Why should companies invest in the health of their employees? In short, health impacts safety. Companies may not realize how work can have a direct impact on the health of their workers’ lives. This article outlines why companies need to make investments in Total Worker Health, and just what costs are directly and indirectly tied to it, and how those costs are returned as multiples of ROI (return on investment).

Why invest in Total Worker Health?

Total worker health (TWH) is a holistic view of employee health. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) TWH is a fundamental method of protecting workers. TWH is designed to eliminate or reduce recognized hazards, risks, and stressors in the workplace and address how job conditions and work programs impact every employee’s health and safety.

The Cost of Employee Absence

According to Investopedia, one of the employee-related issues that can undermine a business’s success is absenteeism. Some causes of absenteeism are workplace harassment, family-related issues, illness, burnout, and worst of all, workplace injury. Absenteeism can drive up payroll costs and result in enormous losses in productivity, ranging from $1.3 billion for construction workers up to $24.2 billion for professionals.

Unscheduled absenteeism, according to one study, costs about $3,600 per year for a single hourly worker and over $2,600 for salaried employees. The costs accrue because of wages paid to absentees, paying replacement workers or co-workers overtime to take up the slack, as well as the administrative costs of managing absenteeism. Losses in productivity, according to this piece in Your Workpath can be as high as 19%.

So, the bottom line is that investing in the health of workers not only makes them safer but keeps them on the job. That wellness, in turn, positively impacts all aspects of the person’s life.

The Direct ROI of Total Worker Health

TWH is an approach that eliminates unsatisfactory working conditions, substitutes healthier ones, redesigns the workplace, and educates as well as encourages culture changes. 

According to OSHU, here are some examples of direct ROI in TWH:

  • Reducing the economic burden of occupational disease, injury, and death in the US. The cost is $250 billion in direct and indirect costs combined, or 1.8% of the United States’ GDP.
  • Doubling the return on investment–Investing in TWH programs brings return on investment (ROI) of $2.05 -$4.61 per dollar invested, according to studies by the American Journal of Public Health and Occupational Medicine.
  • Reducing Workers Compensation claims and costs 
  • Improving employee mental health–According to research from the Center for Prevention and Health Services, workplace costs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders range from $79 to $105 billion each year.

The Indirect ROI of Total Worker Health

Direct savings aren’t the only benefits of investing in TWH. There are indirect benefits that accrue. TWH promotes safety behavior by employees that will keep them happier and healthier. Those behaviors, in turn, have a direct impact on their health, which means less absences, fewer injuries and fatalities on the job.

According to OSHU, indirect ROI of investing in TWH include:

  • Focusing on and reducing unsafe practices, such as speeding and over-speeding/hard braking on the part of truck drivers
  • Promoting weight loss through dietary education for overweight drivers
  • Smoking cessation and support through work group education
  • Increasing health and fitness through exercise promotion, e.g., through subsidy of health club memberships.

TWH Approach Endorsed by the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Recognizes TWH as having “a positive, long-term impact on your workers’ health, safety, and well-being and on your organization’s bottom line.” This article by NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard, highlights some particularly promising practices, programs and policies resulting from TWH:

  • Paid sick leave
  • Training supervisors on how to reduce stress on the job 
  • Adding walking workstations or conducting active meetings promotes physical health.
  • Offering ergonomically friendly working environments can lead to a more productive environment for an aging workforce.
  • Flexible scheduling where feasible can “remove impediments to well-being, thus leading to healthier, more productive workers.”

In Short: Why Should You Invest in TWH?

  • Total Worker Health is founded on improving workplace safety with the added focus of reducing the burden of occupational injury, workplace stress and chronic illness, and improving the well-being of workers.
  • See a direct increase in productivity and safety within the workplace. 
  • TWH Intervention programs improve/reduce multiple safety and health problems
  • According to OSHA, workplace deaths and reported occupational injuries have dropped by more than 60 percent since the signing of the OSHA Act about 40 years ago. 

Nevertheless, the nation’s workers continue to face an unacceptable number of work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses, most of them preventable. This means we still have a lot of work to do. 

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