A Health Mandate That Business Can Live With

Cartoon character exercizingA Health Mandate That Business Can Live With reminds me of a visit to Panasonic in Osaka, Japan over 10 years ago, just before I retired from IBM. I’ll always remember pulling into the plant facility and seeing workers lined up in formation in the work yard performing calisthenics before starting their shift. They all looked fit and ready to “attack the day” with high morale and productivity. So what happened to America?

Some Article Highlights

  • Six of every seven (~86%) full-time US workers are now either overweight or have a chronic but preventable health condition. (recent Gallop poll)
  • $1.3 trillion per year is the amount that American businesses loose due to ill health-induced absenteeism and presenteeism, which is when employees manage to show up for work but are less productive. 70% of that cost is totally preventable. (Milken Institute)
  • That lost productivity is in addition to the total cost of delivering healthcare, which exceeded $2.3 trillion in 2008. (Consumer Healthcare Products Association)
  • For every dollar spent on wellness, “medical costs fall by about $3.27 … and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73.” (Harvard health economist Katherine Baicker)

One cause of today’s stressed-out and unhealthy workers seems to be the gradual trend away from long-term corporate investments and toward short-term profits instead. That has caused companies to treat employees as expenses rather than as valuable assets to be protected and nurtured. And expenses are to be managed and cut wherever possible.

Articles and management awareness programs that promote the business value of a healthy and capable workforce will help, but couldn’t even greater long-term benefit come from embedding this thinking and its justification into our MBA programs for future leaders? Such a movement could start by requiring more physical education in schools.