Michelle Obama pushed the need for Americans to hydrate. The campaign youarewhatyoudrink.org kicked off in Watertown, WI on Sept 12th, 2013. After hearing her message, my mind drifted to thinking about the correlation between dehydration, business health care costs and worker productivity.

There are thousands of articles, seminars, and books written by experts on ways to increase employee productivity. Ideas run the gamut from incentive programs to regular constructive feedback to proper training. One discussion that I didn’t come across is if water plays a role in reducing sick days, employer benefit costs and improving overall productivity. It must have an impact, right? Our mothers have been telling us to drink more water since we could remember.

Secret to reducing health care costsDehydration and its Impact on Health Care Costs

Right now, 80% of you reading this are dehydrated. Dehydration results in over 500,000 hospitalizations yearly and results in $5.5 billion dollars in health care costs. A staggering sum for something so easy to fix. Employees who are dehydrated:

  • Call in sick more often
  • Produce less work
  • Cannot process information quickly
  • Eat more junk food
  • Age quickly
  • Their brains shrink
  • Are grumpy

Being dehydrated just a little bit can have adverse effects.

  • Losing as little as 1 or 2% of body weight in fluid can result in dehydration.
  • Losing as little as 3 to 5% can negatively impact concentration, judgment, and reaction time.
  • Losing 9 — 15% results in severe, life-threatening dehydration.

I was startled to learn that dehydration causes the same shrinkage of the brain as the aging process! Makes sense when you bring science into the equation. The human body contains 65% water and the brain has 80% water. To replace the water our bodies lose in a 24-hour period, takes an average of 64 to 80 ounces of fluids.

Hydration can solve many business problems

Hydration can solve many business problemsYour secret weapon to increase productivity, reduce employee health care costs and create a happy and healthy team is the iconic water cooler. Once the gathering place to catch up on the latest office gossip now can be used to save lives and cut costs.

In a recent study, participants who drank about three cups of water before taking various IQ tests performed 14x better on a test that measured the brain’s reaction time compared with those who did not drink water.

Feeling a bit stressed meeting the demands at the office? Turn to water.

“Studies have shown that being just half a liter dehydrated can increase your cortisol levels,” says Amanda Carlson, RD, Director of Performance Nutrition at Athletes’ Performance, a trainer of world-class athletes. “Cortisol is one of those stress hormones. Staying in a good hydrated status can keep your stress levels down.”

I am a big believer in drinking water throughout the day. Two things I never leave home without – my smartphone and my Klean Kanteen. I was delighted when my son came home from his first day of school and told me every hour his class takes a water break. No matter what they are doing, one child is assigned the job of raising his hand to interrupt the teacher and remind her to break for water.

Personally, I can tell when I am on top of my water intake:

  • Have more energy
  • Am more alert in the afternoon
  • Feel less stressed

5 Ways to Reduce Health Care Costs

It’s kind of silly to think we have to encourage our employees or office mates to drink more water. According to Michelle Obama, drinking water is the single best thing we can do to improve our health. I jotted down some easy and inexpensive ideas you can implement at your office.

photo by washington post
Not recommended for the office.
  1. Water Cooler. Spend the money on a water cooler or water filtration system. It will save you money in the long run. Provide a few options like lemons and limes to add a bit of flavor to the water. Read 20 Tips to Make Drinking Water Taste Better for more ideas
  2. Fresh Fruit. Supply fresh fruit and vegetables for snacks. About 20% of daily intake of water comes from the fruit and vegetables we eat.  There a number of places that will deliver fresh fruit and vegetables right to your office.
  3. Water Drive. Create a charity water drive. Drink water to help a local charity. Pool together with your co-workers to see how much water you can drink in a month. The number of glasses you drink represents the amount of money you donate to your favorite charity. You’ll need a whiteboard or a flip chart to log your office’s water consumption, and a jar or large envelope in which to store donations. (from WikiHow)
  4. Water Bottle. Buy your employees an environmentally friendly water bottle they can refill and have at their desk.
  5. Alerts. Calendar alerts for water breaks

Next time you are seeking advice on how to cut costs, boost morale or increase productivity, turn to the office water cooler – not for the gossip but the water. You might be surprised what it can do for your business and state of mind.

Drink up.