I’m a big fan of the TV show Biggest Loser. Each Tuesday night, I sit down on my couch with a soda and usually something sweet/salty/fattening and watch a bunch of fat people duke it out. (Yeah, I used the “F” word – if you take offense, you’re probably fat – get over it – getting upset about someone using the word “Fat” when you’re fat is just a victim’s way out of focusing on the truth that you’re fat. Get over your fat self and do something about it.) And I love competition, so whether I’m watching the world’s greatest athletes or a group of fat people complete – it’s still competition – zero body fat or 50% body fat. The show motivates me so much to see these people taking control of their lives for the first time that I actually feel each night after the show ends that the next morning I’m “really” going to start exercising the next day. Then the next week comes, and I can’t wait for the next episode to get that motivating feeling again – so I can start working out the next day (which I never do!) – you see the vicious cycle – damn you Biggest Loser!
What I don’t get is how we (HR Pros) are letting our workforces get so fat. The research is out there, employees who are obese fat cost exponentially more than fit employees – and we aren’t talking about hundreds of dollars – we’re talking about thousands of dollars per fat employee. The University of Virginia Medical School released a study last year “The Economic Impact of Obesity” in which they explain:
“The costs of obesity to the employer are even more substantial since obesity is associated not only with higher health care costs but also with greater rates of lost productivity, disability and earlier mortality. Employers as diverse as General Motors, Bank One and Shell Oil have all demonstrated that excess weight is associated with lost productivity and greater medical and disability costs. Aggregating the direct and indirect costs of obesity to the employer the additional per capita costs to the employer due to excess weight ranged from $175 [(overweight)] to $2,027 [(class III obesity)] in men and $588 [(overweight)] to $2,164 [(class III obesity)] in women, depending on the degree of overweight and obesity. Obesity also imposes limitations while at work. Data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) show that 6.9% of obese workers have work limitations, compared with 3.0% of workers with a healthy body weight. Worksite injuries are also significantly higher among overweight employees; low back injuries were 1.42 times higher and non-back musculoskeletal injuries were 1.53 times higher among overweight and obese employees compared with employees with a healthy body weight. Lastly, overweight and obesity is a significant predictor of transition from short-term to chronic back pain. Overweight employees have a 56% greater chance for developing chronic back pain and obese employees have an 85% greater risk compared with healthy-weight employees.”
Also, a Duke University study from 2007 showed:
“Overweight employees “filed 9% more claims, missed 3.5 times as many workdays and their medical claims costs were 1.5 times their counterparts with “normal” weight, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. They also incurred nearly twice the indemnity costs.”
So, look, I know I’m not telling any HR Pro reading this anything you don’t already know – but here’s how I think you can use this data to win the lottery for your employees. HR Pros always (yes – always) complain they don’t have enough budget money to do what really needs to be done to impact wellness. So, I’m going to tell you how to get a whole bunch of money. Ready?
Pay your employees to lose weight.
But how does that get you money, you ask? Pay them less to lose weight than you’re paying them to be fat. Said another way – you’re paying thousands of dollars taking care of your fat employees’ health – make it more rewarding for them to lose the weight – but just under what you’re paying to keep them alive because of their fat related illnesses.
Look, if a company can tell their employees they can’t smoke –here – or they get fired, and it’s legal – you can pay your employees to get skinny. Now – I can already hear the naysayers, “But it’s not about being skinny, it’s about being “healthy”!” You know what? When you’re 50/100/200 pounds overweight – it’s about getting skinny, then getting healthy. Lose the weight and you’d be amazed at how many other issues take care of themselves.
I’ll tell you right now this isn’t easy to put together – it’s far easier to go to one of the those specialty Wellness Companies and pay to have them come out with 7 color brochures about getting fit and eating broccoli and getting a free health assessment. Or you can get creative, put your money where your employees’ big fat mouths are and get some results. Your call tubby.
If you Google “Tim Sackett” you’ll find our Tim, and a truck driver chaplain. Our Tim is NOT the truck driver chaplain, although how awesome would that be if he was!? He is a prolific writer in the HR and TA space who just happens to also run an Engineering and IT contract staffing agency (HRU Technical Resources) out of Michigan. He also writes every day at his own blog, the Tim Sackett Project. Weirdly, he’s known as an expert in workplace hugging, which was kind of cool years ago, but now seems painfully creepy, but we still love him and he’s fairly harmless. Tim is also on the board of the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (ATAP), lifetime Michigan State Spartan fan, husband to a Hall of Fame wife, 3 sons, and his best friend Scout. He also wrote a book with SHRM called The Talent Fix, you can find it on Amazon.