As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, US companies are looking for new ways to contain costs while offering employees support to quit smoking and lose weight. Smokers and those who are obese report up to three additional missed workdays each year and consume more health services than do other employees according to a recent survey by the Gallup organization. So what can a company of any size do?
- Offer cash incentives (via health savings accounts) or reduced premium rates for smoking cessation and weight loss.
- Provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables versus snacks, candies and soda.
- Provide 20 minute exercise “breaks” during the day – good idea for desk bound workers who need to get their circulation moving every few hours but also a great way to relieve stress and burn calories.
- Encourage workers to visit their dentist once a year –good oral health is correlated with regular exercise, healthy eating, and less chronic stress.
- Subsidize the membership fee for local gyms (YMCA) and Weight Watcher’s.
- Recruit “health coaches” who can help model healthy living strategies for other employees who struggle to make behavioral changes stick. Eat lunch or take a walk together.
- Sponsor competitions between work groups or departments to see who can lose the most weight or stop smoking. Award points for both which can be converted into gift cards or time off.
- Management should also try to model the changes they are asking other employees to do.