Wellness in the Workplace: How to Increase Employee Productivity with a Plan for Healthy Living
Jun 11, 2010
The success of any company depends heavily on the productivity and performance of its employees. There is strong data to suggest that high levels of stress, excess body weight, and other multiple risk factors are associated with increased healthcare costs and illness-related absenteeism. Studies show that health and wellness promotion programs are associated with lower levels of absenteeism and reduced healthcare costs. Providing education and motivation to improve individual health can produce valuable rewards for both employees and employers. Because most people spend so many of their waking hours at work, that can be an excellent environment for influencing healthy habits.
Benefits of corporate wellness programs can include:
- Lower healthcare costs
- Reduced chronic disease risk
- Decreased rates of illness, injury and disability
- Reduced absenteeism
- Increased employee productivity and efficiency
- Improved morale and lower stress levels
- Enhanced retention of healthy employees
The Numbers Tell the Story
- More than 133 million Americans, or 45 percent of the population, have at least one chronic condition.1
- According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), healthcare spending on chronic diseases accounts for 75% of healthcare spending.2
- Obesity is one of the root causes of chronic disease, accounting for nearly 10% of the amount that the U.S. spends annually on healthcare. A recent study found that obesity-related health spending reached $147 billion, double what it was nearly a decade ago.3
- In 2007, total healthcare spending was $2.4 trillion, or $7,900 per person. U.S. healthcare spending represented 17% of the gross domestic product (GDP). U.S. healthcare spending is expected to increase at similar levels for the next decade, reaching $4.3 trillion in 2017, or 20% of GDP.4
- Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance have risen from $5,791 in 1999 to $13,375 in 2009 (a 131% increase), with the amount paid by workers rising by 128%.5
- A recent study shows that if individuals adhere to healthy lifestyle practices (maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, getting regular exercise, not smoking), chronic disease could be reduced by as much as 80%.6
Factors Affecting Productivity
One of the most serious health-related problems in the workplace impacting on-the-job accidents, absenteeism and lowered productivity, is fatigue. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. workers experience fatigue, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Fatigue carries overall estimated costs of more than $136 billion per year in health-related lost productivity. Eighty-four percent of the costs were related to reduced performance while at work, rather than absences.7
Along with fatigue (often caused by poor sleep), other common “energy zappers” are poor food choices, lack of exercise, dehydration, and stress. All of these factors can affect employee productivity.
How to Adopt Healthy Habits – A 6-Month Plan to Healthy Living
Your life is shaped by the actions that you repeatedly carry out. Choosing healthy, positive behaviors helps you reach your goals, while unhealthy habits negatively affect your health and can act as deterrents to getting you to where you want to be. Focusing on one change at a time can increase your success in adopting new, healthier habits. Based on this incremental concept, here is a 6-month plan for creating wellness in your workplace.
Month 1 —Fortify with Core Nutritional Supplements
Our bodies need a constant supply of nutrients to function at their best, but deficiencies are prevalent in our society and contribute to disease risk. Many of the most common health conditions have been directly linked to improper nutrition and poor lifestyle habits. Even small nutritional deficiencies can compromise immunity, vitality, and damage health.
Unfortunately, even the best diet cannot protect you from nutrient deficiencies. Stress, poor food choices, medications, and illnesses can further deplete your body of important nutrients. Nutritional supplements help to create a strong foundation for overall health.
Many studies have shown the health benefits and economic savings of nutritional supplementation. Some examples include:
- In 1995, 290,327 patients aged 50 years or older were discharged from US hospitals with a primary diagnosis of hip fracture, at an estimated direct cost of $5.6 billion. Based on risk reductions seen in clinical trials, an estimated 134,764 hip fractures and $2.6 billion in direct medical costs could have been avoided if individuals aged 50 years or older consumed approximately 1,200 mg/daily of supplemental calcium.8
- Nearly $20 billion in hospital charges were potentially avoidable with daily use of folic acid and zinc-containing multivitamins by all women of childbearing age, and daily vitamin E supplementation by those over age 50.9
- Vitamin D deficiencies are rampant, seen widespread in children, adults, and the elderly. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many chronic illnesses. It has been proposed that providing 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily for all adult Americans would cost about $1 billion, and the expected health benefits (including a reduction in cancer) would be in the range of $16 to 25 billion.10
The following five key nutritional elements help create a strong foundation for health and establish a bank of resources to build and repair your body, and to fuel your daily activities. Correcting nutrient deficiencies is the first and most important step in preventative healthcare.
1) Multivitamin / Mineral
A high-potency multivitamin and mineral supplement is necessary to fill nutrient gaps in our diet. It provides a comprehensive selection of nutrients in optimal dosage levels and highly usable forms.
2) Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital to health and are not manufactured by the body. The standard American diet is largely devoid of these important lipids. EFAs benefit many different areas of the body, such as skin and hair, eyes, bones and joints, and the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by poor dietary habits, exposure to pollution, sun damage, smoking, drinking alcohol, and other lifestyle factors. Antioxidants can be protective and helpful for detoxification, healthy cellular growth, brain, eye, skin, heart health, and aging.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that inhabit the entire digestive, urinary, and reproductive tracts. Healthy bacteria aid in the absorption of nutrients, discourage bad bacterial growth, and act as part of the immune system. Imbalances in beneficial bacteria can occur from stress, travel, and taking certain medications (steroids, antibiotics, birth control pills). Probiotics can enhance digestion, immune function, and skin health.
5) Bone Nutrients
Bone is dynamic, living tissue that is continually being renewed. Poor diet, lack of physical activity, general aging, and hormonal changes disrupt the healthy processes of bone renewal. The minerals used by your body in response to stressful activities, allergies, and regular daily needs all deplete from your body's mineral warehouse, your bones. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and taking a formula that contains key bone support nutrients (calcium, magnesium, vitamins D3 and K) is highly recommended.
Month 2 — Provide Healthy Food Options
The foods you eat alter your brain chemistry and affect your mood and ability to think clearly. Foods that are fresh (organic when possible), whole, naturally colorful and rich in nutrients support your vitality, energy levels, and improve physical, mental, and emotional health. Foods that are heavily processed contain refined sugars, trans fats, preservatives, and artificial ingredients offer little or no nutritional value and can harm your health and lead to inflammation. Poor eating habits have been shown to be a known risk factor for the development of three leading causes of death: coronary heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Dietary factors also contribute to other chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and osteoporosis.
Month 3 — Promote Regular Exercise
Your mind, body, and spirit can all benefit from engaging in physical activity. For your body, exercise helps to protect against the development of chronic diseases, supports healthy bone density, supports healthy weight management, increases heart and lung function, and has a positive effect on cholesterol levels and blood pressure. And for your mind and spirit, exercise decreases muscle tension, can enhance feelings of well-being, improves your ability to handle stress, and often improves self-esteem and elevates mood. Also of note:
- Exercise can cut the risk of colon cancer by up to 24%.11
- High-intensity exercise can reduce the risk of stroke by 64%.12
- Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, coupled with a 5-10% reduction in body weight, produced a 58% reduction in diabetes.13
- Engaging in physical activity as little as a half hour daily can add 2 to 3 years of life expectancy.14
Month 4 — Support Stress Reduction
Stress is a contributing factor in many health problems and accounts for billions of lost workdays annually. Unresolved stress, whether physical, mental, or emotional in nature, has a negative effect on health. Regular or continuous stress weakens the immune system, increases the likelihood of illness, and slows the healing process.
To buffer the effects of negative stress on your body, it’s important to take nutritional supplements, eat a well-balanced diet, sleep restfully, and get regular cardiovascular exercise. Incorporating relaxation practices such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing into your daily life can also be wonderfully beneficial.
Month 5 — “Green” Your Work Environment to Reduce Harmful Toxins (and Be Kinder to our Planet)
A toxic substance is any compound that has an unhealthy effect on cellular structure or function. We are exposed to numerous potentially toxic chemicals on a daily basis, often without even knowing it. Even small, seemingly insignificant amounts can negatively affect many aspects of your health, and also be cumulative. Exposure may come from food, drinking water, cleaning products, yard chemicals, and even building materials like carpet and paint. It’s important to become aware of common toxins in your environment, take steps to limit exposure, and increase your body’s natural detoxification defenses.
Month 6 — Getting to the Root Cause: Specialized Testing For Further Individualization
Diagnostic tests can provide powerful insights into your health and enhance your wellness. Beyond yearly physicals, you should also receive regular screenings to decrease your risk of disease. Colonoscopies, mammograms/thermograms, pap smears or prostate exams, and vision tests are also part of preventative care. Examples of important blood tests include CBC, cholesterol panel, C-reactive protein, homocysteine levels, hemoglobin A-1 C, and thyroid levels.
A very important test to have on a regular basis is your vitamin D status, since it is estimated that over 70% of Americans are deficient in this vital nutrient. Cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, osteoporosis, and a host of other conditions including the flu and common cold are believed to be associated with low levels of vitamin D. The 25-hydroxy vitamin D test is the most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body. Optimal vitamin D levels are between 40-70 mg/mL15
If you supplement with core nutrients, modify your diet, exercise regularly, and reduce your toxin exposure, yet still experience symptoms (digestive complaints, weight gain, headaches, fatigue, mood swings), you may want to consider testing that can check for nutrient depletions, heavy metals, food sensitivities, and hormone levels (including adrenal function). However, everyone can benefit from the in-depth knowledge that thorough testing provides.
