Fit for Work: The costs and benefits of investing in employee health

A UK organisation is enabling businesses to quantify the benefits of helping employees stay healthy.

A CALCULATOR created by the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence can help you establish a business case for an employee health program.

By entering statistics for your business, such as how many employees you have and how many sick days they take, the tool will estimate the potential costs and benefits of introducing a physical activity program.

The institute suggests such a program might include appointing a health coordinator, lunchtime walks, activity classes and discounted gym memberships.

It is suggested employees be provided with information encouraging them to be more active and explaining the benefits of doing so.

It says employees should be encouraged to cycle or walk to work, and should be consulted on the physical activity program being considered.

According to the institute, 65% of men in the UK and 76% of women do not engage in the recommended 30 minutes of at least moderate exercise five days a week, and estimates that this inactivity costs England £8.2 billion ($17 billion) in absence and disease-treatment costs.

Other suggestions include:

  • encouraging employees to move around more at work, walking to external meetings for example providing information about walking and cycling routes
  • encouraging staff to set goals and monitor the distances they cover.

The institute estimates that in 2005-2006, England lost 30.5 million working days as a result of workplace-related illnesses and injuries, and that on average each sick person took 16 days off work during that 12-month period.

It suggests that by implementing a physical activity program companies can help employees avoid the sicknesses that result in absence from the workplace.

To see the full list of recommendations and the business case calculator, go to http://www.nice.org.uk/PH013.


This article first appeared in Business Community Intelligence, August 2008