Creating a healthy workplace


It is not surprising that with the current health trends, employers are worried about the effects on productivity. There has been an increased effort in recent years to quantify the impact of these trends on workforce productivity. The conclusions are what we all suspected all along: Healthier employees are more productive! 

A collaborative study between the health enhancement research organization (HERO),  Brigham Young University, and the center for health and research at healthways has shown that employees who eat healthy all day long were 25 percent more likely to have higher job performance. In addition, 30 minutes of exercise, 3 times per week, also increased performance by 15%, with absenteeism being 27% lower for those two groups combined. 

On the other hand, a report by Northeast Business Group's titled: "Weight Control and the Workplace" states that Overweight employees cost their employers $73.1 billion a year and file twice the number of workers’ compensation claims. The average medical claims cost per 100 employees is $51,019 for obese employees, compared to $7,503 for non-obese employees. If we break it down by gender, Obese men take six more sick days a year than non-obese men. Obese women take 9.4 more days a year than non-obese women. The resulting obesity-related absenteeism costs employers $6.4 billion/year.

Many chronic conditions are believed to be the direct result of lifestyle choices, as such, they can be greatly improved or adequately managed by lifestyle modifications geared towards making healthier choices. Full-time workers in the United States who are overweight or obese and have other chronic health problems miss about 450 million more days of work than healthy workers, costing more than 153 BILLION A YEAR IN LOST PRODUCTIVITY (2011 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index)


Although obesity can set off a cascade of health related issues, it is hardly the only problem. Employees face issues influenced by: Stress levels (including workplace stress), tobacco smoking, lack of sleep and the list goes on. Implementing strategies to combat these statistics is paramount to optimizing productivity in the work environment. Companies that have exemplary safety, health and environmental programs outperform the S&P 500 by 3-5%. 

What is the call to action? Start with metrics! Employers need to begin by evaluating their current workforce in order to establish the correlations between health and productivity within their environment. Making an initial assessment affords employers the ability to implement programs in the most needed and most impacted areas. 

The national institute for occupational health (NIOSH) and the CDC provide information and tools on their website Total Worker Health to assist employers in removing the complexity of implementing wellness programs for their employees. Providing assessment and baseline information is not enough, the workforce needs guidance and care according to "benefit news"

Practical steps to implementing a comprehensive workplace wellness program:

  • Evaluate and establish a base line: This includes practical health assessments for participating employees, establishing a correlation between health and productivity and determining what are the greatest threats to employee wellness (obesity, smoking, stress, etc)
  • Develop a program that addresses both the end result (target metrics) and the process (what parameters will be targeted based on the threats).
  • Implement a program that includes ongoing incentives for compliance to adherence to wellness activities and discourage long term fall out.
  • Include the employees in the design and implementation of the program, when employees are engaged in the process there is a higher chance of adherence and personal investment.
  • Provide a conducive atmosphere for compliance. This could be in the form of removing tempting vending machines, increasing kitchen space to facilitate storage and preparation of healthy meals, walking meetings, at work smoking cessation classes, yoga and meditation lunch hour, and more.
  • Lead by example and follow recommendations from the top down.
  • Measure progress along the way and provide necessary modifications to keep the morale high and keep your workforce motivated.
  • For long term success, develop a culture of wellness in the workplace and make it part of your daily operations. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce 

 For more information and assistance in developing a workplace wellness program contact available staffing network at 401-274-9300