Today’s employers are doing everything they can to help their employees make healthier lifestyle choices through various disease management and wellness programs. On the one hand, they are taking heed to what research continues to reveal. That is, by helping employees to adopt healthier lifestyle habits, organizations benefit big in areas related to productivity, profits, and health costs.However, on the other hand, companies are implementing or revising their leave policies to address employees who suffer serious medical conditions and are unable to return to work after a defined period of time.
In the following dialogue between me and a group of coworkers, I share an excerpt of the discussion I believe will help GT Readers better understand how unhealthy lifestyle habits and job continuation are linked together.
“Coach, I know the fall season is a great time to get my co-workers motivated about implementing healthier lifestyle habits,” Olivia shared.
An accountant for a local governmental agency, Olivia wanted her co-workers to explore their options for and focus their attention on eating healthier and exercising. To get them motivated, she asked me to come to their office building for a get fit discussion. Olivia was excited about how small lifestyle changes had improved her blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
On the day of our meeting, Olivia introduced me to her co-workers, Valerie, the purchasing specialist, and Carol, a courts manager.
Disturbed by the events that lead to the vacant office of a friend who was a co-worker, Olivia stated, “Coach, one of our co-workers in the IT department was recently terminated. We’re talking about someone who was praised throughout her tenure with the company her outstanding work. She was considered one of the organization’s most valued employees.”
Carol interrupted and said, “Over the past three years, our friend had incurred multiple bouts with cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, then lung cancer in 2014. She was eligible for and received the federally mandated twelve weeks of family and medical leave (FMLA). Based on our leave extended policy and her inability to return back to work, she received an additional ninety days of temporary disability leave. Later in 2014, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Because she had exhausted all available leave options she was terminated. Now, she’s on COBRA having to pay over $600 a month for her medical insurance. A cost she cannot to continue.”
“The story of our friend is a sad and an unfortunate outcome. But, it happens every day,” Valerie said. “We all must face the reality that inactivity and a continuum of poor food choices like my mocha madness ice cream, two-piece fried chicken dinners, fried calamari, cheese ravioli, and blueberry muffins include ingredients that can result in health concerns sooner rather than later. A single parent of two small children, I can’t afford to end up like our friend.”
“The impact of poor health has become a major concern in organizations,” I pointed out. “Employees who are not practicing healthy lifestyle habits and who fail to meet the company halfway by taking advantage of its wellness tools and programs may be risking their jobs. I don’t mean to imply that your co-worker’s situation was the result of unhealthy lifestyle habits, but we’re all predisposed for disease and illness. In some cases, even when we’re doing the right things, we end up facing a major health concern. That’s why it’s important to embrace a commitment to healthy lifestyle habits that will influence a reduced risk for disease and illness.”