Studies show that preventable chronic health conditions are the biggest contributors to employee medical claim costs and health insurance premiums. The healthcare costs are rising, and so is the number of claims in the US.
A CDC study showed that almost 4 out of 10 of the most expensive chronic health conditions costing employers their healthcare costs are related to cardiovascular conditions. The 4 most common conditions include – high blood pressure, angina pectoris, heart attack, and diabetes. Studies show employers can save up to $730 billion in healthcare costs by just improving employee lifestyle habits.
In addition to costing employers their wellness dollars towards expensive healthcare costs, chronic health conditions also impact workplace productivity. Studies show the 5 major risk factors that cost US employers almost $36.4 billion annually towards lost productivity are – high blood pressure, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and smoking. Apart from these 5 risk factors, stress is another major occupational health risk that has become more dangerous than obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. These health conditions, along with other workplace factors can disturb employee engagement, costing employers almost $450 – $550 Billion in lost productivity.
Creating Effective Employee Wellbeing Programs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came up with a Workplace Health Promotion Program as a part of its Division of Population Health to encourage employers across the country to build effective employee wellbeing programs for their workforce. CDC’s Workplace Health Model allows organizations to implement a comprehensive approach to address different chronic health conditions and their risk factors, simultaneously.
Ideally, employee wellness programs are a group of workplace engagement strategies that aim to improve workforce health and wellbeing. These strategies may include healthy habit programs, wellness challenges, benefits packages, incentives, and other gamification approaches. Comprehensive employee wellness programs also offer health coaching, on-site fitness facilities, disease management programs, smoking-free zones, claims or reimbursements for preventive screenings, regular health risk assessments, and likewise.
Focusing on small to medium-sized businesses, CDC supports employers to promote workplace health as they may not have the resources or enough knowledge about employee wellbeing factors. CDC’s workplace health promotion programs primarily focus on –
- Assessing workplace efforts
- Researching to identify the best strategies
- Training employers
Assessing workplace efforts
CDC’s Workplace Health in America survey conducted in 2016 – 2017 assessed the workplace wellbeing programs across the US. The outcomes of this survey revealed that almost 46% of organizations across the country were offering workplace wellbeing programs. Most of these programs primarily focused on nutrition, physical activity, and stress management. A Health ScoreCard made by CDC helped employers assess their wellbeing programs and understand where they can do better. The data from the Workplace Health survey and ScoreCard can be used to implement employee wellness solutions that are in line with the US guidelines and evaluate their progress.
Researching to identify the best strategies
CDC has been very supportive of research to help employers identify and understand the best effective employee health and wellbeing strategies. CDC’s Workplace Health Resource Center offers almost 650 resources and tools that help organizations build customized employee wellbeing programs that fit their specific employee health and wellbeing needs. Most of these resources include case studies, webinars, tool kits, and templates.
Apart from helping to assess and identify the best employee wellbeing strategies, CDC also works to train employers to design and promote workplace health programs. Work@Health, an employer training program of CDC, partners with associations and health departments to support workplace health initiatives. While more than 700 employers have participated in this training program, almost 150 additional participants completed these trainer sessions.
Promoting Healthy Habits at the Workplace
Nutrition and diet play a huge role in health and wellbeing, and so, CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity works to promote healthy workplace eating habits. CDC supports workplace healthy eating programs by working on their vending machine policies, cafeteria options, and farm-to-fridge plans. In addition to nutrition, CDC also promotes physical activity by designing worksites and transport routes to ensure adequate physical movement.
According to reports, Americans spend almost 1/3rd of their day for 5 days a week at their workplace. Well-designed employee wellness programs that aim to reduce health and safety risks can reach up to almost 157 million US employees. A healthier workforce with reduced chronic health disease risks can reflect lower healthcare costs, lesser insurance and compensation claims, and reduced indirect costs like lost productivity due to illness.