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How Obesity Impacts the Workplace

words obesity with tape measure around them

3 minute read

Obesity is a global health epidemic with significant challenges for employers and workplaces, including decreased productivity and increased healthcare costs.

Obesity and the American Workplace

Obesity is a common, serious, and costly disease that affects nearly half of U.S. adults, leading to preventable deaths and reduced quality of life. It also impacts the workplace, but employers can help employees live healthier lives with the right knowledge. Obesity can result in substantial workplace costs and employee productivity losses due to:

  • Health care costs: Health care spend related to obesity is about $450 billion annually. It’s linked to various costly and chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. Overweight employees file twice as many workers’ compensation claims and cost their employers $73.1 billion a year.
  • Absenteeism: Overweight employes tend to take more sick days than other employees. On average, they miss three more days per year due to injury or illness.
  • Presenteeism: Presenteeism costs employers more than twice the medical expenses of employees with obesity compared to those with average weight.

Understanding obesity and its consequences is essential for employers, as it can impact employee productivity and absenteeism. Employers should assess the cost of obesity to their organizations and leverage the workplace to combat the epidemic.


Employer Strategies

As obesity remains a significant public health issue, employers must think creatively to address it in their workforces. Consider workplace initiatives to tackle obesity.

  • Traditional workplace programs: Many employers have implemented strategies to promote work environment conducive to healthy choices. This includes obesity screening and counseling services, as well as effective behavioral programs like education, incentives, company sports teams, discounted gym memberships, flexible hours for physical activity, and weight loss initiatives.
  • Holistic approaches: To address obesity, employers can offer resources for employees to navigate weight loss and maintain healthy lifestyles. These resources should cover prevention, management, and treatment. Employees may need guidance and care to address health issues, recover, and stay healthy. Accessible and affordable treatment options can minimize future complications.
  • Obesity care benefits: As weight loss drugs gain popularity, employers are under pressure to cover them, despite their high cost. Most health insurance plans don't provide coverage for these drugs, which can cost at least $1,000 per month. In the meantime, employers should consider covering weight loss drugs for employees with obesity.
  • Anti-weight stigma environment: Weight stigma and negative attitudes towards overweight individuals can have detrimental consequences in the workplace. Employers can tackle this issue by promoting inclusivity and respectful conversations about obesity, as well as providing comfortable and supportive workspaces for employees of all body types.

Workplace obesity management requires complex strategies that meet employees' needs and provide support and resources.



Obesity is caused by various factors, such as genetics, food availability, and physical environments. Effective weight loss and wellness programs should focus on disease prevention and sustained behavior changes. The workplace is an ideal environment for making healthy lifestyle changes, as employees spend a significant amount of time there. Download the bulletin for more details.

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National Insurance Services is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the readers’ business activities.

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Alexis Schlimbach

Alexis Schlimbach

Alexis Schlimbach tackles life with a positivity that’s infectious. She enjoys working one-on-one with customers, making sure they have all the tools and information available to them. Customers will appreciate her outgoing personality, enthusiasm, honesty, and her communication skills. As an Account Representative, Alexis will be working with schools, cities, and counties across the Midwest region. She specializes in life and disability insurance and is a licensed insurance agent.