Work takes up an increasing share of employees’ lives. Many workers are expected to spend at least 40 hours in an office, and modern technology leaves many of them connected to work outside of normal hours. Email and texts can come at any time of the day or night. This continuous connection to work can lead to decreased indicators of good health. As more people work in an office environment without significant flexibility, people are less likely to get exercise. This means that today’s employees are more likely to have chronic health issues such as obesity. These negative health outcomes can lead to problems for businesses.

Lower productivity

Unhealthy employees are more likely to miss work. This tendency will obviously hurt overall productivity. Additionally, those who have chronic health problems are more likely to come into work when they do not feel their best. When people come to work sick, they are not likely to operate at peak performance. This will hurt other employees who have to pick up the slack or who come down with a contagious illness. It can also hurt customer service.

Higher medical costs

When employees are sick, lower productivity is far from the only problem. Insurance rates will go up for businesses that are based in the United States. While illness causes these issues, other periodic health concerns, such as obesity, means it’s more likely that companies have to cover health costs associated with such issues. These increased rates will impact the employer who has to find ways to pay the higher premiums. It will also likely hurt all employees because the higher premiums have a way of trickling down to the employees who utilize the medical service.

Improving employee health

Most employer health plans are basically sickness insurance. They pay when employees get ill. There is little direct benefit from the insurance company when employees are healthier. However, some employers are starting to encourage their workers to get more sleep at night and to move around more during the day. In Europe and many companies in the United States, a heavier focus is being placed on preventative health care. A lack of physical activity is a strong indicator that more employees will be obese and come down with chronic illnesses. By encouraging exercise, employers are encouraging their employees to improve their health. This will keep productivity higher, and it should also moderate the increases in health insurance premiums over time.

Employee health impacts businesses in direct and indirect ways. By encouraging better health, employers can improve their overall productivity. Additionally, by making sure employees use their available sick leave when a worker is actually sick, an employer is likely to cut down on overall use of sick days throughout the workforce.