• Improving health behaviors to increase employee productivity

    Posted on July 16, 2009 by in health costs, workplace wellness

    In addition to lowering medical costs, an important reason for businesses to focus on improving the health of its workforce is to improve productivity.

    Along with the usual suspects like physical activity and diet, behavioral health issues that traditionally have not been the main focus of health and wellness programs (e.g., anxiety, depression, sleep disorders) significantly affect productivity. In a recent article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Managment, Loeppke et al. assert the need for a stronger focus on productivity-related health conditions and its value as a business strategy. They validate previous findings that costs related to absenteeism and presenteeism exceed medical and pharmaceutical costs. (Presenteeism occurs when an employee is physically at work, but not fully engaged for health-related reasons.)

    Quantifying and reporting changes in productivity as a result of wellness and/or disease management programs is critical to showing the impact of the program on the company’s bottom line. Now, more wellness and disease management vendors measure and report productivity outcomes than ever before. A few things to keep in mind when employing measurement systems:

    1. Be complete. Absenteeism may include sick leave, unpaid leave, personal time off, family medical leave, worker’s compensation records, and disabiltiy. Presenteeism may include time not on task, quality of work, quantity of work, and personal factors. Also, don’t forget employee turnover / replacement.

    2. Plan well. Before collecting productivity measurement data, understand exactly how this data will be collected, measured and reported. It is important to think through how the data from different sources will be integrated and represented later on.

    3. Determine the best self-assessment instrument for your company. Several self-assessment tools exist to measure productivity and it is important to choose the best one for your specific needs. There are a dozen or so widely accepted tools (some public, some private) and their usefulness differ based on the occupations, assessment needs, and health issues of the population.

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