5 Companies That Promote Fitness and Health in the Office

Health Fitness in the Office

An often overlooked aspect of employee health and safety programs is fitness. In the past, most employers treated fitness as an employee problem, which was understandable: so long as the employee was able to do their job on the clock, why did it make a difference how they conducted themselves off-the-clock? With the recent healthcare overhaul in the United States, however, what was once a personal problem has started to become an employer problem as larger businesses find themselves having to invest more in employee healthcare programs.

According to a Forbes Article published in 2012, the costs of obesity have exceeded smoking as the most expensive healthcare cost in the United States.

Even without factoring in the costs from increased insurance premiums that would come from an obese workforce, the potential liability questions and workman’s compensation claims that arise due to obesity-related incidents would be enough to panic any accountant or HR representative. So what are companies doing to protect themselves and their workers from this epidemic? Here are five employers who are offering ways not only for their employees to stay in shape, but giving them motivation to do so.

NextJump:

As an e-commerce website, NextJump’s workforce tends to spend most of its time in front of a computer screen. This has naturally led to a number of health-problems in the workplace, ones they have taken practical measures to solve. This goes beyond simple installation of a gym: harnessing the spirit of competition, they offer teams of workers each a chance to win $1000 per week by being in better shape than their coworkers. This is done by completing fitness challenges that are tracked: in essence, not only do you have to get into shape; you have to stay in shape and push yourself to be more fit than your competition.

Additional incentives include free lunches in exchange for participation in fitness programs, as well as standard discounts on health insurance for participation. However, most of the employees agree that the competition is their primary motivator for participation.

Cleveland Clinic:

A business with over 29,000 employees, Cleveland Clinic, takes a different approach. While they still offer incentives and credits for employees who participate in wellness programs, those enrolled in their Healthy Choice program must also visit a doctor to determine their state of health such as weight and the existence of any chronic diseases. If an employee is suffering from any complications, then wellness goals are set in order to avoid a premium hike. Even if you are already healthy, your premiums may still spike if you fail to participate in wellness programs meant to maintain this status.

Trust Company of Illinois:

This particular company only recently started its own fitness program but is already coming up with alternative ideas to the traditional wellness incentives. In addition to providing free health screenings so people will know where they are at in terms of their health, they also take a page from NextJump’s book and offer contests to motivate their workers in a competitive walking program. They are also adding seminars and cooking programs to help their employees with eating right and staying healthy.

AT&T:

Some companies promote fitness and health through education and information, such as one of the measures AT&T is pursuing. They host an online forum that allows workers to communicate with healthcare professionals and fitness experts to create a personalized fitness program. This provides the knowledge that workers need to help cut down on health care costs and lead a far healthier lifestyle.

Healthy Contributions:

Another approach that Healthy Contributions is attempting to employ is to reimburse employees on their gym memberships. They have found that those employees who participate in the compensation program are more likely to keep and renew their gym memberships even if the reimbursement is only $20 a month. Furthermore, these workers tend to use the gym more and are healthier overall. This demonstrates that if you lack the facilities or funds to have an exercise facility on-site, you can still provide a reliable incentive for employee participation in fitness programs.

Conclusion:

When deciding to set up a fitness program for your workplace, you’ll have to discover what works best for you. Studies have shown that, overall, competitive and goal-based incentive programs are most effective at encouraging worker participation. From a health and safety standpoint, this will pay off in dividends. In addition to avoiding the chronic diseases and associated health care premiums that come from a sedentary workforce, employees participating in these programs report they are more productive and alert at work.

If your company has not implemented an effective fitness program, it will be wise to invest today. The savings in health care costs alone would net a substantial return, but combined with other benefits you will definitely see an enhanced value. Such benefits include potential reduction in workplace accidents thanks to more alert employees, reduced risk of workman’s compensation or civil liability from heart attacks or stroke, and the value from increased productivity.

Sources:

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/05/nextjump-gym_n_3853374.html

US News: http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2012/02/14/employees-get-paid-to-exercise-while-some-pay-to-sit-out

Chicago Business: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/healthiest-employers/workplace-wellness-helps-curb-health-care-costs.html

NJ.com: http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2011/07/corporate_fitness_health.html

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/02/24/alternative-forms-of-compensation/employers-should-reimburse-for-gym-memberships

Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/04/30/obesity-now-costs-americans-more-in-healthcare-costs-than-smoking/

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes/index.html

About the author:

The author, Brennen Klifmueller, is a consultent in the healthcare industry who spends a lot of time finding ways to help offices keep their workers in shape to offset the rising costs of healthcare (and insurance premiums). For other health and safety options not pertaining directly to healthcare, he highly recommends visiting http://www.ecompliance.com. You can learn more about Brennen from Google+.

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