A Tobacco-Free Organization

What could your organization do with $145,000? That’s what you could gain by supporting just 25 employees to change to a tobacco-free lifestyle! One of our clients has recently achieved this very thing – and they saved themselves $145,400 in one year with this impactful change in less than 1% of their population. Just one tobacco user can cost an employer $5,816 per year, so let the quitting begin!

Taking Action

There’s more to it than simply telling employees about the risks and costs. Quitting tobacco is one of the most challenging habits to successfully change. But it can be done – with the right support programs, environment, culture, and even incentives. Our self-insured client – we will call XYZ – realized that though the percent of tobacco using employees was fairly low, the added costs were significant, not to mention the loss of productivity often linked to smoke breaks and absenteeism. So, XYZ decided to take action. The company informed employees that more would be done to focus on increasing awareness, promoting engagement, and building a culture of health – and reminded employees that, as a self-insured company, it meant they all shared the burden of the collective health care costs.

They began by incorporating health screenings, with health coaching, so employees could have an opportunity to focus on their current health status and, through coaching, explore what they valued about their health and wanted for improving their health. That opportunity also became an avenue for encouraging the use of internal and external resources, including their health insurance carrier’s tobacco cessation program. The following year, XYZ wanted to take the next step and shared with employees that those who use tobacco/nicotine would be subject to a surcharge added to their monthly premiums. This surcharge would come to less than 15% of the estimated annual cost the tobacco users were incurring.

Ultimately the company was aiming to nudge employees to reconsider their lifestyles and to contribute more, offsetting a portion of the added expenses that resulted from their choices.  XYZ made it clear that tobacco using employees would have access to a Reasonable Alternative – completing a tobacco cessation program – and could avoid the surcharge, even if they didn’t quit.

A Year Of Change

Health educators know that we go through stages as we aim to shift behavior, and maintain a new way of life. So, while some were simply not ready to quit, they could still engage with a health coach to get support in shifting their readiness forward. For 25 employees though, this was the year for change. They removed a major health risk from their lives and gained wellbeing – and not only are there a great number of rewards for them, but the entire company benefits. XYZ recognizes that the lives of their employees are intricate and varied, and that their population’s readiness for change spreads across the continuum. So, they continue to strengthen and grow their wellness initiatives to empower total wellbeing across their organization, working to infuse these efforts into the fabric of their culture to better support their employees.

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