By Shea Stretton
According to a study by The Commonwealth Fund in 2003, 407 million work days were lost due to illness and disease. Granted, some of these reported days were sick days taken when the employee was completely healthy and simply wanted an extra day off for various reasons but the majority was due to legitimate illnesses. These lost days equate to $260 billion in lost productivity for companies throughout the United States. While some illnesses and diseases can not be prevented many more are a result of poor lifestyles and can be overcome with changes in habits.
Over the past decade, many companies across the country have implemented Preventative Wellness Programs. Some have introduced weight loss management plans and overall fitness, stress management and various programs assistance in helping their employees to stop smoking. Many have found that by implementing these programs they have employees who take less sick time off, use their health care programs less often, and have overall increased productivity.
For many companies, the costs of implementing Wellness Programs far outweighs the costs of paying sick time and higher insurance rates for employees who already have or are at risk for serious health issues.
There are several things as employers and Human Resource Directors that you can do to encourage wellness without spending a lot of money on various programs. Encouraging employees to take advantage of their whole lunch hour is a step in the right direction. Most of us quickly eat our lunch so that we can return to work faster to meet deadlines. Often what we eat is something from a local fast food restaurant and this type of behavior has been proven to be a contributing factor in obesity, heart disease, and overall lethargy. Organizing an office walking group can not only burn calories but can help reduce stress. Instead of “smoke breaks,” support your employees in taking “fresh air breaks.” Studies have shown that people who sit at a desk most of the work day tend to gain more weight over a short period of time versus those who have even moderate movement throughout their day. Taking five minutes to get up from their desk and to walk outside for several deep breathes of fresh air will help clear their minds and get their circulation going and will help them to be more productive.