Comorbidities may be costing you a bundle. There’s overwhelming research that shows employees with certain health conditions are more likely to get injured on the job, and then take longer to heal and return to work. Consider the following effect on workers’ compensation:
- Diabetes average workers’ comp medical costs 5x higher
- Smokers are 40% more likely to have a work injury
- Obesity is associated with 2x likelihood of a workplace injury, 7x higher workers’ comp medical costs, and 13x more days away from work
Employers can take a multitude of actions to help workers become healthier. And now’s a good time, as many people put ‘a healthier lifestyle’ atop their New Year’s resolution lists.
An effective wellness program can not only save money, but it can expand the bottom line through increased productivity from healthier workers. However, employers need to understand it is a long-term investment and the return might not be seen for several years.
Companies of any size can implement some type of wellness program. In fact, a recent survey showed more than half of employers with at least 50 employees have adopted a program. Most important is to make sure the program is specific to the company’s culture and needs. That said, there are several elements that can help result in a successful wellness program.
4 Keys To A Healthier Workforce Through Wellness
Getting employees to participate in a wellness program has to start at the top. C-suite executives need to be engaged or the effort will have little chance of success.
Senior managers need to understand the business case that prevention can reduce injuries and mean more money for the organization. Larger companies may have the advantage of being able to use claims data and health plan utilization showing healthier workers have fewer claims and shorter recoveries. For smaller companies, information from organizations such as NCCI or WCRI can help make the case. There is also publicly available evidence from OSHA and NIOSH.
A look at various company records and reports — absenteeism, productivity, health insurance costs and biometric screening, for example, can help determine what types of things are needed for a company. Goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and relevant, and time based. Goals can be set by a group of workers representing many or all departments and at all levels to help ensure employee buy-in to the program. The group can be a formalized wellness team, in which each participant has various roles and responsibilities.
Integration With Safety
Reducing workplace injuries and improving overall employee health should go hand-in-hand with safety programs. Breaking down silos can expedite the effectiveness of both programs. Departments should be instructed to share information and resources. In larger companies, that means departments involved in any aspect of health benefits and health protection should communicate.
Communication and Education
Newsletters, emails, and posters are among the ways employers can let employees know about all the various components of the wellness program. They can also be used to help instruct workers on healthy lifestyle changes they can make. For example, low-calorie does not necessarily equal healthier foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grain products. People who understand how to read food labels are more inclined to buy food that offers good nutrition. Various health recipes can also be included, along with information on the importance of, and how to get a good night’s sleep.
When effective, wellness programs can reap significant financial benefits for companies, such as reduced injury rates and the number of lost work days. The key is to get buy-in by working with employees throughout the organization.
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Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices.
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