(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on Feb 28th, 2013)
With companies like Google stepping up and creating amazing employee health centres in their offices with massage and gyms and health bars why don’t we see more companies following suit? Well, that’s because most corporations think that the cost is too great, but what is the true cost of not taking care of employee health? Let’s explore this idea today.
Pain impacts your work and productivity as an employee. The most obvious way your pain impacts your employer is having to miss work for doctor’s appointments and time off to recuperate. Sure musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and pain are not the only reasons to take time off work but they definitely do contribute to the total. According to a research study performed and published by The Work Foundation in 2011, ~32.5% of the American workforce took time off work because of the most common MSD (defined as Back pain, Neck pain, and Upper Limb pain) in a two week period1. For a small company of 300 people, that comes out to be ~195 days a year lost due to MSD (Assuming an average of 2 days off/employee/year). Just imagine what that would be for a company of thousands.
Now if we assume an average annual salary of $60,000 and two weeks of vacation a year then we can actually break this down and give this MSD impact a financial cost to the company. For our little 300 employee firm that would be in the neighbourhood of $50,000 per year. Once again, imagine what that would be for a large company.
Before musculoskeletal pain reaches the point where people admit to themselves that they need to take time off or work to recover, it is already impacting their work. Pain sensation decreases our ability to focus and work, both as a distracting factor as well as interrupting our physical ability to perform tasks as simple as sitting at a desk, typing, lifting, or writing by hand. When surveyed , 20% of the American workforce admitted to losing productive time while at work due to MSDs such as headache, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome2. The researchers determined the average number of hours each condition impacted productivity and when we apply these averages to our poor little employer again they lose over 270 hours of work to pain weekly. For a larger corporation this will be in the thousands.
Putting this in financial terms again this costs the company approximately $430,000 a year to MSD given our previous assumptions about salary and vacation time. So in the end our little 300 person agency is losing almost $500,000 a year. A big company like a bank or a brokerage firm would be losing millions.
Along comes our favourite little hero, complementary and alternative medicine. How do we in the CAM world fit into this picture? Well, MSDs are our bread and butter (despite most of us being gluten and dairy free). Chiropractic, Massage, Acupuncture, and even some Naturopathic techniques are superb at treating these conditions. Of course, you know that we don’t only focus on acute pain, we promote prevention of these potentially debilitating conditions. This is not even taking into account how much Naturopathy and Acupuncture can help other conditions outside of the MSD realm.
So you tell me what the true cost of not taking care of employee health is. If you believe in the benefit of preventative medicine, why not discuss it with your supervisor and present it in these terms. You might get more (or any) of the cost covered if your company knows that it will benefit too.
Thanks for reading,
1. McGee, Bevan, and Quadrello. Fit For Work? Musculoskeletal Disorders and the Canadian Labour Market. The Work Foundation 2011
2. Stewart WF, Ricci JA, Chee E, Morganstein D, and Lipton R. Lost Productive Time and Cost Due To Common Pain Conditions in the U.S. Workforce. Journal of the American Medical Association 2003. 290;2443-2454.