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Health Risks Strongly Related To Work Productivity

Dorathy Gass

A new study published in the April edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), shows how health risk changes to employees can have a tremendous effect on their work productivity. According to research conducted by Laura Haglund-Howieson, MBA, of StayWell in St Paul, Minn. and her team, there is a high need for organizations to make, “continuous investments in the culture of health,” in order to ensure improved health among workers, which will ultimately increase productivity over time.

The team reviewed health assessment surveys between 2009 and 2011, from approximately 97,000 employees. ‘Health Risk Scores’ were reviewed as indicators of work absenteeism, as well as ‘presenteeism’ (defined as an employee coming to work, despite being sick, and therefore affecting productivity). During the beginning stages of reviewing the survey, the team found there was a strong connection between health risks and work productivity. As well, there was a link between a decrease in health risks between surveys, and improved productivity in future years; an effect that increased over time.

Haglund-Howieson and her team revealed the key factor that came out of the study was that health improvements should remain in the workplace over time, to ensure that worker productivity is not negatively impacted. The study also revealed due to health promotion programs that increased within the workplace culture, average health risks lowered slightly over the three years of the study. The team did mention, however, that as the above results of these health risk changes were minor, there may have been other elements that they did not consider during their assessment in the study that affected worker productivity.

The team also notes that other newly formed workplace policies, such as flexible work arrangements and employee recognition programs, might also be additional ways companies can increase worker productivity.

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