screenings done onsite for verifying cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and related key indicators. You also can encourage your staff to set goals publicly among the team, then work together to achieve those goals. This could be through fitness center memberships, exercise classes, dance, yoga and a variety of recreation activities.

Altruism and volunteering are also valuable contributors to emotional health and wellbeing and to physical health as well. Supporting your employees’ efforts to donate time, money, and work for causes they believe in will help them feel better about themselves, help the community, and benefit everyone involved. That also benefits your company’s bottom line through enhanced morale, productivity, and teamwork. So, as the advertisements say, “give the gift that keeps on giving” by becoming actively involved in employee health and wellness.

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To enjoy the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Why bother investing in prevention?

Employers face a variety of costs related to their employees. If you’re already providing health benefits, giving your staff a safe work environment, and underwriting paid vacations and sick days, why do more? After all, people manage their lives outside of the workplace every day. So what’s an employers’ return on investing in prevention?

Every day, we take steps to prevent unwanted events from happening. We brush our teeth and take vitamins. We wear helmets when we ride our bikes, safety glasses on the job, or protective gear in contact sports. Even our lawnmowers and tools have safety devices to limit our chances of hurting ourselves. Of course, accidents still happen. People who brush their teeth can still get cavities. People who always wear their seat belts may still get hurt in a car crash. The best we can do is to reduce the odds these events will happen by improving the chances for a good outcome.

When talking about cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases, the same concept applies. Prevention mainly refers to lowering the risk of getting a disease rather than completely removing the risk. There always will be elements outside of our control, and there are many behaviors or realities we can’t prevent.

If you’re an employer, the health and wellness of your employees is and should remain of concern to you on a number of levels. The stronger, more vibrant and happier your workforce, the better their productivity and morale. Healthy employees take fewer sick days, are more “present” at their jobs, and provide better service to your customers. So, what can you do to help keep them healthy and well?

Making a difference

Humans, by and large, are pleasure driven, well-intentioned, convenience-dependent creatures. We eat what tastes good, drive when we can walk, sleep when we’re able, and create amazing tools and devices to make our lives faster, cheaper, and easier.

It’s hard to know who benefits from prevention. We know some behaviors can lower the risk of cancer, but we don’t know how great the benefit is for any one person. For example, non-smokers are much less likely to develop lung cancer compared to smokers. However, we do not know who prevents lung cancer by not smoking and who would have remained cancer-free even if they had smoked. Further, most smokers will never be diagnosed with lung cancer and some non-smokers will. So, taking steps to prevent cancer lowers risk, but it does not ensure a person never develops the disease.

Cancer, like many other chronic diseases, tends to be caused by a combination of factors. Some factors we may be able to control (like exercise and diet), some are out of our control (like age and genetics), and some are still unknown. Since many factors drive risk and we can change only a few of these, we cannot avoid some amount of risk.

But employers are leaders, and as such, we can lead our employees to better health by creating an environment and culture at work or outside of the office that educates, informs, accommodates, and rewards for healthier behaviors. We can provide easy online or onsite access to health assessments and screenings, underwrite gym memberships, support walking during breaks, sponsor bowling or softball teams, contribute toward charitable events like walkathons and 5K races, and much more. We can recognize and provide incentives, like time off, gift certificates and peer celebrations for our employees who set and achieve personal goals such as weight loss, smoking cessation and cholesterol reduction. And we can encourage our workers to get regular physical exams, mammograms, colonoscopies, and other preventative tests that help reduce long-term health risks.

Prevention is not an illusion. The disease process is very complex, so it’s hard to pin down how a certain set of risk factors will affect a person. But the good news is that many behaviors that comprise a healthier lifestyle are under our control. Making healthy choices offers rewards far beyond disease prevention, and leaders can set the bar higher for their employees and help them achieve those benefits.

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To enjoy the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Bringing the Family to Work

“It’s a Family Affair,” sang Sly and the Family Stone, and indeed it is.  An effective workplace functions like an extended family, and acknowledging and accommodating employees’ “real” families contributes significantly to employee satisfaction, quality, improved productivity, and enhanced customer service.

When employees take time off, whether planned or unplanned, to tend to sick family members or to pursue family oriented activities away from work, it can be inconvenient and disruptive, especially when you have a small staff. How companies handle those “normal” requests can make a world of difference in employee attitudes toward their employer.

