A majority of the population of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is now classified as overweight or obese, with weight-related health costs accounting for up to 10 percent of total healthcare spending. Levels of obesity are also rising in the developing world.
Excess weight can lead to multiple health issues, increasing the number of sick days as well as health insurance premiums. In addition, poor health costs U.S. companies US$227 billion a year in lost productivity, while U.K. companies are losing £29 billion a year (US$45 billion) through sick leave costs. With lack of physical activity during modern office workdays a core contributing factor to the sedentary lifestyles that are increasing obesity, encouraging exercise is in everyone’s interests.
Boosting the fitness levels of employees is not just about cutting the number of sick days. Encouraging your staff to exercise has plenty of additional benefits, with one meta-study of companies with active employee wellness initiatives showing a 25 percent decrease in sick days taken, 24.5 percent reduction in health costs, 32 percent reduction in worker compensation and disability costs, and an average reported cost-benefit ratio of 5.56. The question is no longer so much whether you should invest in employee wellness, but how.
Numerous studies have shown positive business benefits from encouraging employees to exercise, not least a reduction in health insurance premiums, as healthier employees tend to need less medical treatment. But there are plenty of other business benefits:
There are several approaches that companies can take that can help even the most reluctant employee to start adopting a more healthy lifestyle. However, it’s important to remember that to get the benefit it is important that employees see the exercise as enjoyable and practical, not as a chore. Here are just a few:
It has become a truism that employees are businesses’ biggest asset. Just as you would invest in keeping your machinery operating at its best through regular maintenance, so investing in maintaining your staff’s health is increasingly vital. Not only could it be good for productivity, but studies have shown that such programs can be vital in both attracting and retaining top talent. With staff turnover rates increasing across the world, if you want to thrive in the long-term, investing in employee health and wellness could be an increasingly important strategy to keep your people active, productive and engaged.
“Instead of viewing exercise as something we do for ourselves—a personal indulgence that takes us away from our work—it’s time we started considering physical activity as part of the work itself. The alternative, which involves processing information more slowly, forgetting more often, and getting easily frustrated, makes us less effective at our jobs and harder to get along with for our colleagues.” – Harvard Business Review
“Workplace wellness and community prevention programs are a win-win way to make a real difference in improving our health and bottom line all at once.” – Jeff Levi, Executive Director, Trust for America’s Health
“Employees are eight times more likely to be engaged when wellness is a priority in the workplace.” – World Economic Forum
Are Wellness Programs Right for Your Company? – Entrepreneur, May 2015
Companies Take a Broader View of Employee Wellness Programs – The Washington Post, June 19, 2015
The Dark Side of Corporate Wellness Programs – Fast Company, June 8, 2015
Meta-evaluation of Workplace Health Promotion Economic Return Studies – The Chapman Institute
Measuring Wellness: From Data to Insights – Economist Intelligence Unit