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Wellness plan fosters healthy workers, better productivity

Your team is running full steam ahead. The project is on schedule and everyone is excited to launch your company’s first new product in years.

Then the project manager calls out sick; he’s had chest pain that started on Friday.

Thankfully, the assistant project manager is prepped and ready to roll, but two days later she’s out, too, with severe vertigo. Her absence is followed by that of four additional colleagues, all with varying symptoms.

What is going on? Is there an explanation or is stress getting the best of everyone?

If you had an employee wellness program, you could quickly get to the bottom of this puzzle.

In this case, the situation also was avoidable since the culprit turned out to be an industrial chemical exposure easily diagnosable with a simple blood test.

No business wants to experience a setback like this. Today’s economy demands the highest productivity from each and every employee, every day.

This is exactly why employee wellness programs exist – to keep employees healthy and performing at optimum levels, thereby boosting productivity and positively affecting the bottom line.


Employee wellness or occupational health testing programs come in many different shapes and sizes. For example:

<Industrial allergy testing – Identify reactions to substances such as latex, adhesives and chemicals that can hamper productivity and promote absenteeism in employees with allergies.

<Biological exposure testing – Monitor workplace exposures to toxic metals and chemicals which can make employees feel ill when they are at work.

<Drug-free workplace testing – Maintain a safe environment and mitigate liability with laboratory-based and rapid substance abuse test options.

<Diagnostic and preventive testing – Check risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions with tests for lipids, blood glucose, C-reactive protein, etc.

<Health and wellness data management – Use information from test results to guide employee wellness initiatives.

Not every business requires all of this testing, so if you are shopping for an employee wellness or occupational health testing program, partner with a company that has customizable programs which can be tailored for your needs.


Still questioning whether you need an occupational health or employee wellness program?

There are three major things to consider: absenteeism, presenteeism and direct health care costs.

In the example above, the company’s new product launch was threatened because of absenteeism. The completion timeline was in jeopardy as people became ill and subsequently missed work.

While this was a case of acute absenteeism, employees with certain health conditions exhibit chronic absenteeism, missing multiple days of work sporadically throughout the year. In both cases, proper testing could help keep employees healthy and on the job.


Presenteeism is an interesting part of this equation. Presenteeism is when employees show up for work but do not get much accomplished because they are not feeling well.

The cost associated with this is estimated to be two to three times more expensive than direct health care costs.

Sometimes something at work, such as an undiagnosed latex allergy, can be identified as the cause of ill health and subsequent decreased productivity.

Given the substantial expense of presenteeism, it’s worth identifying causes when possible.


Finally, we all know there are significant direct costs of poor employee health.

Worksite wellness programs have historically focused on reducing heath care costs by engaging employees and supporting them in improving their health with programs for smoking cessation, weight loss and more.

When you partner with the right company for an employee wellness or occupational health testing program, you see a decrease in absenteeism, presenteeism and direct health care costs.

The end result is higher productivity, an improved bottom line and, most importantly, healthier, happier employees.

Eric VanHorn is director of sales at Health Network Laboratories, which is based in Hanover Township, Lehigh County. With 27 years of experience in laboratory medicine he helps find solutions for the needs of people using laboratory medicine for multiple purposes, including those in industry and medicine. He can be reached at [email protected]

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