WorkComp Advisory
newsletter archive case studies articles

Employee Health is an Asset: Tips for Motivating Employees to Better Health

More and more employers of all sizes recognize that there is a direct line between healthy, engaged workers and the company’s bottom line. Healthy workers are more productive, have fewer Workers’ Compensation claims, and have lower health care costs.

There is little doubt that the lifestyles of many Americans are a threat to productivity. According to researchers at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Human Nutrition, 66% of adults were overweight or obese in 2003 and 2004 and by 2015, 75% of adults will fit that profile.

A Duke University Medical Center analysis found that obese workers filed twice the number of Workers’ Compensation claims, had seven times higher medical costs from claims, and lost 13 more days of work a year from work-related injuries or illness than did non-obese workers.

Recognizing the economic costs of poor health, many employers are implementing wellness programs to encourage employees to adopt more healthful lifestyles. Yet these programs will only be successful if employees participate in them and remain committed over the long term. Here are some tips for encouraging participation:
    1. Identify the behavior that needs to be changed. While smaller companies may feel they do not have the resources for a comprehensive program, they can benefit by helping employees change behavior with simple, well-managed programs. Focusing on issues that will improve the work life will benefit both employers and employees.

    2. Make access easy, ideally within the workplace. Remote programs are often dependent on self-motivation that fades with the passage of time.

    3. Make the program as personal as possible. A customized process will be more effective in engaging workers over the long-term.

    4. Build trust and commitment with education and health risk appraisals.

    5. Start at the time of hire. Incorporate health and fitness promotion, as well as injury prevention, into your initial training.

    6. Offer an incentive – monetary or non-monetary, but significant enough to make a difference to employees. Financial incentives such as cash or gift certificates or varying the amount of premium contributions/deductibles for health insurance are popular. Penalties are sometimes combined with incentives. Such programs need to comply with federal and state laws and must be tied to behavior and not health status.

    7. Monitor the results and communicate the aggregate results to employees – participation level, goal achievement, etc. – to engage more employees over time.

    8. Adopt a culture of health in the workplace. It was not that long ago that the mantra was to adopt a culture of safety in the workplace and employers were rewarded for their efforts with a significant decrease in the number of work-related injuries. A culture of health conveys an interest in the overall well-being of employees and will contribute to reduced absenteeism, improved productivity and morale.