I recently had the pleasure of visiting with a very progressive manufacturer where we had some stimulating dialog about business in general. The discussion came about to the topic of keeping employees healthy.
(Some forward-thinking companies provide gym memberships, in much the way the military encourages its personnel to hit the gym. Image: "Devil Dog gym begins new year with new gear," by CherryPoint, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)
This company, which is self insured, has taken a very aggressive stance to keep employees healthy. A few of the steps they have taken are:
- They pay for gym membership as long as the employee goes to the gym twice per week.
- A nurse visits once per month and provides individual counseling to help employees with issues and concerns that they have. Such as if a doctor has prescribed an employee something and they can’t afford the co-pay, she calls the doctor and discusses an alternative medicine.
- Health checks that through scoring that can detect potential health issues. This resulted in saving a man’s life who had an aneurism on his heart.
Is this too much of the company playing Big Brother?
Should companies be spending extra dollars to do this?
I personally LOVE it. I can’t tell you how many places I have worked where you can’t even get a bottle of water or healthy snack on the premises, but you can certainly grab a sugar-filled soda or a candy bar.
In fact, I am not against emulating the Japanese manufacturers and doing exercises and stretches. I did a little reading on this and we (the US) are the anomaly. China, Malaysia, and India all have similar practices.
We all have heard that “our people” are a company’s best asset. Yet most companies don't take care of this “best asset” the way they do their machines and other physical assets.
A healthier workforce is going to be a more productive and happier workforce. It is not new news that nearly 2/3 of Americans are obese or overweight. This leads to all kinds of health problems that result in time off work, increased health costs and reduced productivity.
Weight of an employee is not the only area that could be improved through exercise, stretching and preventative maintenance. Employees that are healthy and in better shape experience fewer accidents at work, have fewer colds, are more alert, are happier ...
So why do more employers not take care of their “best asset” and provide healthy food alternatives, conduct exercise programs at work, supplement gym memberships outside of work and reward those employees who are healthy and in shape? Our best asset is falling apart; we need to take action now!
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Cheryl Smith oversees strategic marketing and research as well as IES's regional managers throughout North Carolina. She has a wide background in sales, marketing, strategic planning, public policy and executive leadership with companies such as GE, Wachovia, Armstrong World Industries and Hatteras Yachts. Cheryl has degrees from Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University and is a Six Sigma Black Belt. Connect with Cheryl using her LinkedIn account.