The Profitability of Good Health

If you could increase your profits by improving the health, wholeness and happiness of your employees and organization would you?

It would seem that the answer to the foregoing rhetorical question, would be a resounding "Yes!" especially when the ROI on comprehensive, well-run employee wellness programs can be as high as 6 to 1 (Harvard Business Review, 2010) and eco-conscious, sustainability programs on average have a ROI of 2 to 1 (Bloomberg, 2011).

Despite the groundswell of evidence supporting the profitability of health and sustainability programs, many executives today are stuck in an old mindset that categorically views such programs as "fluffy" cost centers not profit centers.

As an example of a pioneer of healthy work culture, when Jim Goodnight co-founded his technology company in 1976 he envisioned generous health benefits and a campus environment equipped with racquetball and volleyball courts to encourage exercise, health-conscious cafeterias and free onsite medical services. He also dreamed of providing employees with a flexible workweek, daycare and education. Many executives at the time thought Goodnight's company would go belly up providing such "fluffy" services to employees. However, Goodnight proved the skeptics wrong by not only providing his employees with the benefits and amenities he dreamed of, but also built the largest privately held software company in the world -- SAS (Statistical Analysis Systems), with annual revenues exceeding $3 billion in 2013.

As leading companies such as Google, Zappos, Whole Foods, GE, Microsoft, Cisco and Nike have successfully demonstrated the pragmatism of valuing employees with such things as a healthy culture (e.g., exercise, nutritious food, live-work balance, child care, telecommuting), generous health plans and social responsibility, enterprise is waking up and starting to get healthy -- because it makes good business sense.

According to Forbes, the current healthcare spend in the U.S. is a crippling $3.8 trillion. About 70 percent of the diseases contributing to this crippling cost are avoidable with preventative measures including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, insomnia, depression, chronic back pain and muscle spasm. And most of these diseases are incubated in a sedentary, stress-filled, junk-food eating and dehumanizing work environment.

Aon Hewitt's analysis showed the average health care cost per employee was $10,471 in 2013. When added to Mercer's estimates of an average of $14,000 per employee per year resulting from absenteeism and inefficiency, the total is $24,471 on average per employee per year. It's pretty astounding what poor health is costing both enterprise and society.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that integrating exercise and movement with healthy eating, stress reduction and social connection into the workplace will substantially reduce health care costs and absenteeism while increasing productivity, efficiency and morale. A winning formula for increased profits is to foster a healthy, whole and happy environment for employees to thrive.

By utilizing training, integration, environmental shifts, gamification, and peer support, the transformational lifestyle process of improving health and vitality can be personally and socially rewarding as well as engaging and fun.

I am glad to see the growing adoption of leadership committing to increasing profits by improving employee health and creating abundant, well and enlightened organizations.

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