Workout, stretching and a group of business people in the office to exercise for health or mobility together. Fitness, wellness and coach training an employee team in the workplace for a warm up
Better employee health leads to better outcomes for both employees and employers.

Inc. by Larry Alton

When your employees are healthy, they’re happier, more productive, and less likely to miss work because of illness. But many employers still neglect employee health as a strategy. What steps can employers take to improve and support employee health, and how can you make this approach cost-effective?

The Value of Employee Health

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the true value of improving employee health.

  • Productivity and attendance. Healthier employees are going to be more productive and less absent. If they’re in better health, and they’re getting sick less often, they’re going to miss fewer days, and they’re going to be much more efficient (and happier) when present. According to Nathan Jones, CEO of proactive health company Xlear, “every year, people in the United States collectively suffer millions of illnesses, most of which could be prevented by being more proactive in your hygiene and health routine. If you can prevent just a few of those in your business, both you and your employees will be better off.” Jones continues, “In my opinion, the reason Haven (the Buffett-Bezos-Dimon health care venture) failed is that the focus was on treatment and not on prevention. If you really want to save money, don’t get sick in the first place. Motivate your team to be proactive, work out, and have access to better hygiene tools.”
  • Morale and confidence. When you genuinely care about employee health and take active measures to preserve it, your employees are going to have higher morale and more confidence in their positions. You’ll benefit from higher employee retention and more employee referrals.
  • Cost savings. Protecting employee health can save you money in the long run. Though it requires an upfront investment, its effects on productivity, employee retention, and insurance costs should speak for themselves. It’s also important to note that proactive health management is almost always less expensive than reactive health management. Investing in preventative screenings, regular exercise, and even prophylactic products can help employees avoid ridiculously expensive interventions later on. The importance of good oral and nasal hygiene cannot be overemphasized.
  • Reputational value. With healthier, happier employees, your organization will benefit from a reputational boost. You’ll naturally attract more employees, and you might even make a better impression with prospective vendors, clients, and partners.

Health Insurance and Benefits

One of the most straightforward ways to support employee health is to offer a health insurance package that focuses heavily on prevention. The right benefits package can provide your team with numerous options, like preventative screenings, that can keep them healthy indefinitely. It can also help you recruit better talent.

If you can’t afford health insurance for your employees, consider offering alternative benefits meant to support health, such as subsidized gym memberships.

Infectious Disease Management

If your employees work together in a physical environment, it’s your responsibility to proactively manage the potential spread of infectious diseases. At the time of this article’s writing, there are two especially big concerns for employers with regard to infectious disease management and employee health: Covid-19 and the onset of winter. Though Covid is past its initial peak, it’s still a potentially devastating disease that we need to take seriously — and winter is always associated with higher rates of infectious disease spread.

These are some of the ways you can prepare your workplace to prevent your employees from getting unnecessarily sick.

  • Increase physical distance. Many infectious diseases travel via the air, jumping from one person to another when they’re in close physical proximity. Accordingly, one of the best ways to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases is to increase the physical distance between people. Separate them using office partitions, glass barriers, or other physical obstructions, and facilitate meetings with greater distance between participants. It’s also a good idea to avoid handshakes or substitute some other greeting for them (like a fist bump).
  • Encourage sick days. Make employees feel comfortable with taking sick days when they need them. Some of your workers may be inclined to “tough it out” by coming into work even when they feel ill, but doing so could accelerate the spread of the disease and cause more people to become sick. It’s usually better for a person to stay home, even if their symptoms are minimal.
  • Make it easy to maintain good hygiene. Make it easy for everyone to maintain good hygiene in the office. Post instructions on proper hand washing procedures in the bathroom and make hand sanitizer widely available. It’s also important to practice routine cleaning in the office so that all commonly touched surfaces are disinfected regularly. Also, create a memo authored by a licensed hygienist with suggestions or recommendations on which oral and nasal care products work best and why.
  • Practice effective air circulation. Better ventilation is associated with a mitigated spread of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases. Opening the windows is an easy way to accomplish this, though it’s not exactly ideal in winter. Alternatively, you can use air circulators and filters to help keep your internal air clean.

Wellness and Overall Health

These are a few other ways you can support better overall health in your employees:

  • Facilitate physical exercise. Physical exercise keeps you in shape, reduces stress, and is associated with extremely positive health outcomes. Some businesses evenlet their employees exercise while on the clock.
  • Distribute water and healthy snacks. Make it easy for employees to stay hydrated and give them healthy snacks like fruits, veggies, and nuts to snack on throughout the day.
  • Make it easy for employees to attend preventative appointments. Preventative medicine is ideal for maintaining health, so encourage employees to attend their appointments.

Keeping employee health as one of your top priorities isn’t cheap, but it does offer a promising return on investment. With healthier, more productive employees, you’ll have a more consistent and happier workforce, and your organization will benefit from much greater efficiency, especially over time.