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Jun 2016

Your employees are suffering from chronic conditions. Now what?


Chronic join pain

Chronic health conditions are a high hurdle faced by companies of all job types. The impacts of these health conditions not only carry individual consequences, but can be a detriment to the work environment as a whole. In fact, chronic health conditions are a massive factor in healthcare costs, as nearly 90% of funds are directed toward chronic conditions. In 2010, over 2 trillion dollars were spent caring for individuals with conditions such as asthma arthritis, obesity, cancer, mood disorders and diabetes.

How are chronic health conditions hurting the workforce?

A previous article on our site covered employee wellness and how crucial it is for employees to balance work and daily life. If you dissect the term ‘employee wellness’, you will find chronic conditions to be a major factor in determining just how well your employees are.  So, here is some insight on how employee wellness can specifically reduce and alleviate the strains of chronic conditions.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 117 million people, roughly half of the population, with at least one chronic condition in the United States. Additionally, there are about 60 million who deal with two or more chronic conditions. To compound the sheer numbers of those suffering from chronic conditions, 7 of the top ten causes of death were from chronic health issues. In a study by Georgetown University it was determined that employees who suffer from chronic conditions lose around 30 billion dollars a year in collective wages. Due to the fact that over 160 million workers in the United States receive employer-based health coverage, the number of chronic conditions puts a major strain on health insurance.

Beside the numbers determining direct impact on individuals who have a chronic ailment, there is the indirect effect on the rest of society. Many of those suffering from chronic ailments need someone to provide care for them. Thus, employers are losing effective workers due to a conflict of priorities. A study by the Workplace Wellness Alliance found that over nearly 80% of people with one or more chronic conditions are cared for by immediate family members. The concern is that those caring for their family members are missing work in order to do so. 

According to the study completed by Georgetown University, businesses in the United States lose roughly 11 billion dollars annually due to absent workers and new hires due to employees needing to care for family members with ‘intense’ needs. When individuals with ‘less than intense’ needs are factored in, then US businesses lose nearly 30 billion dollars a year; all due to employees caring for individuals with chronic conditions.

What can you do?

Employers have the opportunity to create a workplace that encourages healthy living in all aspects of their employees’ lives. Helping to reduce the number, severity, and chances of chronic conditions in the workplace is one area where employers can make a difference. So, how can employers tackle this issue? First, employers need to promote a workplace that prioritizes employee wellness. This includes topics such as stress management, healthy living, healthy habits, mental health, and overall employee wellbeing. Ultimately, promoting employee wellness is the umbrella beneath which many other factors are found; including chronic health conditions.

Secondly, employers need to address chronic conditions directly. This means hosting training seminars, group discussions, and individual discussions to determine each employee’s individual needs. Engaging employees directly is crucial as they know what they need to help alleviate the burden of a chronic condition. Employers have the option to combat the threat of chronic conditions through health screenings. These screenings, called bio-metric health screenings, are offered by health services to test your employees for chronic health conditions. These screenings last only a few minutes, and in that span your employees are tested for conditions such as; diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. These screenings can be a great tool for employers to use as a preemptive strike against chronic health conditions.

Finally, small changes can make a large difference. As covered in some of our other wellness articles, the workplace needs to be a place of health promotion. Employers should make it a priority to provide things such as healthy eating options and appropriate breaks. Additionally, being wary of employee stress levels and fatigue can go a long way in improving employee wellness and preventing the development of chronic conditions.

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