Good health is increasingly something that we all strive for in our lives, but as the productivity benefits of a healthy workforce are becoming more well known, it’s something that an increasing number of employers are taking an interest in too.
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Indeed, only recently I wrote about the value of a lunchtime walk in terms of employees general mood, ability to buffer stress and productivity gains, with the boost happening as swiftly as the very same afternoon.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, provides further evidence that the health of employees has a big impact on their productivity. Whereas most studies into this issue look at things from the positive health perspective, this study looks at the matter from the negative perspective and explores how our productivity suffers when our health is put at risk.
The cumulative impact of health in the workplace
The paper reveals that the improved health of employees has a cumulative impact on productivity over time. The findings highlight the importance of a continuous investment in what the authors call a ’culture of health’ in the workplace.
The study saw nearly 100,000 health assessment surveys analysed over a two year period from 2009 to 2011. The ’health risk scores’ of each employee was analysed to try and predict whether they would be absent from work, or even succumb to presenteeism instead, both of which are widely known to stifle our ability to deliver productively at work.
When the data was analysed, a strong correlation emerged between the health risks present in the workplace and the productivity of employees. What’s more, when improvements were made to the health of employees, there was a boost to productivity, not just in the immediate aftermath, but for years afterwards, with a cumulative trend carrying on for some time after the initial intervention.
"The key implication is that health improvements must be maintained over time so the productivity impacts can accumulate," the authors say.
The paper revealed that, in general, the risks posed to the health of employees gradually decreased across the three years included in the study, with this improvement largely a result of the various health interventions offered by the employer during that time.
While the change was evident, however, it was relatively small, with the authors suggesting that this underlines the complexity of productivity, and the many things that go into determining it. This includes things such as offering flexible working and ensuring that employees are recognised by both their employer and their immediate boss.
Nevertheless, the findings do underline the crucial role a healthy workforce has in the productivity of an organisation and reinforces the message that employers need to take this issue seriously if they are to ensure they remain as productive as possible.
I’d love to hear your own workplace experiences around health. Does your employer take an active interest in your health and wellbeing? Do they offer anything to help you retain good health? Let me know in the comments below.