Six questions every CEO should ask today about improving employee health


According to Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, companies are literally killing their employees.

In his new book, Dying for a Paycheck, Pfeffer explains that work environments have become toxic. Longer work hours, work-family conflicts, and less job control and security are destroying the health of our workforce.  Job stress costs US employers more than $300 billion annually and 120,000 deaths each year.

Learn more about why Pfeffer thinks the way we work may be killing us in his interview with Slate.

These issues haven’t popped up overnight and require fundamental changes to corporate culture and benefits design. However, there are small changes CEOs can make today to support employees’ health. Answer these six questions to see if there is room for quick improvement at your company:

  1. Do I understand the current state of our workforce? It’s hard to manage something that isn’t being measured.  Start by getting data on the health and well-being of your workforce.  Track that overtime and see the impact company decisions have on those numbers.
  2. What is senior leadership doing to improve our own health? Corporate culture takes direction from its leaders. In building a culture of health, it’s important to take a top-down approach. If senior management has a work/life balance, uses their PTO, takes a lunch to go for a quick run, avoids sending emails to staff in the evenings and on weekends, then employees are more likely to follow suit and reap the health benefits.
  3. Do we support both the physical and mental health of our employees and widely communicate the resources available to them? Physical activity is linked to profound improvements in mental, physical and social health. So, while it’s important to focus on physical health through preventive care and workplace wellness programs, it’s also important for employees to understand the available mental health benefits. Widely and frequently communicate these offerings and employees will be more likely to seek out help when needed.
  4. How are we engaging employees in wellness? To get and keep employees engaged in their health and well-being, create programs that have broad appeal and allow opportunities to participate in activities important to them. Additionally, make sure barriers to participation are removed by allowing members to engage how and when they want, through the technology they want.
  5. Do our wellness incentives support better employee health and well-being? Structuring incentives correctly can have long-lasting impact on what matters most – achieving better health. Employers should spend less on incentives for data collection activities, like health assessments and biometric screenings.  Giving an employee $100 in HSA funds to complete an assessment is not an investment in their health.  It’s a payment for participating employees’ data and a stick to those that don’t want to share their data.  Instead, employers should focus incentives on programs that are an investment in the health of their employees.  For example, our Active Rewards with Apple Watch program gives members the opportunity to earn an Apple Watch over the course of two years simply by being active.
  6. Do our employees feel a sense of purpose? Employees thrive when they have opportunities to engage in more than their daily jobs. Offer opportunities for social responsibility and volunteerism through events that support a cause or the community such as building community gardens, charity fun runs or challenges.


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