In the U.S., about 70 percent of people are overweight and about 40 percent are obese. And over the last 30 years, there has been a threefold increase in overweight children.
This isn’t healthy for us, our families or our teams. In this episode of the Leadercast Podcast, David Nico—a peak performance strategist, keynote speaker, certified coach and author of Diet Diagnosis—explains how health optimization within an organization can positively influence workplace culture. Listen to the episode above and read on to learn what your organization can do to support employees’ wellness journeys.
What We’re Doing Wrong
In the episode, we looked at the state of health in the U.S., in particular. About half of American adults have chronic diseases (and that's only what's reported). An estimated 84 million Americans have prediabetes. And by 2050, it’s projected that one out of three Americans will have full-blown diabetes.
“This is an absolute tragedy,” says David. The problem stems from our lifestyle choices. We take too many prescription drugs and eat too few fruits and vegetables. We don’t perform enough physical activity, and we experience poor sleep night after night.
Obviously, this impacts our performance at work and at home, not to mention the actual monetary cost of healthcare per person. “The bottom line is this translates into $10,000 per person in healthcare costs,” David explains. The U.S. has the most expensive healthcare in the world. “In a nutshell, it’s not working,” he says.
What This Does for Your Bottom Line
The need for change is extreme—and a lot is at stake. David shares a few ways poor health impacts our bottom line:
- Costs: A young adult who goes from obese to overweight saves an average of $17,655 in medical costs and productivity losses over his or her lifetime.
- Absenteeism and presenteeism: If you stay home, you miss work. If you come to work, you get people sick.
- Low productivity: Chronic illness and poor nutrition are exhausting.
- Company reputation: A negative perception of company culture will not attract top talent.
“My point is not only addressing just the medical expenses that are costing organizations. We need to focus on health optimization,” he says. Instead of focusing on avoiding illness, we should focus on pursuing health optimization. Don’t ask how to not get heart disease. Ask how to maximize health that would inevitably prevent heart disease.
“Health is vitality. It's optimization. It’s peak performance,” David says. “A poor diet, the drug culture—I want to emphasize—this is not normal.”
Actions Leaders Should Take
“Culture is not easy to transform,” shares David. “But when culture is optimized, it impacts the entire organization: team members, their energy, mental, physical, emotional.” Here are some steps leaders can take to optimize health in their organizations:
1. Rewrite Organizational Values
A culture of health optimization starts with the values or the set of beliefs in the organization, which is driven by the leaders. “If we can impact the leaders to embrace these principles, this has reverberating effects, because it impacts their families, their communities and ultimately society,” says David.
2. Make Small Health Decisions
Small decisions impact health over time. Sometimes just a simple shift of funds will set the tone. Providing healthy food in the cafeteria or catering at meetings will boost people’s energy through nourishment. Be sure to examine what’s in the vending machines and provide delicious alternatives to caffeine. “Substituting healthier options actually ends up being less expensive,” says David.
3. Model Health Optimization
If leaders aren’t making healthy choices, team members will pick up on that. “It's important for participants to get everybody on board with that vision,” he says, especially with leaders. Without showing the why, it's difficult for people to buy into the what and the how. Leaders should make the culture as specific to their community as possible to maximize success.
“Every organization needs a customized health optimization plan that will work for their company,” David emphasizes. “Learning what a culture values, what’s important to them, is the real key to finding what will work best.”
4. Care About Wellness
The cultural shift necessary for promoting health optimization at work can’t be motivated from a financial standpoint. It has to start with leaders who care about their teams. “If you really care about someone, if you care about a team, if you care about the organization, you say, how can I help these people? What can I do?” says David. Changes have to start from a place of compassion before they can be successful.