Wellness

The Cost of Unhealthy Employees: What Employers Should Know

Tired woman covering eyes with post it notes.

“When you take care of your team, you take care of your business,” says British business leader Sir Richard Branson. It’s a philosophy that all companies should set as the foundation of their employee engagement strategy. Companies with healthy employees experience higher worker productivity and more business success. However, many employees struggle to maintain good health. Here’s what employers should know about the cost of unhealthy employees.

Burn out and stress

Most employees today are stressed. Due to the pandemic, they lived through months of uncertainty as businesses continually changed operations and decisions to follow government mandates to keep employees and customers safe. Employees continuously adapted to new situations, worked different hours and took on projects and customers with minimal support.

One study found that 75% of workers feel burned out. About 40% said their burnout is a direct result of the pandemic. Many employees believe their burnout impacts their relationships with their families and friends. They’re also slightly more likely to visit the emergency room due to physical problems associated with burnout and stress. Learn more about job burnout from Mayo Clinic.

Lack of motivation, lower productivity

Many employees today say they lack the motivation to go to work every day. At work, their productivity declines as they struggle to focus on projects and make decisions.

Prolonged burnout can cause insomnia and fatigue and lead to health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and immunity problems.

Higher turnover

When employees feel burned out, they’re overwhelmed. They try to improve their attitudes and work situation to reduce their feelings of burnout, but eventually employees give up and look for other employment options. They hope that a new job will bring new experiences with less stress, making it easier to balance their work and life responsibilities.

Research shows that 45% of employers report employee burnout is the cause of 20 – 50% of employees quitting each year. Nearly 95% of business leaders believe employee burnout is damaging their workforce retention efforts.

Employee turnover also impacts company budgets. When an employee quits, companies spend about 20% of the person’s annual salary to find a replacement worker. And there are the costs for training and teaching new employees the skills needed to do their job.

Retaining and recruiting talented workers is a primary challenge for businesses in all industries. Business leaders rank attracting and recruiting talent as their company’s biggest challenge, followed closely by difficulties in retaining top workers.

Employees leave companies for many reasons. The goal for employers is to have a supportive culture, great benefits, and a supportive work environment that shows workers they’re cared about and their contributions are appreciated.

Three things employers can do

Focusing on employee health helps workers feel happier, less stressed and more in control, motivated and satisfied with their job. In a healthy workplace, employees take less time off for physical and mental health problems. Research shows that employees who feel supported by their employers are less likely to leave. Here are three things employers can do to help employees:

  1. Provide the right mix of health benefits

    Offer traditional health, dental and vision plans with generous coverage options to meet a range of needs. Every month, educate employees about their benefits and include examples of how to use their coverage. Explain preventive screening options included with the plans that can help workers maintain good health. Many employees don’t understand the value of the preventive services available through their insurance coverage. For example, research shows that most millennials don’t take advantage of preventive care options. This decision could impact millennials’ immediate and long-term health, possibly leading to illness and higher insurance costs. Medical experts believe millennials could face many health problems, such as eating disorders, mental issues and oral health concerns.

    Another way employers can assist employees is to offer caregiver benefits. Many employees take care of children and older adults. These responsibilities often overlap into their work hours. Offering caregiver benefits helps employees juggle their family needs by providing financial support or backup care options. Employees appreciate this benefit because it eases their worries and concerns. It shows their employer cares about them.

  1. Offer generous paid time off and flexible schedules

    Employees value flexible work schedules and time off to help them balance work and life needs. Companies switching to hybrid work schedules should give employees the flexibility to organize their day to meet work needs, deadlines and personal needs. Whenever possible, let employees determine how, when and where they complete their work.

    Also, throughout the year, encourage employees to use their time off to destress and refresh. Remind workers to take sick time when they’re sick. About 90% of employees say they come to work when they don’t feel well. Not only are they less productive, but they share their germs with coworkers who may get sick. With COVID-19 and the cold and flu season, it’s a concern.

  1. Listen to employee needs

    At least several times a year, conduct pulse surveys with employees to understand their issues, problems and concerns. In response to their feedback, set up programs and offer benefits to meet employee needs. For example, many employees are struggling financially due to the pandemic. Offering a range of financial well-being programs can provide the support workers need to help resolve their problems and feel more in control.

Sources:
Center for American Progress
Business.com
Psychology Today
Workable
Fortune
PeopleKeep
Forbes
Harvard Business Review