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Employee Wellbeing

Investing in a Healthy Workforce Pays Dividends for Businesses

Thomas Parry, Ph.D.

President, Integrated Benefits Institute

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting employers that invest in their greatest asset — a healthy workforce — experience a profound impact on their bottom line.

As an independent, not-for-profit health and productivity research organization, our recent analysis of national data found illness-related lost productivity costs U.S. employers $530 billion and 1.4 billion days of work per year. This is in addition to the $880 billion paid in health care benefits for employees and dependents, amounting to 60 cents for every dollar that employers spend on benefits. 

Better health, better bottom line

The cost of poor health to employers can’t be understated. To put it in context, it is greater than the combined revenues of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, EBAY and Adobe.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a CEO or CFO that would accept their business expending the equivalent of almost two-thirds of their health care dollars on lost productivity, and most would agree we can’t afford to ignore the health of our workforce. We also need to place the 1.4 billion days of lost time in context: it is the equivalent of every registered nurse in the U.S. taking an entire year off work.

Showing the link between health and performance

Improvements require that employers consider a more holistic, integrated strategy when it comes to managing health, outcomes and the data that support them. To enhance these efforts, we provide research and analysis that helps employers understand what poor health really costs their businesses, and help make the case for a more value-focused strategy in health care. We also ensure access to much needed data that support and inform employer decisions required to manage their health care spending.

We encourage employers to take a broader, more thorough approach and evaluate how access to preventive care, high-quality treatments and medication adherence impact an employee’s ability to attend work consistently and perform at a high level.

Linking health and productivity to the metrics business leaders use to assess the performance of their enterprise offers a more complete sense of how investments in workforce health contribute to the overall business strategy. This assessment is much more effective than simply viewing benefits as a cost to be managed in a silo, and it helps demonstrate the importance of a healthy, productive workforce.

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