Why Wellness Matters in Workers’ Comp

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that chronic diseases and related lifestyle risk factors are the leading drivers of healthcare costs for employers. Wellness programs, the CDC notes, can reduce the cost of employee healthcare.

Their analysis reiterates the findings of other reports linking employee wellness to workers’ comp costs. Recent studies show unhealthy habits are responsible for an estimated 80 percent of chronic illnesses worldwide. Obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, inadequate sleep and stress not only contribute to a diminished quality of life, they have a significant impact on worker productivity and healthcare costs for businesses.


Obesity, which can lead to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, is identified as a key driver of rising healthcare costs. Currently, Texas has an obesity rate of 33.7 percent. This is an increase from 21.7 percent in 2000, and up dramatically from the 10.7 percent rate in 1990.


A 2016 CDC analysis reported that obesity in the workplace costs employers $153 billion a year.

A 2016 CDC report states that overweight workers miss about 450 million more workdays per year than workers who are not overweight, costing businesses approximately $153 billion. Additionally, a 2016 study conducted by the University of Texas showed that workers with a higher body mass index (BMI) were more likely to have high-cost claims than workers with lower BMIs. The study revealed that obese workers were about twice as likely to have claims costing $100,000 or more.


According to a University of Texas study, obese employees who had major injuries were about twice as likely as those with lower BMIs to have claims over $100,000.

In addition to contributing to the number of workers’ comp claims, obesity may create complications after an accident, delaying recovery times and increasing the cost of care. Costs also rise in cases where obesity is treated as part of the recovery process following a workers’ comp claim.

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Workplace stress is a major contributor to chronic illness. Stress, the Harvard Gazette reported in 2016, costs employers $30 billion a year in lost workdays.


In 2016, the Harvard Gazette reported that 36 percent of workers suffer work-related stress, lowering productivity and costing businesses $30 billion a year.

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Poor sleeping habits

A 2015 study on fatigue in the workplace identified lack of restorative sleep as a significant factor in workplace accidents. The study noted that insufficient sleep can cause delayed reaction time, reduced alertness, impaired concentration, difficulty processing information, and other issues that affect employee safety and productivity.

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At Texas Mutual, we’ve made wellness a priority in our company for the same reasons we recommend it for your business. It’s the reason we require a health risk assessment and biometric screening for employees on our medical plan, and it’s why 97 percent of our covered employees participate in our health/lifestyle incentive programs.

By tracking the progress of participating employees and offering incentives for positive results, we’re protecting our people and our company. Our in-house wellness initiatives include:

  • Onsite fitness centers
  • Subsidized/free weight-management classes
  • Wellness coaching
  • Mentoring and support
  • Employee fitness groups
  • Diabetes prevention and control program
  • Employee walking program
  • Free tobacco cessation program
  • Wellness advocates
  • Food labeling in cafe and vending machines
  • Free fruit
  • Wellness contests
  • Incentives and cash rewards

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What You Can Do

Implement an incentive-based plan that fits the needs of your company. Whether you’re looking for a specific program for a group of employees or a company-wide wellness platform, there are a variety of available tools to help make it happen.

In a survey of U.S. businesses, 60 percent said that wellness programs reduced healthcare costs, and more than half reported lower absenteeism. Texas Mutual offers wellness grants to its policyholders to provide funding for wellness-related activities, equipment, training or other purposes. The program helps Texas companies improve employee health which can decrease healthcare costs, reduce absenteeism, and lower the risk of accidents.

Recipients receive reimbursements up to $1,500 for wellness-related training, materials or equipment purchased within 60 days of approval. In addition, grant recipients will be given a one-year workplace wellness program which includes health screenings for their employees, wellness challenge ideas, webinars and ongoing support.

Recommended wellness initiatives cover a wide-range of offerings, including:

  • Web-based resources for healthy living
  • Smoking-cessation program
  • Onsite exercise facilities or gym membership
  • Wellness newsletter
  • Biometric screening and wellness tracking
  • Lifestyle coaching/behavioral counseling
  • Flu shot/vaccination drives
  • Employee assistance/mentoring programs
  • Team building exercises
  • Nutrition/cooking classes
  • Coordinated exercise/bike/walking groups
  • Apply for a Texas Mutual wellness grant

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Tips for a Successful Wellness Program

Lead by example. Your employees will look to management for direction, so encourage those in supervisory positions to take part in your initiatives.

Create a culture of wellness. Make wellness part of your company lifestyle by sponsoring group activities and providing the tools that make wellness possible.

Encourage and support employees’ efforts. Incentivize your wellness programs, and reward employees who meet goals.

Communicate often and reinforce messaging. Make wellness updates part of your staff meetings, newsletter, internal emails and corporate communications.

Share success stories. Publicize successful results to encourage others to reach a higher level.

Recruit wellness speakers. Speakers motivate, educate and inspire, so consider bringing in experts to energize your program.

Apply fair and uniform standards. Keep your goals realistic, your incentives attainable and your requirements consistent to ensure continued interest.

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Obesity raises workers’ comp costs - Insurance Journal, 2016

Combine safety and wellness programs for improved results - HR Playbook, 2017

Financial stress contributes to lost work days - Reuters, 2018

Work-related stress a major factor in employee health and productivity-Harvard Gazette, 2016

Workplace wellness programs can combat chronic illnesses - CDC, 2016

Obesity is a growing problem in Texas - State of Obesity, 2017

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