How to Create a Healthy Workforce

June 23, 2011
Lincoln Industries lowers workers comp and cuts health care costs with aid of happy well-balanced employees.

If every company was as progressive in their thoughts and actions as Lincoln Industries the U.S. would be full of healthy, happy and productive workers who are bringing down the cost of healthcare.

"We didn't create a wellness program in order to receive a good ROI. We just felt it was important to help our people create better lives for themselves. A happier, healthy environment is the basis for achievement. What we found was that we have lower healthcare costs, lower absenteeism, lower turnover and higher quality," explains Dan Krick, Vice President of People Resources at Lincoln Industries, a manufacturing, fabrication and metal-finishing company.

One interesting metric that isn't often measured is the effect of wellness programs on the cost of workers' compensation. Lincoln has examined that connection and found that its costs decreased dramatically over the past seven years. In 2003 costs were $516,513 compared to $4,201 in 2010. And those saving go straight to a profit sharing plan.

"Progressive companies are seeing the relationship between injuries and illness and the overall state of health of the workforce. At the start of every shift we have a pre-shift stretch to prevent injuries. And if someone is feeling sore we provide trigger point therapy on-site and on-the-clock," Krick said.

The company has also made great strides in decreasing lifestyle factors that account for high health care costs. For example tobacco use fell from 42% of the population smoking in 2004, to 15% in 2010. And in comparison to other Midwestern employees in the region, Lincoln's health care costs are 30% less.

In 2004 the company was already offering voluntary health checks after having spent time working one-on-one with employees to find out what issues needed to be addresses. The evaluations included blood pressure, weight, body fat and flexibility. Participation was high -- 75% -- and no one objected when the company moved to a 100% required participation.

"We have a culture here where people care for each other and that attitude extended to creating healthier behaviors. To understand how to get there we offer a holistic approach to health with includes physical, emotional, social, and financial -- all aspects of health," explains Krick. Their philosophy of living a balanced life is incorporate in their Wellness Wheel which includes Physical, Social, Financial, Emotional, Career and Spiritual Wellness.

The company uses metrics called Well-Being Domains to help fulfill their vision plans which are formulated in three year intervals. The categories they measure are:

  • Life Evaluation Index
  • Healthy Behavior Index
  • Emotional Health Index
  • Work Environment Index
  • Physical Health Index
  • Basic Access Index

Earlier this year the company announced its HealthyU which is being built in co-operation with IMSCORP, another manufacturer in Lincoln. The 20,000 square-foot facility will provide medical care, disease management and health coaching. These services will be provided free of charge to employees and their families -- no copays or deductibles.

The center will deal with acute conditions as well as provide lifestyle counseling. "As compared to a retail health model, our health professionals will have the time to spend 30-40 minutes helping to understand the nature of the conditions and how best to help. And often we have specific programs right on site that deal directly with the problem. It's a seamless transition."

Krick said the self-insured company will break even on the costs associated with HealthyU and will have a nice ROI the second year. "If companies learn to look at wellness the same way we looked at quality and then lean it's easy to understand how investing in people, through wellness programs, pays off. As the workforce becomes healthy on all levels people operate on a higher level and bring more quality and efficiency to their efforts. This co-operative positive environment creates success for the company as a whole," says Krick.

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