Most employers want you to be healthy. Really.
Healthier workers are more productive workers. They cost companies fewer dollars over time because they are not always tapping into their healthcare benefits. When employees are physically fit and healthy, they tend to take fewer sick days.
It should come as no surprise, then, that many employers offer quality-of-life and wellness benefits to their workers.
These quality-of-life benefits can come in many forms: Some employers provide free or reduced-cost membership to local gyms. Others require their employees to schedule annual physical exams. Still others cover the costs of weight-loss and anti-smoking programs. Some companies even choose to provide discounts to employees signing up for swimming or exercise classes in their communities. Others offer on-site fitness rooms and walking trails or sponsor company basketball or floor hockey leagues.
This is good news for workers. We should all strive to be healthy. When our employers are helping to foot the bill? That is just a bonus.
It is not surprising that a growing number of employers are offering wellness and quality-of-life benefits to their employees; workers, just like the general public, are too unhealthy today. Moreover, unhealthy workers tend to be unproductive ones.
According to recent numbers from The State of Obesity website -- a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on American health and healthcare -- 68 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese. At the same time, the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition reports that more than 80 percent of U.S. adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
This is a perfect recipe for health problems. Adults who do not exercise and are overweight are more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other serious problems. They are also, unfortunately, more likely to die at a younger age.
Companies want to protect their workers; employees are, after all, the biggest investment that most companies make. To help do this, they've developed innovative workplace wellness and quality-of-life programs and benefits.
Doing the research
You should want to take advantage of the wellness programs that your company offers. However, you must do the research before signing up for any quality-of-life programs.
Workplace wellness programs usually come in two varieties: One offers a stick approach, the other a carrot.
First, the stick: Many employers require their employees to schedule a physical each year with their primary care physician. If these employees do not do this, their health insurance rates will rise. Companies might also require those employees who smoke to pay higher rates for their health insurance.
Other benefits are of the carrot variety. This includes companies that offer their workers reduced rates or free access to local health clubs. It also includes businesses that provide on-site fitness centers, running tracks or walking trails. These benefits are designed to keep workers healthy and happy. However, workers are not penalized for not taking advantage of them.
It is important to keep wellness and quality-of-life benefits in mind when you look for a new job. It is not easy to put a price on good health. However, the healthier you are, the less likely you'll be to overspend on health care.