Corporate Wellness Works
Studies confirm that health improvements and cost savings are achievable by providing work-site programs for health promotion and disease prevention. On average, for every $1 spent on health management and education, companies could save $3 on healthcare costs.16 Adopting healthy practices can be affordable and simple and does not have to require expensive technology or elaborate treatment facilities. Providing health education materials can help employees take responsibility and transform their health.
1. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Chronic Disease Overview. Retrieved from
2. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Chronic Diseases at a Glance. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/publications/AAG/pdf/chronic.pdf
3. Finkelstein, E.A., Trogdon, J.G., Joel W. Cohen, J.W. & and Dietz, W. (2009). Annual Medical Spending Attributable To Obesity: Payer-And Service-Specific Estimates.
Health Affairs, 28(5), w822-w831.
4. UC Atlas of Global Inequality. (n.d.). Health Care Spending: Large Differences, Unequal Results. Retrieved from http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/spend.php
5. The Kaiser Family Foundation-and-Health Research & Education Trust. (2009). Summary Findings Employer Health Benefits. Retrieved from http://ehbs.kff.org/pdf/2009/7937.pdf
6. Ford, E. S., Bergmann, M. M. et al. (2009). Healthy Living Is the Best Revenge: Findings From the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition - Potsdam Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169 (15): 1355-1362.
7. Ricci, J.A., Chee, E., Lorandeau, A.L. & Berger, J. (2007). Fatigue in the U.S. workforce: prevalence and implications for lost productive work time. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 49(1), 1-10.
8. Bendich, A., Leader, S. & Muhuri, P. (1999). Supplemental Calcium for the Prevention of Hip Fracture: Potential Health-Economic Benefits. Clinical Therapeutics, 21(6), 1058-1072.
9. Bendich, A, Mallick, R., & Leader, S. (1997). Potential health economic benefits of vitamin supplementation. The Western Journal of Medicine, 166(5): 306–312.
10. Peiris, A., Bailey, B. & Manning, T. (2008, December 1). The Relationship of Vitamin D Deficiency to Health Care Costs in Veterans. Military Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The Relationship of Vitamin D Deficiency to Health Care Costs in...-a01611750298
11. Wolin, K.Y., Yan, Y. et al. (2009). Physical activity and colon cancer prevention: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Cancer, 100, 611–616. DOI:10.1038/sj.bjc.6604917
12. Lee, C.D., Folsom, A.R. &, Blair, S.N. (2003). Physical activity and stroke risk: a meta-analysis. Stroke, 34(10), 2475-2481. Epub 2003 Sep 18.
13. Knowler, W.C., Barrett-Connor, E. et al. (2002, February 7). Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes with Lifestyle Intervention or Metformin. New England Journal of Medicine, 346(6), 393-403.
14. Franco, O.H., de Laet, C., et al. (2005, November). Effects of physical activity on life expectancy with cardiovascular disease. Archives of Internal Medicine, 14;165(20), 2355-2360.
15. Cannell, J.J., Hollis, B.W. (2008, March). Use of vitamin D in clinical practice. Alternative Medicine Review,13(1):6-20.
16. Goetzel, R.Z., Juday, T.R. & Ozminkowski, R.J. (1999). What's the ROI? A Systematic Review of Return-on-Investment Studies of Corporate Health and Productivity Management Initiatives. AWHP's Worksite Health. 6(3), 12-21.
About Village Green Apothecary
Village Green Apothecary has been providing individualized nutrition, pharmacy, and healthy living products for over 40 years. We are committed to providing you with expert guidance, knowledge, and a custom-tailored mix of nutritional and pharmaceutical products needed to achieve and maintain optimal health. Our staff of 45 professionals (including pharmacists, nutritionists, naturopathic doctor, and clinical herbalist) offers private wellness consultations, personalized health plans using Essentials of Healthy Living (EHL), and individualized custom compounding of prescriptions.Our pharmacists are available to review and address drug/nutrient interactions and depletions to ensure your health and wellbeing. Please contact us with any questions. We are here as a resource for you!
Essentials of Healthy Living™ (EHL) – A Specific Plan for Improving Each Unique Individual’s Health
Essentials of Healthy Living is a straightforward, easy-to-use, color-coded card system (also available online at www.myvillagegreen.com) that encourages healthy living at each life stage through nutrition, diet, exercise and lifestyle recommendations. A key component of the system is the use of high-quality nutritional supplements – core nutrients to lay the groundwork for good health, along with nutrients specific to age, gender, and health concerns. This system allows individuals to create a plan specific to their unique needs and health goals. Endorsed by leading physicians, EHL was created using the latest research and is free to everyone. Village Green Apothecary 5415 W. Cedar Lane Bethesda, MD 20814 301-530-0800 / 800-869-9159 www.myvillagegreen.com