Helping Employees Stay Healthy

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As employer health insurance premiums continue to outpace inflation, companies have an increased financial interest in helping their employees live healthy. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, employer health insurance premiums now average over $18,000 per year, per family. The numbers are more than a little unsettling.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that a smartly managed health assistance program can lower your premiums. An evaluation of the financial impact of health promotion programs conducted by the American Journal of Health Promotion showed health care cost savings of $3.50 and reduced absenteeism for every dollar that companies spent on employee health assistance — an eye-popping 350% return on investment.  Here are a few ways you can help your employees stay healthy, starting today.

1 Take advantage of free resources: Most group insurance providers have health educational resources that are free for the taking. It usually just takes a phone call or a few minutes filling out a web form and opting in to their distribution network, to receive useful material that you can pass on to your employees.

2 Help employees to stop smoking: Current estimates peg the additional health care costs that businesses incur from employees who smoke at $1,420 per smoker. Compound this with the fact that an employee who takes an average of four 10-minute smoke breaks per work day effectively works a month less per year than one who doesn’t, and you now have ample reason to offer your employees free or discounted access to a smoking cessation program.

3 Establish support groups: Work-centered support groups such as weight loss groups not only help employees stay healthy, they are also great for morale.  Establishing a support group that meets before or after work provides a convenience to employees that can help them succeed where they might otherwise fail — and you don’t even need to hire an expert.

4 Lobby for group discounts: Spending a few hours calling local health clubs to see if they’re willing to offer discounted group memberships to your employees is a cost-free way to encourage your employees toward fitness and a win for everyone involved.

5 Organize a health fair: One of the keys to lowering health care costs is prevention. Unfortunately, most people don’t stay on top of their yearly health screenings. Offering a free on-site health fair where employees can screen themselves for general ailments such as high blood pressure is a good way to head off costly emergencies down the line.

6 Promote the EAP: Mental health issues tend to be overlooked as a cause of increased company health care expenses, but allowing employees who are struggling with mental health issues and common life stressors can create higher rates of absenteeism, lowered work output, and drops in productivity.

Providing employees with professional, confidential mental health counseling free of charge will help your employees to manage a host of potential problems that can negatively impact performance, compromise on-the-job safety and lead to other health conditions that may become costly to treat.

7 Be creative: People respond to incentives, so why not find a few positive incentives that will encourage your employees to live healthier lifestyles? Here’s a few ideas:

  • Organize interested employees into teams and hold a weight loss competition, with prizes going to the team that collectively loses the most weight.
  • Create a “Share Your Healthy Recipes Day” and encourage employees to bring in a batch of their best creation for others to try.
  • Provide a small year-end bonus to employees who meet certain health metrics.
  • Schedule a daily pre-work walk on company grounds followed by free coffee to all participants.

In a business world that is growing more competitive every day, a healthy workforce can be the difference. Healthy employees are not only cheaper to insure, they’re also happier, more productive, and miss fewer workdays. If you aren’t taking basic steps to help your employees be healthy, you’re missing an easy opportunity to improve your company’s bottom line.

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