Ensuring healthy lifestyles among employees can save large employers nearly €2 million every year

90% of absences from work in Finland are short-term sickness absences, which not only affect the health of the individual employee but the whole company’s productivity and finances. A study on the employees of the City of Helsinki found that 30% of these sick-leave costs are purely due to unhealthy lifestyles, which can be easily saved by providing employees with the right health tools.

It’s no news that sickness not only affects an individual but puts a considerable burden on the society, healthcare systems as well as businesses. On average, the OECD countries — which includes the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, major EU nations along with Germany, France and all the Nordic countries — spend around 2.1% of their GDP on sickness benefits.

In addition to work-related risk factors (such as accidents), sickness absences are directly related to unhealthy lifestyle choices among employees, such as low physical activity, poor diet, sleep quality, heavy alcohol consumption and smoking. In fact, recent research by the Department of Public Health (University of Helsinki) on Finnish employees found that as much as 30% of sick-leave costs are purely due to unhealthy lifestyles. The study also found that employees with unhealthy behaviours have more sickness absences, rendering higher costs for employers.

Main findings: the direct cost of unhealthy lifestyle among employees

The study found that unhealthy lifestyle choices lead to higher sickness absences among employees. Based on this, the researchers calculated its direct cost (in terms of salary) to employers. They found:

  • 30% of sick-leave costs are purely due to unhealthy lifestyles like lack of exercise, poor diet, sleep quality, heavy alcohol consumption and smoking.
  • Employees with an unhealthy lifestyle cost the employer 154% more than an employee with a healthy lifestyle. The participants were scored out of 5, where a point was given for each of the five unhealthy lifestyle practices — low physical activity, heavy alcohol consumption, smoking, unhealthy diet (not having enough fruits and vegetables) and poor sleep. So, for example, if a person slept poorly, they got a risk score of 1; if they checked all the 5 unhealthy boxes, they received a risk score of 5. The study found that those employees who had a risk score of 3, that is, they checked 3 or more unhealthy lifestyle boxes, cost the employer 154% more than an employee who had a risk score of 0.
  • Lack of physical activity, smoking and poor sleep are the biggest issues. Employees who are physically inactive, cost the employer 125% more, while employees who smoke cost the employer 140% more. Similarly, an employee with poor sleep cost the employer 135% more than an employee with healthy sleep.

Read the full research paper here. 

What this means: the real cost of an unhealthy lifestyle on employers

The study found that while the number of employees with 3 or more unhealthy behaviours are less (9.5%), over 20% of the employees had 2 unhealthy behaviours.

Monetarily, for a large company with around 40,000 employees, this would mean a direct additional cost of €17.6 million over ten years, or, nearly €2 million every year: and this is just salaries.

In this study, the researchers only looked at the direct cost (salary) of short-term (up to 10 days) sickness absence due to unhealthy behaviours. The true costs are obviously much higher. Sick leaves decrease productivity, cause delays in production, delivery as well may lead to cancellations — all much bigger cost for the employers than the mere salary costs calculated in this study.

Solution: health tools to improve employees’ health and lifestyle

Good news is that there is an easy solution — providing employees with the right tools that not only measure their health but also help them understand it better and keep them motivated to improve their daily lifestyle.

This is where My Nightingale comes in. The blood test and app use advanced technology to summarise an employee's health into easy to understand scores that highlight how daily choices affect their body. However, knowing and measuring isn’t enough. Behavioural change is key. The My Nightingale app, therefore, comes with everyday health tips and advice for each health result to help make easy lifestyle changes that improve long-term health. A free follow-up test is included in every package so that employees can track their progress and stay motivated.

With the My Nightingale blood test, companies can help their employees:

  • Get a detailed view of their health from blood and understand how their lifestyle affects their body.
  • Receive feedback on daily lifestyle choices to track and improve their health.
  • Prevent diseases by noticing changes in their health early on.
  • Stay motivated with regular follow-ups that are built into every My Nightingale package.

All this makes My Nightingale the ultimate new health tracking tool for employees to get a detailed view of their health along with actionable insights to improve everyday lifestyle and prevent illnesses.