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Profiting on a Healthy Work Environment

Healthy workers are productive workers

From healthcare schemes to the treadmill desk, the workplace environment is becoming increasingly health conscious and it could be beneficial to business financial health, not just the employees' wellbeing. Health and wellbeing of employees is multifaceted, covering physical, mental, emotional and financial issues. Long gone are the days where an organisations wellness program stretched as far as informing employees on the consequences of smoking and alcohol. Over the years organisations have noted high employee turnover rates, absentees due to illness in addition to time off through exhaustion or other health related issues.

Studies conducted by the World Health Organization and RAND Corporation demonstrate that organisations with progressive workplace health and wellbeing schemes have not only healthier and happier employees, but increased productivity and monetary benefits also. Statistical Analysis Systems (SAS) are a prime example of this, ranking near the top regularly in the Fortune list of best companies to work for, annual revenue over $2 billion and an employee turnover rate of just 3.6%, significantly less than the industry norm of 15%. The healthcare programme at SAS is the most costly perk containing low-cost healthy meals, racquetball courts in addition to an onsite health clinic offering medical and psychological services free of charge.

All things considered, CEO Jim Goodnight believes the company actually saves millions through reduced hiring and training costs and increased productivity of workers. Employees have an unlimited sick day allowance, yet the company average is as low as two days a year. Goodnight states “95 percent of my assets drive out of the gate every evening. It’s my job to maintain a work environment that keeps those people coming back every morning. The creativity they bring is a competitive advantage for us”.

RAND Corporation conducted a thorough investigation of over 20,000 employees to deduct how health and wellbeing affected productivity in the workplace. The study measured factors that contributed to absenteeism; when an employee is absent or misses work, and presenteeism; when an employee is physically present in the workplace, but productivity is reduced due to physical or emotional issues. It is predicted that billions of dollars are lost every year through the reduced productivity from both absenteeism and presenteeism.

The study researched into three factors: Job and work environment factors, personal factors and general health and physical factors.

Job satisfaction is essential for your performance

When viewing job and work environment factors the most prevalent aspect was employee satisfaction; employees who report as being content with their current job experienced a 7 percentage increase in productivity in comparison to those who reported as unhappy with their job, due to higher levels of absenteeism and/or presenteeism of unsatisfied workers.

Workplace bullying and strained relationships were another prevalent factor in this category in regards to presenteeism. Combined, they contributed to over 3% work impairment in comparison to employees who were not exposed to workplace bullying or strained relationships.

Pay attention to the body and mind to reap rewards

Confirming the results of numerous studies, lack of sleep is a major factor in regards to workplace productivity. Employees that reported they sleep less than five hours per night demonstrated a 7 percent decrease in work productivity through presenteeism than employees who sleep on average eight hours or more. However, the study showed no effect on absenteeism levels.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) levels of employees also demonstrated an association with workplace productivity. Those classified as underweight and those classified as overweight combined demonstrated a 5 percent decrease in work productivity through both absenteeism and presenteeism in comparison to those in the normal or recommended BMI levels.

Physical activity and diet were further factors in agreement to previous studies. There is a positive correlation between those who meet the recommended 150 minutes exercise per week and workplace productivity. In regards to diet, those who meet the recommended consumption of added fats recorded a 1.4 percentage increase in productivity than those who did not meet the healthy range. Additionally those who consumed sugary drinks outside the healthy range also had a decrease in productivity by 0.5 percent.

The hardest factor to determine but most prevalent from the study in regards to productivity is an employee’s mental health. Employees regarded a risk for developing mental health problems had a productivity rate 13 percent lower than those considered with no mental health risk.

There are a number of additional physical factors present in employees that can influence work impairment such as musculoskeletal disorders or other chronic health conditions which are not preventable. High blood pressure also increases work impairment in comparison to those who have blood pressure levels within the associated healthy range.

Workplace health should focus on more than smoking and drinking

Although detrimental to your general health and wellbeing, the study found no correlation between drinking alcohol and smoking in regards to productivity. However it is commonly known that excessive use of these products can contribute to chronic illnesses which may shorten an individual’s career, therefore in the long run it may become harmful to the organisation.

A healthy workforce is a profitable one

The evidence demonstrates that happy healthy workers are productive workers and less susceptible to absenteeism and presenteeism. For a large organisation this could significantly impact the financial health of the organization through productivity alone. Additionally, the association between happiness and the health of employees can lead to a decreased turnover rate of staff, leading to organisational savings within the hiring and training process. It is possible for a business to become more profitable through a model similar to Goodnight of SAS who states that “eliminating unnecessary distractions and helping to relieve everyday stress, makes employees happier, healthier and more productive”. Going forward organisations should look to focus more on employee health and wellbeing for ethical and moral reasons in addition to making good business sense.

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Last updated: 30 Mar 2016

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