September 29, 2015
During the past 30 years, employers have shown an increased emphasis on employee wellness at work. At the same time, the rate of Americans who are classified as obese has increased. Recent data from a Center of Disease Control (CDC) report reveals more than one third (34.9%) of American adults are obese (Ogden, 2014). While there are many explanations why this trend is rising, there is no doubt that the sedentary lifestyle associated with many jobs as well as poor nutritional habits have contributed to the gain.
With obesity and poor nutrition comes an onslaught of additional health problems including:
The workplace is to adults what school is to children. It is where they spend the majority of waking hours. Many employees will eat two meals at work or while commuting to work, plus snacks. While some large companies have on-site cafeterias, nearly all small and medium businesses and many large businesses just have vending machines. While there have been advances in vending machine technology, most still just vend canned soda and shelf-stable snacks such as chips and candy.
Obviously, an unhealthy workforce causes absenteeism. It also is the cause of a concept called “presenteeism”- employees showing up to work while sick, creating a health risk to the rest of the workplace (Heinen & Darling, 2009). Beyond these effects, researchers have identified the following negative outcomes associated with an unhealthy workforce:
All of these lead to increases in turnover, accidents, litigation and depression. Ultimately, this leads to a decrease in productivity for the company and an increase in costs, both work-related and medical.
The numbers are obvious – employees with unhealthy lifestyles cost companies much more. Sedentary, overweight, smoking and alcohol-consuming employees are absent more than 50% more often and cost two to three times more in health costs than their counterparts who are active, not overweight, and do not smoke or drink (Burton, 2008). Smokers alone cost their company $2,500 per year in increased costs. There is a linear relationship between obesity and the number of workers’ compensation claims, lost workdays, medical claims, and indemnity claims cost (Burton, 2008).
In an attempt to increase employees’ health and well-being as well as reduce costs, companies have started wellness programs to promote a healthy lifestyle for their employees. However, research has found five recurring factors in programs that are successful at reducing health care costs (Linnen et al, 2008) (Goetzel, Allen, & Edington, 2007).
Companies with successful wellness programs have seen a significant return on their initial investment since its implementation. While numbers vary from company to company and individual reports range from 2:1 to more than 10:1 savings, a 2010 report from Harvard University found the average medical savings per dollar invested in wellness programs was $3.27. In addition, absenteeism costs fell by about $2.73 for every dollar spent (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008) (Anderson, 2013) (Baicker, Cutler, & Song, 2010). Moreover, these savings do not take years to realize. Cost savings began accumulating in as little as one year, especially for individuals with chronic conditions (Nyce et al, 2012).
Besides lower medical costs and increased attendance, employees generally feel better while at work and at home. Done Nutrition Institute implemented a wellness program consisting of free fruit, updated dining options and facilities, walking and fitness groups, education, and subsidies for healthier foods at their café. Nearly 80% of survey respondents reported ordering healthier food that they had never eaten before, and nearly 2/3 felt that the changed had a positive impact on their health and diet (Dole, 2002).
“When included as part of a comprehensive wellness program, Company Kitchen is a perfect fit to increase employee wellness and morale.”
Company Kitchen (CK) is an example of way to provide healthier options at work with wellness resources for individual employees and HR and wellness professionals. CK is a revolutionary, self-serve micro market employees can access 24/7 at work for fresh food, snacks and beverages. It replaces traditional vending machines with an open market where employees can touch and inspect each item before purchasing it. Employees no longer only have access to junk food at work. Each Company Kitchen is stocked with fresh-made sandwiches, crisp salads, savory wraps, fresh fruit and vegetables snacks, wholesome dairy products and more.
Company Kitchen’s proprietary DNA (Daily Nutritional Analysis) program is loaded with the nutritional information for every item in the market. With each purchase, the item’s nutritional information is downloaded to the employee’s online account. S/he can then view aggregate nutritional information for specific timeframes as well as set thresholds and alerts to notify him if s/he has exceeded his predetermined limits.
Additionally, with the CK Client Portal, employers can track their employees’ nutritional behavior over time. All items are classified as green, yellow or red (healthiest, healthier, not healthy) and transaction data is available in real-time. Employers can immediately see if their initiatives are working or not. Plus, they can reward employees by adding funds to their CK account to subsidize healthier items directly through the CK Client Portal.
Not only is Company Kitchen a great wellness resource, but it is also a no-cost employee benefit! In a SHRM poll, 97% of respondents indicated their employees either “favorably” or “very favorably” responded to efforts to promote wholesome food and drink options at work (2010). If employees are on a limited lunch break, they can still get a healthy, nutritious lunch at work.
When included as part of a comprehensive wellness program, Company Kitchen is a perfect fit to increase employee wellness and morale. It meets CDC guidelines for healthy eating at work (2000). Employers can make their Company Kitchen their central gathering place and instill a culture of health and wellness. With exercise, education, screening, and of course fresh food from Company Kitchen, companies can see their medical costs decrease and morale and productivity increase.
For more information about getting a Company Kitchen at your office, please visit www.CompanyKitchen.com
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