Isn’t Your Company’s Most Important Asset Worth Protecting?

By Jodi Prohofsky, Ph.D., LMFT, Senior Vice President, Health Management Operations, CIGNA

How many times have we heard someone say that people are a company’s most important asset? While it’s true that no company can survive without great talent, let’s add a little twist to this bromide.

A company’s most important asset is actually the health, well-being, and productivity of its employees. If employees are absent because of illness or come to work too sick or distracted to perform their best, that’s an economic loss for the company. Employers need to protect their most important asset now more than ever, and one of the best ways is to invest in corporate wellness programs.

Helping employees manage their health potentially can save millions of dollars in health care and disability costs. For example, when someone quits smoking that saves approximately $1,623* in annual medical costs; and when an overweight or obese employee becomes more active that can save approximately $499**  in total costs. It all adds up!

Making healthy lifestyle changes isn’t easy, but corporate wellness programs can be successful with the right approach.

First, commitment to health and wellness has to start at the top with the CEO, and it needs to filter through all layers of management, including line supervisors. When employees see that the company’s leadership supports health and wellness, so will they.

Second, companies need to be smart about targeting the programs they offer to the needs of their employee population.

For example, if very few employees use tobacco but a large percentage are overweight, it makes sense to place more emphasis on exercise, weight loss, and healthy eating programs. Make the investment where it will have the most impact.

Third, nothing succeeds like success, so find champions within the company who are willing to share their story. There’s nothing more powerful than hearing from a co-worker how she quit smoking, lost weight, or improved her life by adopting a healthier lifestyle through the company’s wellness programs.

Last, but not least, try to make it fun. I’m the executive sponsor of CIGNA’s Healthy Life Team Challenge, a 10-week enterprise-wide weight loss and physical activity competition that encourages our employees to manage their weight safely or embrace an active lifestyle. It’s great to see so many employees rising to the challenge and forming teams, and I’m expecting to see a lot of spirited activity as teams try to reach their goals.

Best of all, the participating employees with children will be great role models for their kids as they get active and start living healthier lives! 

*CDC, MMWR Report, 2002
**F. Wang, T. McDonald, L.J. Champagne, D.W. Edington (2004). BMI, physical activity, and health care costs. JOEM. 46(5), 428-436.