One of the major healthcare controversies of the past few decades has centered around the role of businesses in paying for their employees’ health-related expenses. Although much of the debate has been centered around health insurance and who should pay for it, the role of employers in cultivating a healthy workspace has expanded in recent years. Companies are expected to offer healthy drinks and snacks on campus, but some more ambitious offices are including in-office exercise rooms, planned employee outings, and even company-sponsored fitness classes.
With all the pressure from the government and from corporate trendsetters, it’s natural for small business leaders to ask, “Why should I bear the financial burden here?” After all, most employees pay for their own food, their own cars, and their own housing arrangements; why shouldn’t they also pay for their gym memberships and healthcare?
What many managers don’t realize, however, is there are measurable benefits that come with a healthy, active office. By taking responsibility for employee health, resourceful managers can find themselves wielding a powerful and engaged workforce.
Health Benefits as a Recruiting Tool
Perhaps the oldest known upside to offering healthcare benefits is their potential to attract the most talented workers around. Companies have been offering cadillac healthcare plans without outrageous perks like spa visits and weekly massages since time immemorial in order to entice high-powered executives. These days the same model — albeit on a much smaller scale — is being used to encourage employees at all levels to join — and stay with — a particular company.
With the rising costs and uncertain future of health insurance, the possibility of a high-quality, family-centric plan is on the minds of many prospective employees. Many candidates don’t need spa days, but they do want to know that, if someone in their family gets sick, the company will be there to back them up.
To be clear, although health insurance plans are a common recruitment tool, they are by no means a quick fix for businesses who want to improve their hiring procedures. Take a careful look at the pros and cons of insurance plans and find out how they fit into your overall recruiting strategy.
A Healthy Lifestyle as a Company Undertaking
Company-paid health insurance, while not ubiquitous, has long been a staple of the American office. However, other fitness-related perks are just making their way onto the stage. At the bare minimum, many managers are encouraging employees to use break times to take a walk. Studies have shown that walking helps to relieve stress, making it easier for people to concentrate on work without feeling anxious about it.
More intrepid managers are taking an active role in energizing their workforces. By converting a conference room into a of place for light exercise with a few yoga mats and some small weights, anyone can get their employees started on good fitness habits. For those really looking to take the plunge, an organization akin to Boeing’s BOEALPS or even additions like treadmill desks wouldn’t be out of place.
However, as any doctor will likely tell you, a healthy lifestyle involves more than just staying active. A healthy workforce will eat well in addition to doing regular physical activity. Replace candy and processed foods around the office with fruit and nuts. Some things like chocolate can be given out in moderate amounts as performance rewards.
Some entrepreneurs are taking the idea of the employee as finely tuned machine even further. By getting more B vitamins through vitamin drips, they are able to reduce stress and work more efficiently and calmly. This is by no means an option for everyone, but for managers looking to reach their peak performance, it’s one promising option.
Finally, we need to touch on an aspect of health that isn’t visited enough. When thinking about our overall health level, many of us leave out an important component: mental health. Doctors today know well that the health of the mind affects the health of the body and vice versa — a poor mental state may be a symptom of an undiagnosed physical ailment or may end up causing physical harm later on down the road.
One key to improving the mental health of your employees is to help them maintain a reasonable work-life balance. It’s also a good idea to hire someone with a social work background to head your human resources department. Many social workers are taking jobs in office environments in order to improve corporate morale and help to produce a happier, more productive workforce.
Here’s the bottom line: managers need to become a driving force behind healthy offices in order to benefit themselves. Healthy workers don’t get tired as easily, stay less stressed, and are generally more productive than their unhealthy counterparts. In addition, comprehensive health benefits can serve as a powerful recruiting tool, helping you to assemble the finest workforce possible.
Author: Nick Cesare works at a local startup in Boise, ID. He’s interested in how businesses can rework themselves to be environmentally friendly and take charge of improving their own environmental communities. You can reach Nick @cesare_nick.