There are two sides to this coin. As understanding as employers may appear regarding work/family balance, when we have an angry customer, deadline, or rush job on the line, we don’t want to work around personnel shortages. Planned absences are more easily managed, but unplanned time, such as when an employee gets sick or has to take care of someone else who is sick, can be a real pain.

For their part, employees typically understand that being away from work or the office may put pressure on others to fill gaps. We don’t want to leave our teammates in the lurch, and being away can make preparing for the time off or the return more challenging. But life calls, and taking breaks from work, whether planned or not, is healthy and important, especially since it helps strengthen families and reduces stress, which makes the employee more appreciative of workplace accommodation and support.

Employers can help employees reduce unplanned time off through proactive wellness efforts that address healthy nutrition and diet, by encouraging and supporting exercise and fitness, by supporting smoking-cessation and general health improvement, and through a positive, accommodating attitude toward employees’ lives away from the office.

By providing health and wellness information and educational resources that encourage family awareness and participation, you can help your employees and their families set and achieve personal wellness goals. Employers also can sponsor activities outside of the workplace, such as wellness walks and runs, bicycling events, outings and other healthy activities that promote teamwork and include families.

Being actively aware of employees’ personal needs goes a long way toward improved morale, loyalty and productivity. For example, if your workplace can accommodate scheduling flexibility—such as letting an employee start a little later or leave a little earlier, or take time off during the day for medical appointments, workouts or other needs—it helps employees better manage their lives and meet their families’ needs. When employees can’t achieve balance in their lives or satisfy family obligations, it causes stress and resentment and can contribute to absenteeism or “presenteeism,” the word coined to reflect when employees come to work but aren’t able to pay attention or work effectively.

Additionally, establishing and communicating clear boundaries and expectations about time off is crucial. Productivity, safety and quality always will remain critical requirements, but they’re not just the company’s goals—every employee and his or her family can embrace them as well.

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To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Friendly challenges and incentives help drive wellness participation

It’s coming up on summer, when people are forced to look at their bodies in sleeveless shirts, shorts, and bathing suits. This is the perfect season (and a good internal marketing opportunity) to capitalize on normal worries over body shape and image by enhancing your employee wellness program participation through reminders, incentives, and team activities.

Most wellness programs ramp up in the winter, when people are forced indoors, holiday eating increases, and weight gain peaks. That’s when personal goals are often set, new-year resolutions made, and gym memberships soar. Now, six months later, people are emerging like butterflies from their cocoons, and they may not be happy with what they’re seeing. And even if they are, summer is a good time to reiterate your commitment to their health and wellness, and to parlay your interest in their wellbeing into visible action.

This would be a good time to review wellness program participation, to recognize goals achieved, and to encourage others to set their own or new goals. You can help through any of the following steps:

Offer a company-wide incentive for health assessment participation. When everyone participates in your wellness program, everyone benefits. Even though it’s an individual choice, you can encourage more involvement by rewarding the entire team when everyone completes their assessment. This can be through gift cards, a team meal, time off, or other incentives that work for you and your business.

Offer healthcare screenings.  You can bring healthcare screeners to your workplace, or encourage your employees to get screened on their own. Then consider having them compare notes and share their personal results, goals, and accomplishments. Having moral support at the workplace is invaluable, and it strengthens overall teamwork and morale.

Ask employees to talk about wellness efforts. Host a breakfast, lunch, or afternoon gathering (with healthy snacks, of course!) dedicated to your wellness efforts. Ask employees what’s working right about your program, and what could be done differently or better. Soliciting feedback and involving them directly in their own wellness planning allows you to learn what challenges they (and you) are facing in launching or maintaining a successful effort.

Host a “wellness picnic” or event. Chances are you’re going to do some kind of picnic or team outing before the summer’s over, so why not relate it to wellness? If you tie your activity to wellness, you can have themed events, offer healthy food and involve families in your employees’ personal wellness practices. It also shows that you are fully committed to this program. Let your employees plan the event, then you can pick up the check and be the hero.

Sponsor a walk for charity. There is no shortage of worthy causes, only a shortage of funding! So encourage your employees to choose a charity walk or run, build a team, and train for the event. You sponsor them, your company name gets on their tee-shirts, and they work together to improve their health, improve camaraderie, and support a good cause. The same thinking can be applied to softball, golf, or other physical activities.

