Sick lady at desk
It may make you feel heroic, but coming to work sick doesn't do your co-workers or employer any favors.

We all know what “absenteeism” means in a workplace – people not showing up for their jobs due to illness or other causes. But what about “presenteeism”? To many employers, that’s almost as bad. When staff shows up sick, tired, or overly stressed out, not a lot of work is going to get done. That is part of the reason corporate wellness programs are growing in popularity.

The other part of the reason is, of course, money! Companies are starting to realize that a little money spent on workplace wellness and prevention will save them big bucks on health care costs while increasing productivity. Happy, healthy employees are simply more effective than sick and stressed out ones!

If you have a cold or flu, that’s a small problem compared to the possibility of developing chronic illness like diabetes, depression or heart disease. You and your employer are both going to want to keep that from happening! But how can your company help to keep you and your co-workers well?

One way to start is to encourage disease prevention through good nutrition and physical activity. An overweight employee is way more likely to have one of those chronic diseases that will raise insurance premiums and lower productivity, so it behooves your boss to help you lose weight. This can be done in many ways. Some companies host Weight Watchers meetings and subsidize the cost. (I won’t dis the venerable W.W., but I do have issues with those who eat their “points” in processed and starchy food and expect to get healthier).

Other companies pay a portion of a gym membership or even install exercise equipment on site. Fitness instructors can come in to lead yoga or aerobic classes or fitness walks. Chefs are hired to teach healthy cooking classes. Employees who participate in these programs are often rewarded with a discount on their health insurance premiums or other incentives.

Small companies that don’t have a lot of space can bring in a health coach (like me!) to lead workshops on nutrition and stress reduction, and even counsel workers one-on-one to help them gradually incorporate healthy habits into their lives. A company health coach can also help “crowd out” unhealthy snacks like donuts and soda, and stock the kitchen or break room with delicious options that will add lasting energy and not just a temporary sugar or caffeine buzz.

It can be hard to justify when budgets are tight, but researchers who have studied companies with workplace wellness programs found that for each dollar invested in prevention, there was a benefit-to-cost ratio of $3.48 in reduced health care costs and $5.82 in lower absenteeism costs per dollar invested.

Additionally, the Wellness Council of America argues that worksite health programs can improve productivity, increase employee satisfaction, demonstrate concern for employees, and improve morale in the workplace.

Sounds like a win/win for everyone! Do any of you participate in workplace wellness programs? Would you like to?

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Lisa Browdy

We all know what to do, and many of us resolve to do it every year: eat better, exercise more, lose weight and reduce stress. We may have many demands on our time and energy, and not a lot of cash to spare...