Obesity is one of the most common diseases affecting the American workplace today. It’s also one that employers are starting to take a deeper look into to try and curb because of the money lost in productivity.
Productivity Loss Due to Obesity
Full-time workers who are overweight or obese and have chronic health problems miss about 450 million more days of work each year than healthy workers. The result is an estimated cost of more than $150 billion in lost productivity each year. According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Americans spend up to half their waking life sitting.
More than one-third of U.S. adults have obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC defines obesity as weight that is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height is described as overweight or obese. The disease increases the risk of numerous health and safety risks, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and some cancers.
Contributors to the Growth in Obesity
Diet, lifestyle and genetics all play a role in the disease. According to a recently released guidance statement from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the workplace has become a contributor to the growth in obesity because of the conversion of the American workforce from mostly manual labor to desk jobs. Because of the decline in manual labor, that has resulted in a decrease in more than 100 calories in both men and women with expending energy while at work during the day. Furthermore, sitting time at work is associated with higher BMI (Body Mass Index).
Employers Managing Employee Obesity
With most people spending most of their day at work, the responsibility for managing obesity among the working population has become that of the employers. The health of employees is critical to a company’s overall productivity and retention of talent.
Some of the preventative measures a company can take in preventing and helping treat obesity in their workplace:
- Offer regular health screenings for employees.
- Provide memberships or discounts to health/fitness clubs.
- Present wellness classes on nutrition, exercise and weight management.
- Offer healthy choices in cafeteria and/or vending machines
- Ensure access to safe walking area for employees/encourage employees to use the stairways.
- Provide healthier food at meetings and other employee events.
Some of the treatment options listed by the guidance statement are:
- Implementation of a workplace wellness program that provides opportunities to aid employees in adopting healthy lifestyles.
- Offer behavioral counseling to employees.
- Offer coverage/access to bariatric surgery to individuals with a BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2.
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