Increasing Productivity by Building Resilience
- Chronic health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer are on the rise across the population
- For every dollar a company spends on employee medical and pharmacy costs, it absorbs $2-$4 of health-related productivity costs
- A growing body of research shows that a cross-functional approach to health, wellness, safety, and benefits provides the most robust outcomes
"One Good Has Brought Another"
By investing in employee health, companies improve productivity while decreasing the incidence of injuries and illness. As a next step, some companies are rolling their wellness, health and safety, and benefits programs into one comprehensive program to build workforce resilience.
"Vision Without Execution Is Just Hallucination"
90 years ago this month, Ford Motor Company became one of the first companies in the United States to adopt the five-day, 40-hour workweek. Ford hypothesized that if people were given more than one day off a week, they could be more productive during their time at work.
Nearly a century later, we are still grappling with how to optimize productivity. As the 40-hour workweek becomes less common and the boundaries between work and recreation erode, employees experience fatigue and burnout that lead to chronic health conditions, accidents, and decreased productivity. So if more does not equal more, what should employers do?
"Don't Find Fault, Find a Remedy"
A new vision for improving productivity links employee wellness, occupational health and safety, and employee benefits in one inclusive program to tap into a holistic approach with far-reaching overall impact.
Employees' health troubles can be costly for companies and a drain on productivity. Good physical and mental health and the absence of chronic health factors are associated with low occupational injury rates. Health risks affect employees' absences, which in turn affect productivity and the bottom line. Chronic health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer are on the rise and more than half of Americans experience multiple chronic conditions.
A study of nearly 40,000 manufacturing workers spanning 24 states, 195 locations, and 10 years concluded there was a correlation between these health issues and an increased risk for injury. Specifically, it found those with heart disease have a higher percentage of lost workdays due to injuries than those without heart disease. The researchers identified a correlation between lung disease, diabetes, asthma, and depression with an increased hazard of injury. People in the study who were affected by multiple health issues had a higher risk of injury.
The health programs companies implement tend to address health in siloes, with a focus on controlling costs without considering the impact on productivity. The study Health and Productivity as a Business Strategy states that viewing "employee health as a cost to be reduced, rather than an investment to be managed, needs to be reconsidered in light of the overwhelming demographic trends toward an older workforce." The study showed that on average, for every $1 a company spends on employee medical or pharmacy costs, it absorbs $2-$4 of health-related productivity costs, commonly in the form of presenteeism and absenteeism. These costs don't take into consideration the safety costs associated with these conditions. The study concluded that by examining the relationship between health and productivity, companies can reduce health risks, increase wellness and performance, and improve quality of life for their employees and their families.
While much has been written separately about employee health and safety and productivity, few studies focus on the correlation between the two. The studies that have been done indicate that an integrated approach yields the most robust outcomes. By integrating wellness, occupational health and safety, and employee benefits into one comprehensive program, companies can tap into a holistic approach that increases the overall impact. The departure from departmental siloes of wellness, safety, and benefits allows employers to combine policies, processes, and data to create synergies and align services and activities. This turns the focus from preventing injuries and driving down health costs to fostering a culture of personal health, well-being, and resilience.
In an integrated approach, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The collaborative efforts of education and initiatives for health and safety can yield a safer environment and healthier workforce that mutually reinforce one another, thereby building resilience on a personal and organizational level. At a recent MAPI EHS Council meeting, Lockheed Martin's Marty Moran said his company has taken this approach and has seen positive early results.
"A Business That Makes Nothing But Money Is a Poor Business"
The workplace can be the front line for preventing chronic conditions and thus becoming a bedrock of productivity. Retaining a strong workforce and achieving the long-term benefits of investing in personnel are important for businesses looking to expand. By taking a cross-functional approach to health, wellness, and safety, a company can protect the resilience of its greatest asset—its workforce.
The full Issues in Brief archive can be found here.