Most important results from the book “Thrive”:
Studies allover the world have shown over the last ten years that stress and burnout have huge impact for our healthcare systems and are influencing the profitability of companies. Many people in the academic field are overwhelmed by their work and all the topics around businesses and this situation covers the personal needs and an appropriate work-life balance to avoid serious health problems. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that from 1983 to 2009, there was between a 10 and 30 percent increase in stress levels across all demographic categories. Higher levels of stress can lead to higher instance of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Germany lost fifty-nine million workdays to psychology illness in 2011, up to over 80 percent in fifteen years. Ursula von der Leyen estimated that burnout is costing the country up to ten billion euros per year. “Nothing is more expensive than sending a good worker into retirement in their mid-forties because they´re burned out,” she said.
According to a Harvard Medical study, an astounding 96 percent of leaders said they felt burned out. In fact, one of the legal defenses offered by Steve Cohen, CEO of SAC Capital, the hedge fund that was indicted in 2013 and agreed to a record USD 1.2 billion fine, was that he missed a warning about insider trading because of the one thousand emails he gets every day.
There is a growing evidence that the long-term health of a company´s bottom line and the the health of its employees are, in fact, very much aligned.
In the United Kingdom, stress results in 105 million lost workdays each year. No wonder Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter recommends that companies “mount an aggressive approach to wellness, prevention, screening and active management of chronic conditions.”
In the meantime we have some good examples of reasonable companies acting as positive example for health strategies in the future in United States:
One company that did wake up to the importance of employee health was Safeway. The supermarket chain´s former CEO Steve Burd recounts that in 2005 Safeway´s health care bill hit USD 1 billion and was going up by USD 100 million a year. “What we discovered was that 70 percent of health care costs are driven by people´s behaviors,” he says. “Now as a business guy, I thought if we could influence the behavior of our 200,000-person workforce, we could have a material effect on health care costs.”
So Safeway offered incentives for employees to lose weight and control their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It established a baseline health insurance premium with behavior-based discounts. As Burd explained, “If you are a confirmed non-smoker, we give you a discount. If you have cholesterol under control, a discount. Blood pressure under control, a discount. And so behavior becomes a form of currency for people to accomplish their lifestyle changes.” And it was a huge success. “You allow and encourage your employees to become healthier, they become more productive, your company becomes more competitive,” Burd says.
The Safeway Connection
Steve Burd served as Safeway’s CEO for 20 years. Facing mounting healthcare costs in a people intensive low-margin industry, Steve accomplished what no other corporate executive had been able to do. He focused his company’s health spending on prevention rather than care and built a culture of health and fitness. Safeway’s results were extraordinary.
The company lowered healthcare spend 15% (from $1 billion to $850 million) over an 8-year period when industry norms were an increase of 70%
They simultaneously lowered employee costs
They achieved a dramatic improvement in workforce health
These changes were implemented in a manner that was strongly embraced by the workforce.