How corporate well-being programs can improve employee productivity


Employee productivity is a metric that most companies keep a close eye on – and rightfully so. Employee productivity has a direct tie to company wellbeing and the bottom line. What few employers realize, however, is that there are simple steps they can take to increase productivity in healthy ways that will also benefit employees.

Instituting a corporate well-being program can help address many major drivers of lost productivity, giving organizations a better culture and more efficient and happy employees.

Healthy employees take fewer sick days

Sick or injured employees are a drain on the company.  It’s in the employee’s AND the employer’s best interest to make health and well-being programs easily accessible to help everyone stay healthy.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) employees who are overweight take more sick days than their healthy weight colleagues. On average, overweight and obese employees miss anywhere from an additional two days to one week of workdays typically not missed by healthy weight employees. The CDC calls out several direct benefits of promoting a workplace health or corporate well-being program that works to engage employees in healthy, positive lifestyle behaviors.

“Companies that support workplace health have a greater percentage of employees at work every day. … Similarly, workplace health programs can reduce presenteeism — the measurable extent to which health symptoms, conditions, and diseases adversely affect the work productivity of individuals who choose to remain at work.”

The cost of lost productivity because of unhealthy employees may actually be even greater than the additional healthcare costs accrued by these employees. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review:

“A 2009 study by Dr. Ronald Loeppke and colleagues of absenteeism and presenteeism among 50,000 workers at 10 employers showed that lost productivity costs are 2.3 times higher than medical and pharmacy costs.”

A corporate well-being program that encourages and makes it easier to be health and make healthy eating choices at the office can have a profound impact on an employee’s overall health, and may help cut down on the number of sick days and lost productivity.

Address the stress that effects productivity

It’s no secret that Americans are stressed. A 2015 survey by the American Psychological Association found that a significant number of adults report feeling stressed about multiple facets of life.

  • 64% are stressed about money and finances
  • 60% experience work related stress
  • 47% have stress about family responsibilities
  • 46% are stressed about health concerns

This should concern employers because in addition to the time workers spend distracted at the workplace, stress is connected to a range of health issues – which equals lost productivity. In additional to health related absenteeism, stress itself can be a cause for missed work days and an overall drop in engagement and productivity. The Harvard Business Review reported that 550 million workdays are missed each year due to job-related stress.

Additionally, an international study by Global Benefits Attitudes (reported on by Forbes) found that engagement and productivity declined dramatically when employees were experiencing times of high stress. Half of the surveyed employees who reported being highly stressed admitted to being disengaged at work. By contrast, one in 10 “low stress” employees said they were disengaged. High stress employees took, on average, two more days of sick leave and experienced 50% more presenteeism (being at work, but not particularly productive).

The effect of stress on productivity should be a major cause of concern for organizations, as should the diverse sources of stress. People are not only stressed about their health, so a successful corporate well-being program that will help an organization truly effect positive change needs to be more holistic and comprehensive than simply encouraging healthy eating and more exercise.

Make employees feel valued

People naturally don’t want to go the extra mile or invest heavily in an organization they feel doesn’t value them or their work. Why would you want to put in the extra effort if, at the end of the day, you feel like nothing more than a name on a sheet of paper or a dollar sign for your company?

This type of culture, one that doesn’t give employees any extra incentives, perks or recognitions, breeds an environment of employee disengagement – and disengaged employees don’t worry about being overly productive. While it may seem superficial, employee happiness at work is tired directly to their drive and productivity. From FastCompany:

“A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive.”

The spike and drop in productivity because of happiness is traced even further by additional studies. It all has to do with how engaged the employee is while working – if they even show up. The negative effects of unhappy workers can have far-reaching consequences for companies. From the Harvard Business Review:

“In studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time.”

Bottom line: companies that show they care about their employees end up with more engaged and happily employed workers. A corporate well-being program not only helps employees achieve a happier and healthier life, it proves that the company is willing to take steps to improve employee’s quality of life and happiness. That’s the type of company an employee wants to invest in and work hard for.

The benefits of a well-being program

By understanding how health, happiness, stress and company culture effect an employee’s overall well-being, organizations can take steps to increase productivity. Instituting a robust, comprehensive, holistic corporate well-being program (one that goes beyond traditional wellness programs) will address many of the major sources of disengagement, absenteeism and lost productivity.

The right program will encourage happier, healthier lifestyles that spread beyond the office and often influence an employee’s family as well – creating an overall healthier and happier individual who can comfortably focus on work rather than worrying about health, finances and home.

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