What Obesity is Costing your Business, and What you can do to Help

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about the obesity epidemic and how it’s effecting American’s healthcare and lives. What you may not have heard, is how expensive obesity can be for your business, and not just in healthcare costs. Obese workers are more likely to miss work, be unproductive and unengaged. As we find out the true cost of obesity among our workforce, it should be on every HR pro’s mind to help our employees live the healthy lifestyles they no doubt aspire to.

A recent study by Keas titled “Wellness as a Business Strategy” delves into the financial effects of obesity in the workplace. With one third of Americans struggling with obesity, the costs add up. It costs companies an estimated $150 Billion annually in lost productivity costs. Obese workers are also said to miss 450 million more days a year than your average healthy worker. The total cost of obese workers in Canada and the US alone is said to be $300 Billion each year. Numbers like these really do illustrate the point that it’s in a companies best interest to attempt to help employees lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle.

With all of the lost revenue obesity causes due to it’s impact on work performance, the costs associated with healthcare, are all the more devastating. According to the Keas report, obese workers cost 42% more in healthcare than healthy employees. In another report “The Economic Impacts of Obesity in the Workplace” the top ten most costly health conditions for employers are listed. Ranging from sinusitis to diabetes, while not all of these ailments are necessarily directly related to obesity, and the lifestyle associated with it, every single condition on the list can be caused by obesity, poor diet, and lack of exercise. There’s no way around it, obese workers can be very expensive.

Nobody, not even a boss, can force someone to change their lifestyle. HR pros however, are in the position to at least offer solutions for obese workers. There are numerous ways you can go about helping employees change their lifestyle. The most common, and proven effective way is to offer either a work subsidized gym membership, or an on-site exercise facility. Another great way to help encourage a healthy lifestyle among your workforce, is to educate workers on nutrition, and provide them with healthy food at work. Rewarding employees who take public transit or who bike to work, is another way to motivate employees to be more active.  Using the abundant research available, come up with a plan to reduce obesity in the workplace and reward healthy behavior. The investment will pay off.

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