Shedding weight of workplace health risks

Variety of weight-loss options support employee behaviour, help drive costs down
By Sue Brown
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 12/20/2011

Canadians are tipping the scales — 62 per cent of the working population is overweight or obese, according to Statistics Canada. Obesity is connected to several health risk factors and can increase the risk of a number of chronic conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancers. There’s also the stigma associated with it, and reduced psychological well-being.

For employers, employee health is a significant concern. Employees with more than one health risk (overweight being just one of several risk factors) are absent much more frequently and are more costly in terms of short- and long-term disability, health benefits, engagement, productivity and presenteeism.

Modifiable health-risk factors — such as exercise and eating habits, stress management practices, body weight, sleep habits, alcohol and tobacco intake — contribute considerably to an employee’s health status. Given this tremendous impact, employee health risks should be managed in the workplace just as an employer might manage any other business risk.