A variety of research shows that healthy people make more productive workers. Specifically, according to the CDC, employees who maintain a healthy weight tend to miss fewer days and tend to have lower rates of “presenteeism” (showing up while sick but maintaining low productivity levels) than those who are overweight or obese.
As if that weren’t enough of a reason to inspire business owners to promote health-boosting efforts in the workplace, a new study from the California Workers Compensation Institute (CWCI) suggests that, thanks to the American Medical Association’s decision to classify obesity as a disease, the number and cost of Workers’ Comp cases involving obese employees could jump significantly.
Translation: having a less-healthy workplace could be bad for your bottom line.
Here’s a look at how and why unhealthy workers might cost you more and what steps you can take to manage your costs. (For more information on Workers' Comp costs, read our Workers' Comp Insurance Quote Analysis and our tips on managing your Workers' Comp exposure.)
Workers’ Compensation Claims Cost More When Obesity’s Involved
The CWCI study shows that…
- Workers’ Comp claims that involve an obese worker cost 81.3 percent more than those involving workers of a healthy weight.
- Obese employees injured on the job miss 80 percent more work time in recovery than non-obese employees.
In other words, obesity is already making Workers’ Compensation claims more expensive. And because insurance rates are based in part on claims history, employers who file claims for obese and injured workers may have higher Workers’ Comp premiums than those who submit less-expensive claims for healthy workers.
Add to these numbers a new wrinkle: with the AMA’s classification of obesity as a disease state, obesity could (in theory) be cited as a workplace illness that itself leads to a Workers’ Compensation claim.
Considering that research highlights a sedentary lifestyle (like the one most office workers lead) a leading cause of obesity, Workers’ Comp law could eventually allow obese workers to seek compensation for weight they put on from sitting behind a desk all day. And that means higher insurance bills for you, the business owner.
Lower Workers’ Comp Costs with Health Initiatives
So how can small-business owners lower their Workers’ Comp costs and potentially prevent obesity-related WC claims? Implementing some basic health initiatives is an excellent start. Even if you don’t have a huge staff or a ton of money to sponsor major events, you can get creative to offer your team…
- Discounted gym memberships. Try negotiating with a nearby gym for a group or business rate.
- Flexible work hours. Encourage employees to take walks or work out before or after work or on their lunch break. Demonstrating that you’re supportive of their health efforts can go a long way toward encouraging healthy behaviors.
- Healthy snack options. Keeping the office fridge stocked with fruits, veggies, and water doesn’t have to break the bank and can prevent everyone from noshing on the types of high-calorie foods typically found in vending machines.
- Opportunities to be active. A company-sponsored intramural team gets people to move around. Sponsoring a local 5k or dance-a-thon can both get your name out to the community and encourage your team to get moving.
Another benefit of supporting your team in health-building efforts? You’ll build relationships and foster communication, both of which are crucial to keeping employees engaged and minimizing the kind of mindlessness and carelessness that can lead to workplace injuries in the first place.