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Editorial: Helping our bottom lines

For 40-plus hours each week, many working Americans will not breathe fresh air, will not stop to relieve stress and won’t walk more than a few steps. If they do walk, it’s to the lunchroom, where they’ll be met by a wall of vending machines filled with processed, fat-filled snacks and sugar-laced sodas.

 

For 40-plus hours each week, many working Americans will not
breathe fresh air, will not stop to relieve stress and won’t walk more than a
few steps. If they do walk, it’s to the lunchroom, where they’ll be met by a
wall of vending machines filled with processed, fat-filled snacks and
sugar-laced sodas.

Their employers, who may even have unhealthier habits and
more stress, fail to recognize a simple fact: A healthy worker is a productive
worker.

And a productive worker both saves and earns a company more
money.

Employer health-insurance premiums continue to skyrocket —
the average increase was 6.1 percent in 2007 alone — and as Americans continue
on their paths to an unhealthy lifestyle, employers are

paying more and more to keep them insured.

But companies can do more than simply hope their employees
keep their New Year’s resolutions: They can apply wellness programs and reap
the benefits of a healthier, happier workforce.

As Paula Holzman reported in last week’s Business Journal,
some local companies, such as Highmark Inc., Lancaster General Hospital and
D&H Distributing Co., saw strong returns on their wellness-program
investment. Lancaster General saw a return of up to $3 for every $1 spent on
its program. Wellness programs include elements such as flu shots,
smoking-cessation programs, dietary counseling, risk assessments, walking
groups, health screenings and discounts on gyms or on-site gyms.

The result? Employees are fit, suffer less stress, take
fewer sick days and generally are happier. That translates into more focused
and energized workers who are more productive.

Some of the activities, such as lunchtime walks or adding
healthier options to corporate cafeterias, cost little or nothing, while any
spending on gym equipment or health programs can be recouped in health
insurance premiums and worker productivity.

But beyond the health care savings and extra dollars from
productivity, wellness programs send a clear message to employees: that
employers care.

And in this day of withering bonuses, trimmed salaries and
looming pink slips, that’s an important message. 

 

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