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July 2008 return to the table of contents

The Effects of Obesity in the Workplace Affecting Companies Negatively

Besides their other problems, the increasing size of employees is worrying even small business leaders.

As indicated in a study by this newsletter's parent and other measurements, the problem is growing and business leaders are concerned.

With health premium costs soaring and the need for reducing insurance usage, smaller companies are encouraging workers to lose weight. Nonetheless, obesity in the workplace is a problem. 

In addition to increased health insurance premium and claims costs, obese workers also tend to take more days off from work due to illness and can be more likely to suffer on-the-job injuries, which can lower productivity for the work team and company.

To combat these issues, many employers are offering wellness programs and involving employees in helping each other make healthier lifestyle decisions, including nutritional awareness, exercise, and reducing problematic behaviors such as smoking and drinking.

These programs can be very inexpensive to implement, even for a small company.  Wellness challenges can be implemented that help employees stay accountable to their peers, either on an individual or a team-basis. 

For example, a program that gives points for to each individual on a team for getting 30 minutes or more of exercise a day or for getting all of their servings of items from the food chart. 

These points can then be accumulated toward an overall team goal that can be an inexpensive reward or some type of company-wide recognition. 

Companies can also allow employees to create clubs to support each other, such as a weight-loss group that holds each other accountable for eating choices and weight loss. 

This doesn't cost the company anything, except a space onsite for the group to meet, but this type of program can have great success in motivating employees to make healthier choices.

While larger companies often create an on-site fitness center for their staff, small businesses can often partner with a local fitness club to give discounts to employees who sign up for a membership and work out a certain number of times per month. 

Many health insurance companies are now offering discounts to larger fitness clubs and employers can choose to add this onto their plan for a small fee.

Health insurance companies will also often have wellness educators on staff now that can come to a company's site and do educational talks.  It is to the health insurance company's benefit to promote healthy living as much as possible in order to reduce claims later on for behaviors that have led to illnesses or injuries. 

Employers can also network with their local Chamber of Commerce or even colleges in their area to find low-cost speakers who can come in over a lunch hour and meet with interested employees on a particular wellness topic.

Wellness programs need to be constantly communicated and publicized to employees in order to be successful.  It needs to be in the employee's daily life and a focus of the corporate culture.  It can be talked about in employee newsletters, department or company meetings, inserts in paychecks, etc. 

Companies who are considering a wellness program can start out by conducting an employee survey to find out what types of interests the employees have and what types of information or programs they are looking for. 

Often, there will be employees who are knowledgeable about a topic, such as yoga or meditation that will then offer to do a free session with employees over a lunch hour.  

Employers can also create a wellness committee of employees that can help guide and create the program.  Programs will often be more successful if there is employee buy-in early on and employees can "sell" the program to their peers.

For companies that are interested and need ideas, they can also check out the Internet, which is a great resource for companies who want free or low cost materials. 

Wellness programs in today's society make smart business sense, regardless of the size of the company, and are a great way to motivate, recognize and reward your employees for making healthy lifestyle choices, while also helping to improve the bottom line for health insurance costs.

For a white paper on wellness and the company click to:


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