Healthy employees = healthy bottom lines
by Tammy Cohen
February 03, 2014 12:00 AM | 1485 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Many studies have shown for every $1 a company spends on wellness programs, employers can expect a $3 to $6 return on investment. Wellness programs not only improve an individual's short-term and long-term health, but they also help curb absenteeism, improve productivity and morale, and prevent disability leaves.

Smoking cessation, exercise and healthy eating are the best areas to start your employers off right in the New Year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obese employees experience higher levels of absenteeism due to illness than normal weight employees.

The CDC's statistics show normal-weight men miss an average of three days each year due to illness or injury in comparison to overweight men (a BMI between 25 and 35), who will miss approximately two more work days per year, or a 56 percent increase in missed days. For women, obese employees (a BMI greater than 30) miss 5.2 days, or a 53 percent increase in missed days over their normal weight counterparts.

At my 120-employee company, we have collectively lost hundreds of pounds of unwanted weight by jump-starting each New Year with a company-wide weight loss competition. Every January, our "Biggest Loser" program gives employees the opportunity to weigh in with the Human Resources department, which tracks the results.

Through the years, the competition has evolved into a company-wide wellness program that motivates employees to form healthier habits and lose weight. In addition to the ROI, there is great value in the personal connections management makes with the employees. Recognizing and caring about a major issue that affects most people creates a bond between the company and its employees.

In recent years, 50 percent of the company has participated in the competition. Many fit employees share in the experience by serving as motivators and mentors, lending tips and leading lunchtime exercise programs such as yoga and kettle bells.

Employees compete both individually and in teams for cash prizes. Since men have higher metabolisms than women, the competition is divided by gender and is based on the percentage of body weight lost, not pounds.

The contest lasts for three months, giving participants time to see real results and create good habits. Throughout, we have activities to motivate and promote weight loss, such as "Veggie Wednesdays", where we provide platters of unusual vegetables with creative low calorie dips; and "Fruity Fridays" where we give employees a sweet, healthy treat.

Additional activities include a guided field trip to the grocery store, a speaker series, emailed hints and recipes and a dedicated page on the company intranet with links to calorie counters and weight loss programs.

During the competitions, as well as learning to make better food choices and forming exercise habits, employees bond with one another, creating lasting friendships that improve camaraderie.

The bottom line is hundreds of lost pounds, greater self-esteem and a stronger commitment to a company that cares about its employees. That's a good return on investment.



Tammy Cohen started Cobb-basedd InfoMart in 1989. A multi-million dollar pre-employment screening company, InfoMart provides services to Fortune 500 companies nationwide. Cohen is a founding member of the screening industry's first trade association, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, and the Association of Consumer Reporting Agencies.

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