The usual reason for prioritizing employee health for business owners and managers is to avoid employee absenteeism. The logic is that if employees are not sick, they will be present and committed to their work responsibilities. However, apart from attendance, good health and productivity are also known to be directly correlated. Participation in wellness programs improves employees’ health, increasing their productivity at work.
Health can improve an employee’s productivity by improving their physical well-being. Improved health can also improve a worker’s ability to be more productive.
When an employee is ill, they will start to take longer to perform the same task or make mistakes which they didn’t when they were at their peak performance.
Research about Employee Health and Productivity
Many studies exploring mental health and employee engagement also found more nuanced psychological explanations for such conclusions. Apart from being happy and facing little to no mental distress, well-being is also defined as having satisfied basic psychological needs like autonomy, competence, and engagement. When people are psychologically healthy at work, they feel free to make choices and control outcomes. In addition, they feel socially connected and supported. This means that psychological health and mental well-being are essential elements parts of professional growth.
As managers, this means that we need to take care of employees’ physical and mental health. Doing this will make them happier and healthier and, therefore, better employees. Healthy people are more capable of doing a wide range of tasks, varying from very basic to complex. With adequate sleep and support for psychological well-being, employees will be able to face and address workplace problems more quickly than if they were exhausted or anxious. This makes employee health the number one priority for improving workplace productivity.
Defining Unhealthy Employees
An unhealthy employee is generally assumed to be obese, has an unhealthy lifestyle, has poor eating choices, and is depressed or stressed. This depression could be due to an unhealthy lifestyle, and this lifestyle could be caused by workplace or personal life stressors. Confused? You should be since this is a chicken and egg situation. Whichever started first, we as employers need to address both.
This interlinkage between physical and mental health creates a vicious cycle of poor physical and psychological health. Poor mental or physical health results in overall poor health, eventually impacting workplace performance and productivity.
A workplace focused on better health choices, and a health focus can be the difference between chronic poor health (and lagging workplace performance) and an improvement in lifestyle to push towards better health overall.
Remember that this does not stereotype genetically overweight or well-built people as depressed or unhealthy. A few pertinent questions can help evaluate whether a person is stressed or unhappy.
According to different international surveys on the impact of obesity on workplace productivity, the results are pretty alarming. Obese employees show more significant levels of absenteeism due to illness than employees with average weight. Male employees with normal BMIs reported an average of 3 days per annum due to disease or injury.
In comparison, overweight and obese men with BMI ranging between 25-35 missed approximately double the number of work days per annum as men with normal BMIs (under 25), which is almost 60 per cent. The effects are even more pronounced for women with a BMI of 40 or higher who miss 141 per cent more work days each year than normal-weight women.
The cost savings from offering a workplace health program to help reduce employee absenteeism can be measured against the costs of absenteeism among employees. The main costs are the time spent to cover the tasks of absent employees and the costs involved in training replacement employees.
Apart from some exceptions, employee absenteeism is usually the result of poor mental or physical health. It’s a known fact that unhealthy and unhappy employees are more likely to call in sick. Still, businesses with a focused employee wellness support program can reduce absenteeism by almost 40 per cent.
Experts also claim that In extreme cases where employees feel undervalued, sick, and stressed in their jobs, they will eventually leave. Those workplaces that invest in programs for actively caring for their employees’ wellness have reported 65 per cent less staff turnover. There is a clear link between workers’ health and their engagement with their workplace. It is also a fact that engaged employees collaborate better and are 50 per cent more productive.
The Costs of an Employee Wellness Program
While an employee wellness program can an expensive option, it doesn’t have to be. A basic employee wellness plan can be based on some planning and by adding items from the list below:
- Company-sponsored gym memberships
- Ergonomic furniture for employees to cut down on back and posture issues (which is a common employee health complaint)
- Installing vending machines throughout the office with healthy snack options
- Offer standing desks
- Encourage walk-and-talk meetings
- Implement collaborative physical exercise programs, like a department-wise step challenge, or workout challenges with prizes for the top performing employees
- Health screenings
- Stress reduction programs, like aerobics, meditation, or yoga classes
- Smoking support programs
- Mental health/counselling events and support.
- On-site fitness options, like group classes, gyms, or walking tracks within the office.
In conclusion, employee health is a major determining factor for employee productivity, and it can be argued that it is crucial. The links between employee health and workplace engagement, employee absenteeism, burnout, and employee collaboration are supported by research.
Business bottom lines are adversely impacted when employee health issues stop employees from performing at their optimal potential.