Reduce high turnover, absenteeism, and low productivity: Simple steps every employer can take now


by Kimberlee L. Vandervoorn
Vice President Distribution Services
Optum/UnitedHealth Group

If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself.
– J W Marriott

Turnover, absenteeism, and low productivity represent a significant cost to you, the hospitality business owner. Indeed, the labor shortage may be the most significant pain point hoteliers and restaurateurs experience in today’s market. A wide variety of studies on this topic indicate that these three challenges cost employers thousands of dollars per employee annually. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there are simple actions every employer can take now to turn this around and control the costs. Simply listen to your employees and take the first step in creating a culture of wellness.

When we listen to employees in today’s market, they will tell us that they believe employers have a responsibility for the health and well-being of their employees. Employees tell me they are looking to their employer to provide access to a range of health and wellness options to holistically meet their needs. Countless studies indicate that employers who listen to their employees and partner with them to create a healthier workplace ultimately create a more loyal and healthy team. This boost in positivity increases retention and productivity, which naturally yields happy and loyal customers.

Consider, if you will, the following statistics: According to a Brigham Young University study, employees who consumed unhealthy diets were 66 percent more likely to experience loss in productivity, and those who had difficulty exercising during the day were 96 percent more likely to report increased productivity loss. Finally, employees who rarely ate fruits, vegetables, and other low-fat foods at work were 93 percent more likely to experience a higher loss in productivity.1

You know that the business owner pays the price for high turnover, absenteeism, and low productivity, and you know what your team members and prospective employees are looking for in an employer. What can you do, then, to address these issues and lower your costs? It is widely accepted that employer-sponsored health benefits are the top priority for most employees. What may not be so obvious is the array of simple and inexpensive solutions at every employer’s disposal to start creating a culture of wellness today.

Below is a variety of free or low-cost ideas to put you and your employees on a path to wellness. Keep it simple. The important thing is to start somewhere:

  • First, talk to your team; anonymous surveys work well for most. Find out what is important to them and focus your wellness campaign on their interests and needs. Is your team interested in exercise, weight loss, or smoking cessation? Once you know, there is something for everyone.
  • Consider how you will communicate, educate, and foster accountability and teamwork. Many employers use social media or other online platforms, others use breakroom boards.
  • Offer a variety of voluntary benefits to employees at no cost to you, the employer.
  • Consider providing a low-cost Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help your employees with any number of work and personal issues.
  • Provide free healthy snacks. Help employees make better snacking choices by stocking the break room with apples, oranges, bananas, and other healthy, low-fat options.
  • Add live plants to improve your team’s oxygen and energy.
  • Negotiate gym membership discounts for your employees. Consider contributing to the membership fees to promote regular exercise.
  • Create a library of health and wellness resources, including cookbooks, general health and wellness books or brochures, and exercise DVDs for employees to borrow. Add a digital health and wellness library to your online employee resources page.
  • Designate your building as smoke-free.
  • Provide water coolers to encourage healthy water consumption instead of sugary or diet beverages.
  • Offer employees free or discounted subscriptions to a meditation app.
  • Bring in a yoga instructor for an on-site class.
  • Identify incentives for measurable gains. Incentives can be as easy as a gift card, paid day off, or a special parking space. A bit of recognition goes a long way.
  • Once you decide on incentives, use them to engage employees and reward measurable gains, per each employee’s goal, toward smoking cessation, weight loss, nutrition, and the like.
  • Create friendly competition: step challenge, workout challenge, water consumption challenge, cooking at home vs. eating fast food challenge, etc.
  • Encourage immunizations: Incentivize your employees to get a flu shot.
  • Continue to communicate: Keep the dialogue open so you are able to continue to offer solutions to meet your team’s needs as they change. Anonymous surveys from time to time or team meetings should help keep the communication channels open and keep you and your employees focused on the path to wellness!

Your business is only as healthy as your team. It is easier than ever to make simple changes to ensure that your employees feel valued and to help them make healthier choices. When employers make health and wellness a priority by listening to their employees and taking simple steps to create a culture of wellness, everyone wins.

To learn about your exclusive AAHOA Member health and wellness solutions, visit

Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.
– Stephen R. Covey

1 BYU News. 20 Aug., 2012.


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