Living in daily instability is a risk factor for stress-related health issues.

We all carry stress. One employee’s strongest stressor might be financial (affordable housing, childcare, and elder care). For another employee, it might be a child who is experiencing bullying at school, a wife with a cancer diagnosis, or a mom who lives across the country and needs daily assistance. And for another employee, well, I think you get the gist. On top of our daily stress, COVID-19 has done a good job of stressing us all out.

For some of our employees, this stress turns into larger health issues.

Do you have employees who only go to the doctor when they need a written, doctor-approved excuse for missing work? Do you have employees who do not go to the dentist? Do you have employees who do not fill prescriptions or even know whether they need to be treated for an illness? Do you have coworkers who put off having procedures performed?

An entry-level employee once said to me, “My 10-year-old son is home alone sick today. Do you know how terrible I feel as a parent not to be home with him and not to be able to afford to take him to the doctor?”

Another entry-level employee once told me that she had health insurance provided by her employer but that she could not afford the copay to use the insurance. The only time she used the insurance was when she needed a physician’s excuse to come back to work.

A third situation was an entry-level employee who had colon issues and put off care. He ended up dying of colon cancer.

Certain areas of healthcare research look at:

  • Access: People are able to be seen by and receive services from healthcare providers. When one lives in daily instability, access to a doctor or healthcare provider may not be as easy as it sounds due to scheduling, insurance, or lack of the ability to pay for services. One idea is to make health insurance a meaningful benefit for all your employees.
  • Availability: Can one obtain the services needed in the appropriate time frame? When your under-resourced employees try to access health services, they often get the message that healthcare is for “us,” those living in stability. Without the appropriate resources and language skills, some employees will give up.
  • Costs and fees for services provided, prescriptions, office visits, and more. What insurance platforms do you provide for your entry-level employees? Can they juggle the costs of doctor visits, prescriptions, and time off work for care? A second idea is for the company to load up a health savings account or flexible spending account at the beginning of the annual insurance year so employees have money to access health services. This can mean the difference between having employees at work and having employees who are frequently absent.
  • Quality: Do the services improve health outcomes? Are entry-level employees going through the motions because that is what is required, or are the employees really benefitting from the care and services?
  • Communication: Does the employee understand the medical jargon? If you’ve read my articles before, you know I talk about language—formal versus casual—and that employees who have lived in daily instability all their lives may come to work with only casual register. Now, put that into a health context. Often, as resourced individuals, we ask our doctors to repeat themselves, write down a word, and give an example of what is being explained to us. As people with formal register, we feel more able to question a doctor about a diagnosis. The message must be meaningful to our employees based on their resources and environment of economic stability. A third idea is that both a retention coach and an employee assistance program will greatly benefit employees who are struggling in this way.

As employers, when we offer meaningful health benefits with the proper training to support the benefit, we will have less-stressed, healthier employees who spend more time at work than they do dealing with health issues.

The more money one has, the healthier one is.

The more one lives in persistent daily instability, the sicker one is.

Take care of your employees so they will take care of your company.