Productivity Decline Frequently Driven by Poor Employee Health

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healthFindings from a new study out of Brigham Young University, the Health Enhancement Research Organization, and the Center for Health Research at Healthways, has found that unhealthy lifestyle choices often result in high levels of lost production at work. The study concluded that employees with unhealthy diets were two-thirds more likely to experience a loss in productivity than those eating a highly nutritious diet. Employees exercising only occasionally or less were 50 percent more likely to perform at lower levels than regular exercisers. Smokers were 28 percent more likely to report decreased productivity over non-smokers.

“Total health-related employee productivity loss accounts for 77 percent of all such loss and costs employers two to three times more than annual healthcare expenses,” said lead author Ray Merrill, a Professor in the Department of Health Science, Brigham Young University. “This study, which analyzes an unusually large and geographically dispersed population, represents a more comprehensive understanding of the multitude of factors that drive presenteeism, thereby improving employers’ ability to meaningfully address this issue.”

Employees with difficulties exercising during the day were 96 percent more likely to experience productivity loss. Employees eating little to no fruits and vegetables at work were 93 percent more likely to have high productivity loss. Also, those who felt their work environment was not supportive of a healthy lifestyle were more likely to experience decreasing productivity levels.

“We know that comprehensively measuring well-being helps employers take steps to understand the drivers of lost productivity in their setting and take pertinent steps to reduce it. Our research confirms that employee productivity loss is associated with low well-being, poor health behaviors, elevated health risks, and the presence of chronic disease,” said Dr. James Pope, vice president and chief science officer, Healthways, Inc. “This information is significant because the number of employees with excess body fat, poor diets, diabetes and sedentary lifestyles has risen to unprecedented levels in the nation.”

By Joshua Bjerke