Introduce a new wellness element. This might be a good time to offer an incentive such as partial reimbursement on health or fitness club membership, involvement in a smoking-cessation program, replacing candy, soda, and unhealthy snacks in vending machines with healthy snacks and drinks, etc. The point is to keep building momentum and to show you’re vested in your team’s wellness…just saying it isn’t enough.

As your company’s leader, it’s up to you to set a positive, energized wellness example, to offer meaningful incentives and opportunities, to encourage teamwork, and to reward effort. These actions will speak far louder than words throughout the year.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Have fun and relax, whether you want to or not

When you take time off for vacation, do you take your laptop or tablet? Do you check your emails and voicemail messages from your smart phone, read long-unopened mail, draft proposals or performance reviews, conduct research or write memos?  If you say “yes” to any of these, you’re in good company…but it’s also likely you’re not good company, and you aren’t getting the real “down time” you need to relax, reduce stress, and replenish yourself.

Behavioral health also is a key component of your overall wellness. Taking time off, learning to relax, reducing stress and effectively dealing with situations that cause panic, anxiety, or other emotional pressure are just as important as eating right and exercising regularly.            

As an employer it’s critical that you encourage your staff to find their own paths to relaxation and better health. That includes uninterrupted vacation time, sick days when they’re needed, “mental health breaks,” and generous wellness programs. The rewards for modeling and facilitating these behaviors include increased productivity, better service, enhanced teamwork, reduced errors and accidents, lower absenteeism, and long-term loyalty.

According to Elizabeth Scott, MS, writing in About.Com on the importance of vacations, many people don’t take vacations often enough, and almost half the readers polled at the About.Com site admitted they never take vacations. When we take our work on vacation with us, she says, we don’t allow ourselves to escape the work mindset vacations are intended to break. The values of vacations, she says, are numerous, including:

  • Stave off burnout, making workers more productive and creative
  • Keep us healthy by reducing stress over short- and longer-term periods
  • Promote overall wellbeing, including improved sleep, mood and a reduction in physical complaints
  • Strengthen bonds with partners and family members, which also reduces overall stress
  • Increased quality of work related to increased quality of life.

May is National Employee Health and Fitness Month, and it’s also National Mental Health Month. Now is a good time to create an environment that supports employee “downtime.” That might include break rooms and clearly respected lunch or dinner periods, picnic tables outdoors, or enough time for employees to walk or grab a quick workout. More proactive options can include friendly competitions and worker recognition for achieving wellness milestones, incentive programs, healthy food in vending machines or your lunchroom, and support for wellness-related classes. Concern for your employees’ wellness will pay you back in spades with a happier staff and more satisfied customers.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

How are you measuring your wellness program’s ROI?

Regardless of the services or products you offer, healthcare costs take a big bite out of your revenue stream, and you need a cost-containment solution to mitigate or control those costs. Since 1999, increases in employer-sponsored healthcare costs have far exceeded the rate of overall inflation; up to as much as four times in some years. In response, many U.S. employers have instituted worksite wellness programs designed to encourage employees to live healthier. The end result is reduced health risk factors for employees and a reduction in year-over-year healthcare spending trends for both employees and their employers.

In a health management study conducted in 2009 with managers of small- to medium-sized businesses across the country,* the majority of respondents stated their worksite wellness programs had been in place for more than two years, long enough to see return on investment (ROI). However, while the survey found that most respondents understand that the impact of a wellness program should be measured, many key metrics to achieving a good assessment remain unmeasured.

To calculate the ROI of employer wellness efforts, you have to understand the relationship between health risk factors and healthcare costs. Risk factors increase the unnecessary and avoidable utilization of medical services that will drive up cost. When organizations understand the correlation between health risk and cost, they can begin to understand how to measure the cost savings from reducing those risks.

Defining Return on Investment

There are two ways to define ROI; reduce the rate of increase in health plan costs and reduce costs in absolute terms. You can measure monetary savings of medical costs in absolute terms (for instance, a savings of $100 per participant from 2010 to 2011). Companies can calculate ROI if it offsets the rate of increase in health plan costs. If the trend was 10 percent per year for four years and becomes 7 percent per year after the implementation of a wellness program, you know it’s working.

