Poor employee health costs U.S. organizations billions of dollars a year. Decreased work productivity due to health-related absenteeism can have a devastating effect on organizational performance. Preventable disease accounts for the majority of health care costs today. Fortunately, there’s also some good news. There are five steps organizations can take to enhance employee health and fitness, to decrease the risk of disease and injury, to save millions of dollars, and to improve overall performance.
1. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements. Flexible Work Arrangements are work schedules that allow employees to work outside of the standard 8:00am to 5:00pm range, while maintaining a high level of service to internal and external customers. This provides employees with the opportunity to create work schedules that are more conducive to their work-life balance and overall performance. Common flexible work arrangements include Peak Hour Flextime (flexibility in starting and quitting times), Compressed Workweek (working full-time over 4 or fewer days per week), Telecommuting (working from a remote location), Job Sharing (two people share the duties and responsibilities of one full-time job), and Informal Flexibility (requests for changes in a regular schedule for personal reasons).
2. Provide health screening services. Screening services are an excellent way to help employees understand their current health status. The most common services include health risk appraisal, blood lipid surveys (e.g., cholesterol, glucose), blood pressure checks, body composition measurement (e.g., Body Mass Index, body-fat percentage), muscular strength and flexibility assessment, cardiovascular fitness testing, and bone density screening.
3. Provide educational programs and services. Educational programs can include classroom-based seminars, online learning programs and print materials. Common topics include nutrition, weight management, stress management, work-life balance, disease prevention, managing health issues (e.g., hypertension, diabetes), starting an exercise program, cardiovascular fitness, strength training, children and exercise, improving sleep, women’s health, men’s health, and safety (e.g., CPR, first aid, back safety).
4. Offer behavior change programs. These programs can be a great benefit to employees who are struggling with a specific health or fitness issue. Some examples include smoking cessation counseling, weight loss programs and stress reduction programs.
5. Provide a fitness center for employees. While the first four steps are relatively inexpensive, building a fitness center for staff members requires a significant financial investment. However, a corporate gym can be more cost-effective than the other activities because research has demonstrated that employees who use their company gym are more productive, get along better with co-workers, and manage work demands more effectively. In addition, corporate exercise programs can pay off in reduced health care costs, absence and stress, and higher morale and productivity. If the cost of providing a fitness facility is too great, an alternative is to offer discounts or reimbursements for employees who join a local gym.
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