Across the country, weight-related health issues have become serious problems, not only for obese individuals, but also for their employers.
According to a new study, recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, obesity has resulted in a high number of work absences, with obese employees more likely to miss time on the job. There was no discernable increase in the number of absences for overweight workers - only obese ones - but this segment saw their days missed climb between 1.1 to 1.7 days on average compared to employees of average weight.
"Obese-worker absences cost the U.S. an estimated $8.65 billion each year"
On an economic level, the study found that obese-worker absences cost the U.S. an estimated $8.65 billion each year, explained Tatiana Andreyeva, Ph.D., of Yale University.
Obesity is linked to higher medical costs, but it can also be the cause of lost productivity, increased injuries on the job and a greater number of workers' compensation insurance claims. For employers, understanding the effects obesity has on the workplace is a vital step toward finding an effective solution for all involved.
"It is important to discuss further how these costs vary across employers, employees and industries, and what policies prove effective in reducing productivity losses of obesity," concluded Andreyeva in the study.
Employers can mitigate obesity
Given the value of a healthy workplace, both for employers and employees, decreasing obesity should be a goal of any company. With a quality strategy in place, productivity, morale and the bottom line could all improve.
According to Employee Benefit News, helping workers lose weight begins with the right culture. For example, the highest-ranking members of an organization can set the example for everyone else, from eating better to exercising or taking walks during the day. If the company offers programs, training seminars and other health-related options, it will improve the overall culture.
"Employers do increasingly recognize the value of health culture at work, and it's not just health care companies," LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the National Business Group on Health, told the media outlet. "It's more of no-brainer for companies that are in the health care or fitness space like a Nike, but it's expanding more broadly to other kinds of companies such as manufacturing companies."
She added that the emphasis has shifted from purely "wellness" to a more safety and wellness focus. Employers realize that to create a safe work environment, a culture of wellness and support toward healthy weight must be created.