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents state their organizations analyze the cost effectiveness, cost savings, and return on investment of their wellness programs. Employee participation is the most tracked metric, with 89 percent stating it is a very important measure. Respondents also list behavioral changes (84 percent) and employee satisfaction (74 percent) as important measures. Of related interest, although 87 percent of respondents state their program tracks participation, only 63 percent say their organization regularly monitors employee satisfaction; 61 percent say organizations assess changes in biometric measures; and 55 percent say their organization assesses and monitors the health status of at-risk employees.

Also of great significance, few respondents are tracking productivity metrics; only 29 percent monitor the impact on absenteeism, and a mere 18 percent monitor the impact on employee turnover, morale or productivity. And barely half of the employers surveyed said they or their current wellness provider have the capability to analyze medical and pharmaceutical claims data, critical components for effective cost analysis.

Behind the Financials

On-the-job performance often takes a back seat when it comes to measuring the ROI of health management, since healthcare cost reduction is the driving force for most wellness programs. While absenteeism is relatively easy to track, many employers do not measure it because it is difficult to determine the cause and reason. Employee morale, productivity and presenteeism are more challenging to measure. Presenteeism reflects an employee’s productivity when well, compared to when they are in pain, sick or stressed.

Participation tracking is very important, as is talking with your employees about their personal goals, their efforts to achieve those goals, and the support they get or feel they’re getting from their workplaces. Companies that are able to demonstrate ROI for wellness initiatives typically share five common elements:

  • A comprehensive program
  • Effective incentives
  • Biometrics
  • Multiple program modalities; and
  • Communication programs.

Initiating best practices

The following are best practices to strengthen wellness program performance and ultimately strengthen ROI:

  1. Design a comprehensive program to apply to all employees. Include both healthy and at-risk employees for program initiatives, as well as health assessments and screenings.
  2. Integrate incentives into plan design. The best programs have engaged and supportive managers who tailor incentives to their unique employee population. Successful wellness efforts include initiatives like premium discounts, cash, prizes, and/or paid time off.
  3. Validate efforts with biometric screenings. Health risk assessments are only one part of the process for tracking employee health. A biometric screening includes three components: blood work, blood pressure and body mass index.
  4. Offer multiple program modalities. Some wellness programs are completely self-directed. The best programs offer several options since one method will not work for the employee population. If employees do not like the offered programs, they will stop participating.
  5.  Engage employees with effective health-awareness programs. The best wellness communication strategy is engaging but not threatening. Efforts should be ongoing throughout the year and customized to your company and its activities. The most successful worksite wellness programs are fun and interesting, and keep employees involved for the long term, while lowering health risks.

The Centers for Disease Control has determined that approximately 75 percent of healthcare costs and productivity losses are related to lifestyle choices. Changing behavior is critical to reducing health care costs, so the more employers support and participate in their employee wellness efforts, the greater the ROI. And remember: When it comes to measurement, take criticism seriously, but not personally. People love to complain. If a company listens carefully, employees will give feedback on program design successes and failures. 

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

*The survey, “Trends in Measuring the ROI of Corporate Wellness,” was conducted in 2009 and sent via email to nearly 21,000 professionals. Nearly one-third of respondents (32 percent) were senior management, C-level, vice president, or director. Another 40 percent were manager level. Most represented small to medium-size businesses, and all worked for companies with a current wellness program in place.

Give Your Employees the Gifts of Health and Wellness

When you operate a small business, every employee makes a significant contribution to service and results. If even one employee experiences frequent sick days, low productivity or an extended absence, it can lead to significant challenges and potential lost revenue or unhappy customers. It also damages morale internally when other employees are forced to pick up the slack.

Small businesses have jumped on the wellness bandwagon, once the purview of large employers only. Employers realize that employee wellness programs can reduce healthcare costs, lessen worker’s compensation claims, decrease absenteeism and employee turnover. Health and wellness initiatives supported in the workplace also increase productivity, reduce stress, and improve workers’ attitudes.

Investments in an employee wellness program can be well worth an employer’s initial cost outlay. Large companies have seen amazing returns on their investments as a result of their corporate wellness programs. According to a case study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a company-wide employee wellness program can save $2.43 for every $1 spent. And according to a report from U.S. Corporate Wellness, a commitment to an employee wellness program can result in a 20 percent to 55 percent reduction in healthcare costs.

