SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2021
You probably aren’t surprised to learn that employee health directly correlates with productivity. Employees who are healthy (physically, mentally, socially, financially, and in other dimensions of wellbeing) are more likely to do their best work than employees who are struggling in one or more of these areas.
There’s actually a term for when employees are physically present at work but not performing at their best due to underlying health issues or stressors: Presenteeism. Presenteeism is not a new phenomenon -- but it is a growing concern for employers because it’s harder to recognize and address than absenteeism. It’s also significantly more costly: The total cost of absenteeism in the United States is estimated to exceed $150 billion a year--presenteeism is estimated to cost over 10 times that.
It’s important for employers to recognize the immense influence they have on the health and wellbeing of their employees. The good news is that taking steps to improve employee health, including offering wellbeing programs, improving company policies to support employee health, and improving company culture to reduce presenteeism, has been shown to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism and even improve employee retention.
Let’s take a closer look at what impacts employee health and wellbeing and what employers can do to help their employees live their best lives.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often referenced as a way to understand our needs as humans. The needs at the base of the hierarchy (physiological, safety) need to be met before people can unlock higher levels of actualization. This model can be used to understand the role of employers in the health of employees:
- Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological needs, such as food, water, shelter, etc. - How Employers Can Contribute: Employers provide jobs which enable employees to fulfill these basic needs.
- Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Safety needs: Personal security, employment security, etc. - How Employers Can Contribute: Employers should provide a safe, secure working environment where employees understand what is expected of them.
- Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Love and belonging needs - How Employers Can Contribute: Employers should promote a healthy (not toxic) social environment where people are allowed to express themselves
- Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Esteem needs: Respect, self-esteem, feelings of accomplishment. - How Employers Can Contribute: Employers can promote a culture of respect, celebrating wins and learnings, and helping employees achieve their own professional goals.
- Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-actualization: Desire to be the best that one can be. - How Employers Can Contribute: Employers can provide an environment where employees have everything they need to perform at their best.
The ability to access healthcare is a basic physiological need. The ability to access and afford that care is a safety need. Without these needs met, employees cannot be expected to perform at their best.
Even with employer-sponsored health insurance, many American full-time employees struggle to access and afford medical care for their families. Some 25% of people surveyed said that they have delayed medical care due to cost. There is also the possibility that an employee is prolonging their illness or condition by attempting to work through it rather than resting or otherwise addressing it. This lengthens the period of time during which the loss of productivity will be a factor and often increases the total cost of treating the illness in the long term.
Financial stress contributes to both absenteeism and presenteeism. Researchers have consistently found that financial stress negatively impacts health, often contributing to migraines, heart disease, insomnia, and deteriorating mental health. Employees enduring financial stress have been shown to take twice as many sick days compared to less-financially stressed employees.
Although employers should aim to fulfill employee needs at each level of Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs, they should focus first on fulfilling the physiological and safety needs that they can influence, specifically, improving medical care access and affordability.
It’s evident that absenteeism and presenteeism are serious concerns for employers. Luckily, these are not new problems, and research has shown that there are things employers can do to actively combat them.
There are several ways employers can support the health and wellbeing of their employees, but the most effective methods have been found to be:
- Improving company policies and culture to promote health and wellbeing - Reducing financial stress related to healthcare
One of the most obvious solutions is to offer a wider range of leave--family, personal, medical, etc.--and more of it. Providing employees the opportunity to take care of themselves and their families without penalty can help to reduce the risk of turnover and presenteeism.
Company cultures need to adapt to allow employees to take advantage of leave when they need it: Managers need to encourage employees to take time away from their work when they are not feeling well and follow that advice themselves. They should also set an example by taking time during the workday as necessary for doctor’s visits, dental appointments, and other preventative health measures so that employees feel comfortable doing the same.
Many companies have had varying degrees of success with wellbeing programs aimed at improving physical and mental health of their employees. These wellbeing programs vary in structure and contents, but typically involve incentives for employees to eat well, exercise, limit unhealthy habits, and reduce stress. They can also include initiatives to encourage preventative health measures, such as health screenings and flu shots offered at the office.
These programs certainly can contribute to employee health, but don’t address a larger problem that affects it: The affordability of healthcare.
There are a few ways that employers can contribute to making healthcare more affordable for their employees:
- Contributing to HSAs (or matching employee contributions) - Paying for healthcare outright - Offering Paytient as a benefit
Paying for healthcare outright is, of course, the most expensive of these options, and out of the realm of what is financially possible for most employers. Contributing to HSAs puts more money in the pockets of employees, but studies have shown that these dollars don’t go very far in helping employees get the care they need. Offering Paytient as a benefit is a low-cost, high-impact way for employers to help make healthcare more affordable. For just a few dollars a month per employee, Paytient gives employees a healthier way to pay for their care. In addition, Paytient gives employees the ability to pay for their care at the time of service, and then pay it off over time, interest-free for up to a year.
Paytient gives employers a practical, low-cost way to improve the physical and financial wellbeing of their employees. By giving employees a healthier way to pay for their medical, vision, dental, and even veterinary care, employers can have an immense impact on the overall wellbeing of their employees.
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