Are you an employer? Do you know how much money you lose when an employee is absent? Are you an employee? Do you know how much your pocketbook is effected by your co-worker’s unhealthy habits? It is interesting to watch the debates unfold – Employer or Dictator? Employee rights or Employer overhead? Obesity is a big player in a company’s bottom line.
A few years ago headlines were made when workers were fired for chosing to continue smoking. Recently, another company decided to test employees for tobacco use and fired those who would not comply. Many employers admit they do not want to hire obese people because they know they will cost more in health care. Other employers pay obese people less or charge them more for health care coverage. None of this is considered discrimination at this time and the debate rages: Is it?
Many employers have a very good argument. It costs an average of $660 per un-planned employee absence not to mention extra work for other employees which may result in lower morale, co-worker resentment, and a less productive work enviornemtn. A survey done by CCH, Incorporated found that personal illness was the single most common reason for last minute no-shows. According to Watson Wyatt Worldwide, employees who have a chronic or castastrophic illness account for the majority of health care costs for employers and healthy employees accounted for only eleven percent. This is important because many of our most debilitating diseases are linked closely with obesity and lifestyle choice. The costs of obesity continue to rise and in the face of a broken health care system employers are taking note and analyzing data to protect the bottom line.
Smoking is another lifestyle choice employers are beginning to regulate. More employers are beginning to look seriously at smoking and their employees.Wisconsin businesses lose $1.4 billion in worker productivity each year due to sickness and premature death caused by smoking, this according to the UW-extention program. On average, smokers miss 6.16 days of work per year where their non-smoking cohorts only miss 3.86. Not to mention longer and more frequent breaks taken by smokers. Although, smoke breaks are largely accepted in our work culture exercise breaks are seen as mis-use of company time even when research backs increased productivity, decreased absenteesim, and better morale all contriburting positive results to the bottom line.
Employers are finding positive results with employee wellness programs. Encouraging employees to adopt healthy habits is working. Employee fitness programs & and smoking cessation efforts help. Both contribute to the bottom line by decreasing employee absence and increasing employee productivity. As employees adopt better eating habits their concentration improves and again the company benefits. Although, it is well documented, many employers continue to react to employee health problems rather than take a proactive stance and support employees in healthy lifestyle changes.
As employers continue to try and curb expenses to compete in amerioca’s marketplace you can bet they will continue to pay close attention to employee lifestlye habits as they affect absence rates, productivity, and employee morale. The debate will continue to rage over obesity and lifestyle and employees will continue to be affected both tangibly and intangilbly by their co-workers un-healthy habits. It is time to look around your office, is the place you spend the majority of your concetration and time contributing to your health?