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3 minute read |

Wellness Programs & Presenteeism


Author - Brian Kost

It may seem like every other meeting you have includes discussing some aspect of your clients’ approach to wellness and reducing their healthcare premiums. Whether it’s implementing wellness programs, providing annual health screenings or even distributing wearable fitness technology, workplace wellness strategies are hot topics. And, these conversations show no signs of slowing in 2016.

While cost of healthcare is an incredibly important issue to address, your clients might be missing the full picture of what really is impacting their employees’ overall health and productivity. Presenteeism is the practice of coming to work while trying to work through a medical condition. This could be any type of medical condition: physical injuries (such as musculoskeletal conditions or arthritis), mental health conditions (such as depression or anxiety disorders) or chronic illnesses (such as allergies or diabetes) can all contribute to the effects of presenteeism. When employees come to work with these conditions and don’t address them, they may end up with more complicated or serious health issues — or may even have to take a disability leave. Some disability carriers have implemented programs that can help prevent presenteeism from becoming a condition that leads to a disability leave. These programs aim to boost workplace productivity, curb costs and keep employees on the job. They also work in tandem with other employee health-related resources an employer already has in place, including wellness, employee assistance and disease management programs.

Assistance increased productivity at work

Consider this example of how an employee with a chronic condition was helped through a disability carrier’s stay-at-work program:

A customer service representative was experiencing back pain as well as a lifelong, serious gastrointestinal condition. The employee needed frequent bathroom breaks, which was challenging because of her responsibilities, particularly her focus on assisting customers over the phone. A disability carrier’s nurse consultant met with the employee and connected her with her employer’s health advocate program, which successfully referred her to a more effective treatment program for her gastrointestinal condition. Next, the employee was provided with ergonomic instruction and workstation adjustments to address her back pain. Her employer also contributed by changing her job responsibilities so she didn’t have constant telephone duties. These adjustments allowed the employee to increase her productivity and overall well-being at work.

This type of integrated approach to managing employee health by connecting employees to specific health management programs when the employees need it the most — before or just after a disabling medical condition causes them to leave the workplace — can help reduce the instances of employee presenteeism throughout an organization. Next time you have a wellness-related conversation with your clients, ask them about presenteeism in their organization. You may be surprised to find your clients have never heard of the concept, but are incredibly interested in implementing a solution to curb it.

Brian Kost is the program director for the Workplace Possibilities program from Standard Insurance Company. He has been with The Standard since 2007 and was instrumental in creating the program that exists today. Kost implements and coordinates several on-site programs that allow employees to get back to work more quickly and maintain productivity, and he develops and maintains the metrics that monitor companies’ successes. With more than 30 years of experience, he is a results-driven manager with a successful track record of innovative program design in reducing absence, improving return-to-work outcomes and helping employees become more productive. He holds a master’s degree in career and guidance counseling. He also is a certified rehabilitation counselor and ergonomist.

The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc. and subsidiaries. Insurance products are offered by Standard Insurance Company of 1100 SW Sixth Avenue, Portland, Ore., in all states except New York, where insurance products are offered by The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York of 360 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 210, White Plains, N.Y. Product features and availability vary by state and company, and are solely the responsibility of each subsidiary. Each company is solely responsible for its own financial condition. Standard Insurance Company is licensed to solicit insurance business in all states except New York. The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York is licensed to solicit insurance business in only the state of New York.

article above originally appeared on employee benefit news January 8, 2016

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