The Innovative Brain Archive
How To Increase Profits By Increasing Health
“Keep changing. When you’re through changing, you’re through.” — Bruce Barton
You may need to sit down before you read this. And you may need a drink after you read this, but you won’t want one. Regardless, put out that cigarette and pay attention. It can save you some serious coin.
Addictive behavior is the number one health problem in the developed world. Abusers of alcohol and other drugs are absent from work two to six times as often as nonabusers. And in addition to higher medical benefit claims and decreased productivity, alcoholics and other drug abusers negatively affect the morale of co-workers to an immeasurable degree. And if your morale is suffering while you read this right now, don’t worry, we’ll offer you lots of suggestions by the end of the article. Don’t despair, there is hope. But first this:
A 1993 study found that employees who smoke stay longer in the hospital (77% more days and 66% more admissions), have 50% higher insurance costs than nonsmokers, and cost some employers as much as $4600 apiece annually. Some companies can no longer afford to hire smokers and about 6% refuse to do so. (Healthy, Wealthy & Wise, WELCOA, 1993)
If you take time to do a quick tally of the people with whom you work who drink too much, smoke, or depend on drugs, you’ll realize that the health costs — both monetary and other — head your organization downhill faster than a greased pig on a bobsled run.
Prevention Through Promotion
No, we’re not advocating promoting you, although if we may be so bold, you have earned it. Rather, the last twenty years of research have shown that the prevention of addictive behavior will occur only through overall health promotion. Note that when we’re talking about health here, we're talking about a complete approach to health including: physical, mental, social and even spiritual.
Additionally, the successful prevention of alcohol and other drug problems would also, because of the health promotion focus, have a significant impact on other health problems, including: heart disease, obesity, domestic violence, depression, divorce and delinquency. Each of these issues can be both a symptom and a cause of substance abuse. When you impact positively in any of these areas, the ripple effect that you cause creates an impact on the others as well.
In addressing the issue of how to promote health most effectively, we find that our initial efforts were targeted toward schools and social service agencies and, up to a point, have yielded positive results. However, in our opinion, we’ve maximized the impact we’re going to have through the school, church and social service routes. Said another way, the diminishing returns of doing “more of the same” points to a need for alternative approaches. Said yet another way, let’s try something new.
While we certainly need to sustain our efforts here, increased resources will net less impact/dollar. Our research, however, tells us that to make a more significant impact, we need to change community/cultural norms about partaking in health-compromising behaviors. So… How might we increase our effectiveness in promoting health against the cultural backdrop I've described?
May I Have The Envelope Please…
The Key: Access cultural norms and modify them through the culture of commerce in the developed nations. If the key is changing cultural norms, then we need to tie in with the most dominant cultural system in the developed nations, namely: commerce. Over the last 200 years of history in the western world, cultural values have danced to the tune of commerce much more than they have to government, social services, education or, most recently, even the religious establishment. Here are some examples of how commerce dictates cultural norms:
So Here are the Benefits
The nation’s new spiritual doctrine is, “The economy must stay healthy.” If we want people to live healthier lives, we need commerce to actively support their doing so. But it's more than just people being healthy. The win/win here is that as business focuses on health promotion, it also increases profit through:
These factors increase productivity through:
But Wait, There’s More
Research studies also show that:
In Houston, employees of Tenneco who exercised were less likely to leave the company, thus reducing expensive turnover rates
In Boston, Beth Israel Hospital's stress management program set up specifically for hospital employees focuses on six areas: job-management, organization-management, time-management lifestyle management, as well as anger, and relaxation techniques. Psychiatric claim payments dropped 22% in 1992 and turnover has been cut in half the past five years.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Companies can implement health promotion programs by hiring in experts, or through any number of human service agencies. If these human service agencies are not-for-profit organizations, then there is also the possibility of creating a tax deductible program that increases health, motivation, quality and morale while lowering absenteeism and costs.
The New & Improved research staff had no problem finding figures showing the costs of addictive behavior in the workplace, starting with $100 billion annually for alcoholism alone and another $52 billion for smoking. That’s a worthwhile piece of the economy. And a piece that will motivate change in the marketplace, especially as businesses get leaner and continue to wring out as many cost-savings as possible.
Just a friendly reminder that change is inevitable. The companies that get there first will be the ones who control market share and dominate their industry because their employees are enthusiastic, team-oriented, loyal, and productive; read: healthy.
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