Tuesday, July 22, 2014  06:00 AM
Treating The High Price of Workplace Illness With A Healthy Workplace Wellness Program

Why are so many businesses introducing a wellness program?  It’s simple—they know the cost of illness.

The average employer loses, according to Kimberly Clark's Healthy Workplace presentation data, are $1,685 per employee each year in lost productivity due to sickness.  Nearly 99% of workers are affected by a minor illness annually.  An overwhelming majority of these minor illnesses could have been prevented. 

How?  Better hygiene.  72% of minor illnesses could be prevented with better hygiene.

Every wellness program should accomplish three major goals:

1.     Increase Productivity

2.     Reduce Absenteeism

3.     Reduce Turnover

These three goals can only be achieved with the support of senior management and the buy-in of the employees.  Program components and products will vary as each facility is unique in their needs.

A common misconception is that implementing a wellness program is expensive, complex, and optional.  But according to a recent article in HealthAffairs entitled Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings, on average medical costs fall about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs, and absentee day costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.

The first step in starting a wellness program is evaluating the current situation.  By reviewing the current data, a baseline is developed and success can be more accurately measured. 

Next we need to determine the type of products and the locations in which they are best placed.  It’s important to not only consider places like the breakroom and restroom—but the most common areas that can be hot-spots for germs.  Putting the right products in each area is crucial to creating an effective program.

Where to Look and What to Use

Where:  Doors & Elevator Buttons

What:  Sanitizing Wipes & Hand Sanitizer

Why:  Germs can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.  Killing them at the location nearly everyone in the office touches is vital. 

Where:  Conference Tables & Individual Work Spaces

What:  Disinfectant Spray, Sanitizing Wipes, & Facial Tissues

Why:  Viruses can live from 20 minutes to 2 hours on surfaces including chairs, tables, phones, and keyboards. 


Where:  Lobby & Reception Area

What:  Hand Sanitizer & Stand

Why:  A person with a virus on their hands can transfer those germs to hard surfaces up to 7 times.  Not only can you stop germs at the door, but you are sending a message to your visitors that you care about their wellness. 

Where:  Restroom & Breakroom

What:  Touch-Free Dispensers & Sanitizer

Why:  Using a towel to dry hands can reduce germs by 77%.  By not touching the dispenser, no additional germs are captured by retrieving the towel.  Placing sanitizer by the door can help eliminate excess towel consumption as many people use an extra sheet to open the door.

Getting the message out to your employees is one of the most important pieces of a successful program.  Short and regular reminders will help improve the overall program effectiveness. 

Contact your account manager or click here to get assistance in setting up a wellness program at your facility.

Citation: Baicker, Katherine, David Cutler, and Zirui Song. 2010. Workplace wellness programs can generate savings. HealthAffairs 29(2): 304-311.

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