As a business owner, you’re concerned about the rising cost of health care. For HR managers and other decision makers, the impact that employee health and wellness makes on the bottom line becomes more significant every year.
A recent Duke University study has highlighted the impact of one aspect of the health care challenge: workplace obesity and its cost to employers.
The obesity and the workplace research, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, studied employees who were normal weight, overweight, and obese and the effect the different groups had on a company’s medical expenditures and productivity levels. Here’s what researchers found:
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- The most obese employees, who made up nearly 40% of the obese workforce, were responsible for about 60% of the total cost of obesity to an employer.
- Obese employees also have decreased productivity at work (called presenteeism) due to health problems. It’s important to note, though, that the study found that normal weight employees also lost productivity due to health problems.
- The more obese an employee in the study was, the more money he or she cost the employer. For example, they estimated an overweight woman costs the company nearly $800 extra while a very obese woman (defined as someone with a BMI of more than 35) cost nearly $7000. Very obese men also cost employers significantly more than overweight men.
- American employers lose about $73 billion to obesity in the workplace issues.
The takeaway? Reducing obesity in the workplace, especially among those with the highest BMI, could save employers a significant amount of money both in the cost of health care and in productivity levels.
But obesity is just a portion of the larger health in the workplace challenge.
While this study focused on the impact of the high health care costs associated with workplace obesity, the fact is that rising health care costs make it “mission critical” for employers to encourage good health and wellness for all employees, from the two-pack a day smoker to the employee exhausted from working, raising children, and caring for an ailing senior parent.
Want to save money on health care costs? Consider investing in programs that create a healthy workplace. Programs that focus on weight management, healthful living, and stress relief might require an initial investment of time and money—but the payoff is a potentially significant reduction in the medical and productivity costs associated with unhealthy lifestyles. Start investing in employee health and wellness today.
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