Healthy workers work hard

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“A healthy workforce is a productive workforce” is a concept embraced by modern day business minds.

It implicates that the more companies put into their workforce, the more they will get out.” Research finds that when the health of employees are improved, their quality of life improves.

Health care claims are reduced, disability is controlled, and productivity is enhanced. All of this has a positive impact on the bottom line of the company. Preventable illness (i.e. diseases that could have been avoided with a healthy lifestyle) is responsible for 40 to 65 percent of illnesses and their associated costs.

What’s harming our health?

1. The effect of chronic disease on workers
Seven of the 15 top causes of death among South Africans are largely due to preventable diseases. These include HIV/AIDS, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

2. High-risk employees are high cost
These are approximate costs of annual healthcare claims for certain health risk factors (regardless of whether or not a patient is on treatment):

  • Depression risk: R1 800.
  • Elevated cholesterol: R1 200.
  • Stress: R900.
  • Body mass index (BMI): R800.
  • Glucose levels: R600.
  • Blood pressure: R400.
  • Alcohol: R350.

As the level of these risk factors increase, for example, elevating blood pressure levels, the cost of medical claims also increase.

3. Absenteeism
Health risk factors also impact on the amount of sick leave taken by a person, ultimately leading to lower productivity output of the company.

  • Annually a person with an elevated BMI costs the company about 40 percent more in direct costs associated with paid time off (PTO), than a normal weight person.
  • An employee at risk for depression takes an estimated five days sick leave, costing the company 65 percent more in PTO payroll costs than a person that’s not depressed.
  • High stress levels leads to an average of five sick days every year, costing the company 98 percent more in PTO payroll costs than a person with normal stress levels.
  • An employee with elevated cholesterol levels will take an average of 6.8 days of sick leave due to this condition, costing the company 66 percent more in PTO payroll costs than a person not at risk.

4. Presenteeism
Presenteeism is when an employee is present, but unproductive because of his bad health. This condition also has a big effect on an employee’s work output. Direct costs can be measured for medical and pharmacy claims, absenteeism, workmen’s compensation and long- and short-term disability. Still, the indirect cost of presenteeism is more difficult to measure and can be called the “hidden enemy” as companies aren’t aware of the extent of the issue.


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