Eastern Kentucky University
Number of Employees with Health Risks
It is estimated that nearly 117 million Americans (49.8% of the population) have at least 1 of the 10 most common chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, hypertension, hepatitis, arthritis, asthma, weak or failing kidneys and COPD among others.
The most common chronic conditions Americans have include cancer, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. 22.7% of Americans have arthritis, 11.4% have heart disease, 9.1% have diabetes while 8.4% have cancer. However, Americans between the ages of 18-44 years have a lower prevalence rate. Only 7.4% have arthritis, 3.7% have heart disease, 2.5% have diabetes and 1.9% have cancer. The highest prevalence rates are in senior adults aged between 45-65 years. The prevalence rates in this age group are; 30.2%, 12.3%, 12.3% and 9.2% for arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and cancer respectively.
The Relationship Between Health and Workplace Productivity
Over 93% of business leaders are in agreement that employee health has a significant or very significant impact on productivity. In the United States, employee absenteeism due to health-related problems cost employers over $225.8 billion annually. This translates to around $1,685 per employee.
The top 5 organizational priorities influenced by employee health are; productivity (62%), performance (60%), employee engagement or morale (41%), benefit cost reduction (30%) and safety (29%). Firms with 1-99 employees pay $0.18/hour for sick leave for each employee. On the other hand, firms with over 100 employees pay $0.37/hour for sick leave for each employee. The ever-rising workers’ compensation costs have been shown to be related to individual health risks including physical inactivity, smoking, poor physical health and life dissatisfaction.
Importance of Health and Wellness in the Workplace
The average American spends at least 40 hours/week at work. This translates to over 2,000 hours a year, minus any overtime hours worked. As you can see, Americans spend much of their time at work. As a result 60% of them feel stress about work while 42% feel stress about personal health concerns. According to a recent survey, 42% of respondents revealed that they left their job due to an overly stressful environment while 35% are considering changing jobs.
Health and Wellness Programs
It is estimated that 98% of large firms offer at least one wellness program while 78% of small firms offer at least one wellness program. The most common wellness offerings by both large and small firms are flu shots, with 87% of large firms and 52% of small firms having this type of program. Others include employee assistance programs, online resources for healthy living, smoking cessation programs, on-site exercise facilities or gym membership discounts, wellness newsletters, lifestyle or behavioral coaching, biometric screening, weight loss programs, nutrition and healthy living classes among others.
Encouraging Employee Participation in Wellness Programs
Employees often give a variety of reasons for not participating in employee wellness programs. Around 69% of them claim they can make wellness changes on their own, 56% claim they do not have enough time to participate, 53% do not need to participate because they are already healthy while 43% reported that the program was not conveniently located. It is interesting to note that 43% of employees do not participate in these programs because they do not have enough information about these programs. Lastly, 33% of employees avoid wellness programs because they suspect their employer will know about their personal health information.
The significant increase in employee participation in wellness programs, by about 20%, can be attributed to financial incentives offered by employers. These incentives are offered by only 19% of firms. Around 36% of large firms are likely to offer financial incentives to encourage employee participation in wellness programs compared to 18% of small firms. The most common types of financial incentives include; free travel, gift cards, merchandise and cash.
The Impact of Health and Wellness Programs
Health and wellness programs have helped reduce smoking by over 7%. Overweight and obese employees have also lost 5% of their weight. Furthermore, comprehensive programs reduced disability by 14% over a two-year period.
In terms of absenteeism and related costs, these programs have reduced sick leave by over 25%, and reduced the cost of absenteeism by $2.73 for every $1 spent on these programs. More than 87% of these savings were attributed to programs that focus on reducing complications as well as health care utilization for individuals with already-diagnosed conditions.
These programs have had many cost benefits. For instance, they reduced the monthly health care costs per member by about $30. Furthermore, medical costs reduced by over $3.27 for every $1 spent on wellness programs. Programs that promote exercise and proper nutrition accounted for 13% of health care savings.
As a result, 87% of employees agree that employee wellness programs positively impact company culture. The top 3 offerings are physical activity programs (72.4%), healthy on-site food choices (65.5%) and on-site gyms or fitness classes (62.3%). Colgate, Navistar and Johnson & Johnson are examples of companies that have recorded impressive results with these programs.