When you wander into a McDonald’s to fetch a Bacon McDouble, it costs you about $2.00, right? No—wrong. Sure, the price of a McDouble is two bucks, but the cost of eating one is far greater. Following a junky diet not only wreaks havoc on the body, it also inevitably inflicts damage on your business, taxpayers, and the environment. The same can be said of tobacco use. A pack of cigarettes ranges from $5.25 (Virginia) to $12.85 (New York), but we all know that tobacco is a leading cause of chronic disease and premature death—costs that burden your company along with the greater population.
In economics, these costs are referred to as “externalities,” which is a fancy way of saying indirect consequences of production/consumption that affect someone other than the producer or consumer, like your company or society as a whole. When you order processed food for meetings, when you observe one of your employees stepping out to puff on a cigarette, remind yourself that these health risk behaviors are only driving increased hospitalizations and lost productivity. Sitting on your hands will only push your employees further along the continuum of disease development. There’s no one right way to address all of this, but one feasible and actionable solution is by launching an effectual wellness program—a program that really digs into long-lasting behavior change.
You may only be one person or company, but don’t think your actions can’t have an impact; it’s a fight we’re all fighting. The harms of unhealthy living are exacting an enormous toll on businesses and governments alike. We’ll only be able to move the needle on healthcare costs, and social costs at large, if we make a collective effort. And what better place to start than in the office?