By: Paul Holdren, Senior Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for BCNEPA
April 2, 2014
Every business is looking for ways to better manage costs while increasing productivity. One aspect of managing costs and productivity that many employers may overlook, however, is their employees’ health.
Why is employee health so important?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that approximately 75 percent of employers’ health care costs come from treating chronic, but preventable, conditions brought on by obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lack of physical activity. And according to a recent Gallup poll, unhealthy workers are costing U.S. employers approximately $153 billion annually.
Additionally, the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) previously estimated that for every dollar spent on employee health initiatives, an organization can expect to see a return of $3 to $6 in reduced costs, improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and better medical insurance rates.
To help its customers achieve those returns, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) offers customized wellness programs through the Blue Health Solutions program that can help reduce health care costs and improve productivity.
We’ve learned that a successful workplace wellness program can start with something as simple as providing healthier choices in the cafeteria or vending machines, offering quick and easy blood pressure checks, or encouraging employees to have routine physicals, all things we are proud to do for our employees at BCNEPA.
Now that spring is here, it’s also easier to motivate employees to get up and move. As part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), a national leader in promoting health and wellness, we’ll be participating in this year’s National Walk @ Lunch Day, and we encourage all employers – no matter where you are located or who your health insurer is – to join us.
The 2014 National Walk @ Lunch Day is Wednesday, April 30. This annual observance was created several years ago by BCBSA to help individuals fit wellness into their daily routines. Why? Because one of the easiest and least expensive ways to improve the health of employees is to encourage them to walk during the workday.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that simply getting 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as a brisk walk, at least five times a week has significant health benefits, lowering the risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, hypertension or type 2 diabetes, and improving the health of muscles, bones and joints.
Need more convincing? According to Medicinenet.com, research also indicates that those walking at an easy pace for at least 1.5 hours per week showed significantly better cognitive function than those who walked less than 40 minutes per week.
Employers can start a walk at work program by providing designated times and places to walk. For manufacturing facilities or call centers – where employees stand or sit for long durations – try scheduling certain break times as walking breaks. For office locations, designate the lunch hour of a certain day each week for group walks. At BCNEPA, for example, more than 200 of our employees take time to walk during their lunch break on “Walking Wednesdays.”
Outlining a walking course on your business property or along nearby streets can also help employees keep track of how much they walk. And change the course from time to time to keep employees motivated.
Employees can be active in starting a walking routine, too. Create a team within your department that walks together. Then, challenge other departments to see who can walk the most in a week or month.
Whether you are an employer or an employee, take the National Walk @ Lunch Day challenge. Get up and move on April 30, and start down the path to better health.
A. Paul Holdren isSenior Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.