It's not surprising that in the land that created the Hardee's half-pound Thickburger El Diablo (1,380 calories and 92 grams of fat in one glorious sitting), more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

This means a whole lot of people are unhealthy in the workplace, and they may be working for you.

Unhealthy workers will not only drive up your healthcare cost, health-related productivity losses can add up to over $225 billion a year, according to a 2013 Centers for Disease Control report.

That's why you should pay your employees to walk. Wait, what?

Earlier this year, UnitedHealthcare rolled out their "Motion" program, which provides insured employees with a fitness wearable device that tracks their steps in an effort to to help employees take charge of their health, while also enabling employers to more effectively manage health care costs.

If employees enrolled in the Motion program meet certain goals, they can earn health reimbursements credits up to $1,460 per year, based on the number of steps they take.

Here's why this matters for employers.

According to researchers at Savvy Sherpa, Inc., as published in a UnitedHealthcare Motion brochure, "consumers who walk less than 2,000 steps per day have annual medical costs of over $10,000; for those who walk 8,000 or more steps per day, cost decreases to $3,000."

How the program works

Employees and their spouses receive a no-cost activity tracker, the Trio from Trio Motion®, that records and uploads their daily physical activity (the cost of the device is built into the premium paid by the employer).

The devices provide real-time feedback because members can see at a glance how close they are to their goals.

The three metrics that UnitedHealthcare measures to reward participants are frequency of activity (being active six times a week for at least five minutes), intensity of activity (walking 3,000 steps in 30 minutes), and tenacity (walking 10,000 steps per day).

"Usually in the morning I do a bunch of stuff before getting ready for work, water the garden and make breakfast, and walking that whole time," said Nathan True, a Senior Editor at GreenLeaf Book Group, in a KXAN, Austin, report. "Ten thousand [steps] is the minimum I go for."

Why this is a no-brainer

The combination of helping employees become healthier and happier, resulting in greater productivity and less absenteeism, and lowering health care costs is a convincing win-win-win.

"I think it's important for companies to be mindful of employees overall health, because number one, you're going to have higher productivity if your employees are healthy and happy," said Tanya Hall, CEO at GreenLeaf Book Group.

According to program description, companies that increase its active employee percentage from one-third to two-thirds could possibly reduce their total health care costs significantly -- by $250,000 in some models.

UnitedHealthCare has chosen to begin their Motion program with mid-sized companies (companies with 101-300 employees), and it may not be yet available in your home state.

Published on: Oct 12, 2016