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Posted: June 15, 2009

Corporate wellness ain’t cutting it

Go beyond gym memberships and health screenings to improve productivity

Glenn Hattem

If you could snap your fingers and replace your existing work force with world-class athletes, would you do it? Have the determined Lance Armstrong head up your sales force, the workhorse Michael Phelps run your IT department or the powerhouse Serena Williams perform operations? Okay, so that’s obviously not realistic. But imagine the difference if, at the very least, all of your employees were healthy and fit? How much of an increase would you see in job performance?

There are plenty of studies undeniably evidencing a healthy workforce’s impact on a company’s bottom line. Take this study by Duke University, for instance, that examined workers' compensation data for more than 11,000 workers, who received health-risk appraisals over a seven-year period. The results were published in the Journal of Internal Medicine:

•    Obese employees filed twice the number of workers' compensation claims compared to non-obese employees; the medical costs from those claims were seven times higher.
•    Obese employees stayed out of work 13 times longer after a work-related injury or illness; their medical claims cost (per 100 employees per year) was $51,019 compared to $7,503 for non-obese workers.
•    Obese employees lost 183 days of work, per 100 employees, compared to 14 days for non-obese workers (that’s 13 times more!)
•    Overweight employees took four times the number of days off after being injured or getting sick at work.

These are extremely eye-opening statistics. Fortunately, there are also studies on the other side of the coin showing a positive impact with healthy employees. Per www.fitnessworks.com, a study of 200 people at three major corporations revealed that an employee’s quality of life, mental performance and time management was 15 percent better on days when they exercised. Imagine what that means if the majority of your workers are exercising on a daily basis!

So, with today’s heath care costs climbing and employee fitness levels and productivity in the workplace declining, what are your options?

Companies are starting to recognize the benefits of corporate wellness programs as a way of adding value to the employee package and hopefully limiting health care costs. The problem is that, with traditional models, corporate wellness programs can tend to cost lots of money with little to no measurable results.

Providing free gym memberships is one popular avenue, but realistically, they are mainly used by people who are already fit and passionate about a more proactive lifestyle and not enough by those who could seriously use the help the most. Onsite medical screenings and evaluations provide another route, but they generally only tell you “the what”– or what the problems are – without offering “the how to”– comprehensive solutions that produce real change.

Yes, creating a fitness culture in the workplace does improve morale by showing concern for employees, but encouragement alone is not good enough if you actually want to see a significant impact on the bottom line.

From 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, I’ve learned that people need guidance and an easy-to-follow, structured plan to lead them to their desired goals. The best way for an organization to capitalize on this is to bring in an experienced third-party provider, who understands that the key objectives go beyond annual corporate cost savings.

The real mission has to be to deliver a proven, time-efficient and affordable approach to exercise and nutrition that provides employees with high-quality health and wellness services that actually work.

Working with a fitness expert also takes the responsibility off management or HR to follow through with getting results and allows the company to stay out of employee’s sensitive, private information.

Then you, as the employer, get to step in for the “fun” part, which is putting together contests and offering incentives, such as vacations, gifts or other prizes, that allow the company to share in the success stories and create positive exposure.

A company’s most important asset is its workforce. If you truly want to experience a significant improvement in the performance of your employees and the overall energy in your workplace, improved employee fitness is a way to achieve those goals. 

Outside expertise can help you bring about improved employee health and allow you to assemble and retain a workforce that is capable, reliable and committed. And, let’s not forget:  Odds are, healthier employees will mean a healthier bottom line, too.

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Fitness expert Glenn Hattem, author of “Get It Back,” is an authority on corporate fitness and helping to boost employee productivity and individual responsibility for optimal health. He has helped individuals and organizations around the world achieve and sustain their fitness goals. Go to www.getitbacksystem.com for more information.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

This is very true. A company will never exist in the absence of its workforce. On the other hand, the working public will have no work in the absence of companies (vice versa). And since it's the management who should give first what's best for its workers, the health concern should seriously be look upon to- so in return, a good work result is always at the forefront. As a gift to loyal workers you are right here in saying that healthy workers will yield better work result. <a href="http://www.bradfordsbakers.com">hampers</a> By hampers on 2009 07 16

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