Corporate wellness: Non-Compliance Can Get You Sacked

Phil Weaver's picture

Health and productivity of employees at the workplace are closely intertwined, so it’s small wonder that companies are becoming more aggressive in ensuring that workers are in excellent physical condition. While some may dismiss corporate wellness programs as an encroachment on privacy, business leaders are unlikely to change their mind; after all, they have been hard pressed to find a solution to the rising costs of insurance premiums and health care.

The University of Michigan studied the health care expenditures of Steelcase Corporation and found that it paid $597 more yearly for each employee who drank excessively. Steelcase Corporation spent $488 more for each sedentary worker, $327 more for each employee with hypertension, and $284 more for a smoker.

Based on the findings of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, for every 100 U.S. workers:

27 suffer from a disease affecting the heart
24 suffer from high blood pressure
50 suffer from high cholesterol
26 suffer from obesity
26 smoke
10 drink heavily
50 seldom exercise
44 suffer from stress

One of the major health-related issues in the workplace which contributes to reduced productivity, absenteeism, and accidents while on the job is fatigue. A study which appeared in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimates that 40 out of 100 American workers experience fatigue.

According to the Wellness Council of America, more than 81 percent of American companies are now implementing wellness programs. Health and fitness programs include exercise and weight control, smoking cessation, and stress management. These programs have been found to be effective in reducing absenteeism, employee turnover, and health care claims. Employee morale and productivity and return on investment have also significantly improved.

Wisconsin-based Lab Safety Supply achieved a 97 percent reduction in the number of days employees called in sick or were unable to work. Meanwhile, Lincoln Planting Company in Nebraska has seen a return of investment of $800,000 for every $85,000 the company spent on employee health improvement efforts.

To ensure a high participation rate among employees, some businesses reward them with cash incentives. IBM workers get up to $300 a year for joining the company’s wellness programs. Some companies, however, implement stricter measures to ensure that workers abide by their health plan policies. At Scotts Miracle-Gro, whose wellness policy was featured in Wall Street Journal and Businessweek, for instance, one can lose his job if he fails to take part in these programs.

The CEO of the lawn and garden products maker, Jim Hagedorn, invested $5 million on a 24,000-square foot fitness and medical center for Scotts employees. A health coach is assigned to draw a customized fitness plan for each employee.

A Scotts Miracle-Gro executive heeded the advice of his health coach to see a doctor after his cholesterol levels were found to be dangerously high. His doctor said that if he had not done that, a possibly fatal heart attack would have been imminent in a matter of days. Employees who don’t take the company’s wellness policy seriously could get fired. A smoker who ignored the warnings was sacked.

The company definitely means business. If an employee resists efforts to improve his own health, fine, but he can’t ask Scotts Miracle-Gro to cover his health insurance.

About the author. Matt Fuller writes about various topics ranging from health care to free online dating sites. Matt provides advice for several high profile dating websites throughout Australia and America.

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