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How Are Businesses and Governments Boosting Workforce Health?

Published: October 5, 2016

According to a research conducted by the American Productivity Audit, companies are getting quite concerned with the increasing amount of loss in productivity as a result of a family or a personal health problem. Most commercial or health organizations have teamed up to come up with wellness programs to encourage community members as well as companies to think about creating a healthier workforce, instead of just a productive one. Their argument is that a healthier workface will automatically prove to be a productive one.

Larger companies are already offering their employees wellness and health programs. However, smaller companies have yet to catch up to this trend. Most employees take a paid leave off to take a child to a doctor or a hospital. They might even come to work sick. That leaves other employees at the risk of contracting the disease that they are currently suffering from. That kind of behavior is costing U.S. employers $226 billion each year.

Most companies hesitate to invest in wellness programs because they fail to understand the true extent of the cost of an unhealthy and sick workforce. They cannot take a day off; so, they remain unproductive at work. Buzz Stewart, the main author of this productivity study, and his team didn’t just focus on absenteeism; they also focused on presenteeism, when the employees don’t call in sick or take a day off and instead come to work sick, while having little to no productivity.

The cost of such behavior is often invisible until the health-related absences are tracked. When the research team conducted a study with over 29,000 workers, they asked the employees to recall the health-related conditions that had affected their productivity in the past two weeks. The results stated that companies are losing up to $1,685 per employee due to health-related conditions every year. 80% of the respondents stated that they suffered from at least one health-related problem in the past two weeks. The number went up when smokers came into the mix.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most costly health conditions are smoking, diabetes, healthcare associated infections and viruses, asthma, pregnancies and high blood pressure. Dr. Laura Seeff, director of CDC’s Office of Health Systems Collaboration, stated that an employee can benefit from 18 recommended interventions. They can help a participant or a willing employee to completely change their lifestyle and behavioral patterns with a help of a life coach, practical lesson and a support group.

The Chamber Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched the “Health Means Business” last year to solve the known health-related problems and to promulgate the known solutions for them. According to Crespin, corporate entities and businesses, as well as government organizations, have a strong role to play in this situation. They can bring about the change in the perspective in which we view healthcare. This can act as a prelude for a transformational change across the country, especially when a wellness program is customized according to each person’s requirements.

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