National Safety Month, Week 1 Theme: Employee Wellness

June is National Safety Month. The National Safety Council has designated a theme for each week. Employee wellness is this week’s theme.

Ed Coates of our employee benefits team put together these tips for promoting a healthier, more productive workforce.

Obesity costs employers $73B a year 

Unhealthy habits can affect a person’s work performance, motivation, quality of life and self-worth. From an employer’s perspective, an unhealthy worker can contribute to increased health care costs and workers’ compensation claims related to health problems:

  •  70% – Percentage of health care claims attributed to preventable illnesses
  • 184 – Average lost work days attributed to obese employees per 100 employees, compared with 14 lost days per 100 employees for non-obese employees
  • $51,019 – Average cost per medical claim for the obese, compared with $7,503 for the non-obese

Employers can reduce the impact of obesity on their workforces and their bottom lines if they invest in wellness programs. According to the Wellness Councils of America, more than 80 percent of U.S. businesses with 50 or more employees have health promotion programs. These programs are designed to enhance the health of a company’s most important asset—its employees.

Here are some of the benefits of investing in employee health and wellness.

Stress reduction. The American Institute of Stress cited an “Attitudes in the American Workplace” poll that showed 80 percent of employees felt stress at work. Job stress can be a more common factor of health complaints than financial or family problems, often causing physical, emotional or psychological pain. Many corporate wellness programs include some type of physical activity, such as yoga or walking classes. Meditation and physical activity are two common ways to reduce stress, and wellness programs can provide opportunities for stress relief.

Improved health and morale. A 2009 case study from Preventing Chronic Disease found that employees who engaged in more physical activity had better knowledge of disease management, better eating habits and smoked less than they did before a wellness program was implemented. Employers can provide wellness tools that are educational and practical for their employees to implement during work and at home. Companies that have an onsite gym or provide fresh fruit for their employees make healthy tools more accessible during a busy workday.   

Reduced health care costs. Unhealthy employees can contribute to increased health care costs. Many of those costs are linked to tobacco use, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. Wellness programs provide employees with tools to reduce health risks and the knowledge to make healthier choices.

Workers’ compensation costs.  A Duke University Medical Center study found that obese workers filed twice the number of workers’ compensation claims, had seven times higher medical costs from those claims, and lost 13 times more days of work from on-the-job injury or illness than non-obese workers.

The researchers found that workers with a BMI greater than 40 had 11.65 claims per 100 workers, compared with 5.8 claims per 100 in workers within the recommended BMI range. In terms of average lost days of work, the obese averaged 183.63 per 100 employees, compared with 14.19 per 100 for those in the recommended range.

Appeal to potential employees. Prospective employees often look at the pay, vacation and insurance plan of potential employers. A wellness program can be another employee benefit on the company’s resume.  

Reduced absenteeism. American Sports Data shows that individuals who exercise frequently stay home from work an average of 2.11 days annually, compared with 3.06 days for individuals who are not active. This will keep employees productive and reduce costs associated with hiring a temporary worker.

Increased company loyalty. Retention of key employees is key to productivity and success.  Providing a corporate wellness program can help current employees feel more valued. A wellness program rewards employees for hard work and lets them know that the company recognizes the importance of its employees’ health.

Now that you understand the benefits of promoting employee wellness, your next goal is to launch a program. Texas Mutual has learned the following components are critical to a successful wellness program:

  • Executive and management support, including leading by example, encouraging participants and promoting a culture of wellness.
  • Frequent communication, including advance notice of program features, consistent messaging and branding, and sharing success stories.
  • Implement and build program slowly, and apply standards fairly and consistently.
  • Use program data and results to adjust and enhance the program accordingly.

Some companies offer incentives for employees to participate in corporate wellness programs. Incentives can include time off, prizes or reduced health insurance cost, as well as improving their personal health. Show your employees the value of the wellness program, and encourage them to take advantage of the resources the company provides.

Texas Mutual has a long history of supporting wellness at work.  The company provides a variety of wellness tools and resources for its employees to reduce health risks and promote healthy behaviors, including health risk assessments, fitness centers at all locations, free yoga and cardio-focused classes located onsite, prizes, apparel and reduced health insurance premiums.

For more employee wellness resources, visit the National Safety Council.

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One Response to National Safety Month, Week 1 Theme: Employee Wellness

  1. Pingback: Workers’ comp: What’s on your mind? | Texas Mutual Insurance Company blog

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