Employees who are chronically ill are not productive employees. Many of the chronic illnesses that affect workers today are at least in part caused by behaviors people choose to engage in. Targeting a few key behaviors can quite dramatically improve employee health. Healthy employees are present and productive, which is reflected in a company’s bottom line.
Smoking has been linked to a large number of chronic illnesses. Due to bans on smoking in the workplace, smoking affects the smoker’s productivity directly by the need of the smoker to take frequent breaks in approved smoking areas. Some employers have attempted to coerce employees into quitting by removing access to smoking areas, by fining employees caught smoking, and other punishment-type programs aimed at discouraging smoking.
Punishment-type programs that attempt to change employee behavior don’t work very well. They make employees feel disgruntled, and tend to trigger antagonistic behaviors instead of cooperation. Free smoking cessation programs along with positive incentives for not smoking are much more effective. Wellness Corporate Solutions (WCS) has experience in setting up highly effective positive incentive programs to encourage smoking cessation.
Along with smoking cessation, encouraging employees to lose weight has far-reaching health consequences. Weight loss can reduce daytime sleepiness due to sleep apnea, with immediate improvements in employee productivity. Weight loss can also reduce the rates of diabetes and heart disease. Individuals suffering from these chronic diseases tend to have high rates of absenteeism and to also not be as productive as healthy individuals. Programs intended to shame or punish employees who gain weight or fail to lose weight do not work for the same reasons mentioned above for smoking. However, in addition to positive incentive programs encouraging weight loss, environmental changes to the workplace are usually necessary in order to affect employee body weight.
Changes to the food readily available to employees in a workplace can affect both rates of overweight and other aspects of health. For example, altering the types of food available in the cafeteria and vending machines can directly affect employee health and body weight. Changes in the company’s “food culture” can also affect what employees eat. For example, instead of offering cakes and candy at corporate celebrations, fruits and non-edible prizes such as reusable water bottles and gym memberships could be offered instead.
Positive changes to the corporate environment combined with positive incentive programs can measurably improve employee health. Healthier employees are more productive employees.