As a human resources professional I believe one of my jobs is to provide employees with a healthy work/life balance. Not just because it’s good for them, but business wise it’s good for the company too. Unhealthy workers cost businesses an estimated $153 billion a year in lost productivity.
In keeping with that train of thought, this year my department decided to try implementing a healthy worker program. How it works is that in exchange for certain incentives (gift certificates, iPads, discounts on coverage, etc) we encouraged employees to go, for free, to a lab and get a complete exam that will let them know their health stats on blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and various other areas.
Now while I personally would’ve created something more interactive and on going (but that’s a different post), I have to admit that it was a good start. In talking to my friends, many of them don’t have a healthy worker program at their workplace; no gym memberships, corporate sports team … nothing. Many of them wished they could afford to go to their local gym with the help of a company discount or had healthy food options in the office as opposed to the chips and soda vending machines currently in place.
It got me to thinking, with America’s growing obesity problem constantly in the headlines and billions being lost each year, why don’t more companies encourage their workers to live healthy?
It seems to me that it would cost less to implement some kind of health initiative than to do nothing and lose money due to chronically ill employees. Yet most employers see this as an unnecessary expense. While I agree that a healthy worker program alone is not going to turn a couch potato into a track star, there are definitely other factors to consider, I do feel that providing healthy options to workers not only encourages them to get healthy, but also provides them with options that they might not have access to otherwise.
Much like other company benefits, it will take a while for healthy worker programs to become commonplace in the workforce. Employers and employees will need to realize that In the long run these programs are a win-win for everyone involved. Employees get healthy lives, employers get productive employees and we all get to enjoy this thing called life a little bit longer. And isn’t that what matters most?
Does your company support healthy living? If not, would having a healthy worker program make a difference in your life and/or view of the company?