As the end of 2011 rapidly approaches, this is a good time for employers on the wellness fence to consider learning more about implementing wellness initiatives that are readily available, simple to execute and can return significant results in stress reduction, customer service, productivity, employee morale and revenue.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Continuing to Beat the Wellness Drum – Why It Matters

As a small business leader, you constantly analyze and evaluate your benefits programs, taking into account growing healthcare expenditures and the personal health and wellness of your employees.

The benefits of progressive, proactive wellness programs are well established. To reduce costs, employees need to become engaged in both their healthcare spending and in reducing their health risks.

Achieving balance through wellness, education, and support

Many organizations are raising employee awareness of health costs and the importance of living healthy lifestyles, while continuing to offer quality healthcare coverage at affordable prices. A standard approach is to focus on wellness, education, and consumer support by weaving wellness into the fabric of your company’s culture.

While one obvious goal of any wellness program is to reduce costs, it is not the primary message. Wellness is about people and improving their quality of life. Successful programs place heavy emphasis on personal outcomes. Employees benefit from access to healthcare education and information on topics ranging from stress management and exercise to healthy cooking. They also benefit from smoking cessation courses and materials, and through an understanding of their own personal responsibility in ensuring their health and wellness.

Making connections between costs and choices

When you integrate wellness and intervention programs, you have the opportunity to educate employees about how the connections between their healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices relate to their premiums and other healthcare costs.

The impact of health data and supportive outreach to drive changes is working for employers across the country. There are a variety of interactive, online health and wellness programs that can help employers enhance the health and productivity of their employees and support a more complete system of care.

The first step, of course, is encouraging your team to complete an in-depth health assessment. This assessment yields revealing, yet actionable information for the individual, and can be used to help guide the employee to programs and actions that will address his or her health needs.

Quality educational courses and materials, sensible fitness activities, and effective communication are all core components of a successful wellness program. Employers must make the connections between medical costs, health risks, and personal responsibility. The more we understand that health risks, many of which are modifiable, drive health utilization and cost, the more effective we can be in helping our employees adjust their behaviors and attitudes toward wellness.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Workplace Obesity Prevention Programs Work

In a comprehensive study conducted just three years ago, the annual healthcare cost of obesity in the United States was estimated to be as high as 147 billion dollars a year. The annual medical burden of obesity had increased to 9.1 percent compared to 6.5 percent when measured in 1998. In fact, medical expenses for obese employees are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for a person with a healthy weight. So, even though an employee’s weight can be a sensitive topic, workplace obesity-prevention programs are effective ways for employers to reduce obesity and lower their healthcare costs, lower absenteeism, and increase employee productivity.

What is the cost of obesity to your organization?

Obesity and the health conditions associated with it, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, and certain types of cancer are responsible for much of the increase in healthcare spending by employers. Obese persons spend 77 percent more money for necessary medications than non-obese persons.

It is estimated that employers spend $13 billion annually on the total cost of obesity. But obesity affects more than healthcare costs — it also has a significant impact on worker productivity because the more chronic medical conditions an employee has, the higher the probability of absenteeism or increased presenteeism (when an employee is physically present but ill or not at the top of “their game.”)

Organizations can benefit directly by improving employee health through wellness programs that include an obesity-prevention component. A survey of CEOs found that “healthier employees” is the number-one reason why companies choose to implement health promotion programs. Additionally, well-designed programs have the potential to extend beyond the worksite and positively influence dependents (spouses and children), and thereby reduce an organization’s overall healthcare costs.

Although it may seem that only large organizations can implement obesity-prevention and control programs, organizations of all sizes have done so successfully. Many types of organizations, including those with few employees and resources, are implementing successful obesity prevention programs.

Why should employers get involved?

Potential benefits to employers for initiating obesity-education efforts include:

  • Reduced cost for chronic diseases
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Improved recruiting efforts
  • Increased worker satisfaction
  • Demonstrated concern for your employees
  • Improved morale

Potential benefits to your employees include:

  • Greater productivity
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Improved fitness and health
  • Additional social opportunities and source of support within the workplace

“CDC’s LEAN Works! Leading Employees to Activity and Nutrition” is a free web-based resource that offers interactive tools and evidence-based resources to design effective worksite obesity-prevention and control programs. It includes an Obesity Cost Calculator  that lets you calculate your company’s ROI. The tool allows employers to create scenarios to estimate the financial impact of specific obesity interventions, including the costs, benefits, and time required to break even.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!