Despite the best efforts of many organizations, healthcare costs continue to soar. Across America, the average medical cost per employee will increase to $12,850 in 2018, compared to $12,200 in 2017. But companies could drastically reduce their healthcare costs by implementing structured flexibility.

It's all about removing the barriers to being well instead of just adding incentives to wellness, which is what sets structured flexibility apart from many wellness programs, like discounted gym memberships. As well-intentioned as these programs are, companies that utilize them rarely see notable improvements in health outcomes or reduced healthcare costs. Because if an employee doesn’t have the flexibility to actually go to the gym, no monetary incentive is going to enable that employee to prioritize and effectively manage their health.

With structured flexibility, however, employees can pursue preventative care and ward off illness proactively before it impacts productivity and performance. And by keeping employees healthy, flexibility can reduce costly absenteeism and even "presenteeism"—i.e. employees showing up to work sick and not performing at peak productivity.

If these numbers from the CDC are any indication, the costs associated with healthcare will only continue to climb. As of 2012, nearly half of all adults had one or more chronic health conditions, and 25 percent had two or more. And in 2015, half of adults 18 and over were unable to meet their recommendations for physical activity.

According to our own research, inflexibility is a significant contributor. Current workday structures make it difficult for:

  • 36 percent of employees to make time for exercise and healthy living
  • 26 percent to be available for periodic health appointments
  • 30 percent to be available for recurring health appointments
  • 29 percent to manage a physical condition or chronic illness
  • 30 percent to get enough sleep at night

If companies are serious about reducing their healthcare costs and increasing employee outcomes, they must be open to creating schedules that are adaptive to the needs of their workforce. All six of our flexibility types could play a pivotal role in keeping employees healthy and productive over time.

Remote and DeskPlus™ equip employees with location independence and location variety, respectively, so sick employees can stay home and avoid spreading their illnesses, while healthy employees can avoid commuting in germ-ridden public transit. (This type of "social distancing" is especially important during each flu season.)

TimeShift™ employees set their own schedule—allowing them, for example, to avoid peak hours on public transit, or to rearrange their schedule to attend recurring appointments like physical therapy or mental health counseling.

Meanwhile, MicroAgility—the ability to pause the workday for minor interruptions—can help employees make last-minute or hard-to-get appointments. And by showing up for these appointments, they can reduce the risk of getting blacklisted from their medical providers, which can occur after repeated cancellations (we know a financial services consultant this actually happened to).

TravelLite™ keeps employees at home for the bulk majority of the year, thus offsetting the health toll of business travel, and PartTime helps employees manage chronic conditions while still keeping them on track.

How does your company stack up? Do your employees have access to the flexibility they need to prioritize their health and wellness? Find out with FlexMatch, our flexibility insights platform that gives you the flex data you need to assess your company’s healthcare risks so you can build and power a healthier, more productive workforce.