According to a recent report by the Integrated Benefits Institute, poor worker health and the related loss of productivity take an estimated $576 billion annual toll (PDF). This includes absences ranging from sick days to time lost to workers’ compensation claims – see the accompanying chart. IBI researchers attribute 39 percent (or $227 billion) to lost productivity associated with poor health. They say, “Lost productivity results when employees are absent due to illness or when they are underperforming due to poor health (“presenteeism”—when employees are at work but not performing at their peak).”
IBI researchers hope that these numbers will influence political candidates to see the link between worker health and economic health, issues that are “tightly coupled” due to the impact of health on productivity. They also note that investments in worker health can pay off:
Sean Nicholson, Ph.D., a Cornell University economist and a leading researcher on the link between health and productivity, stated, “The literature shows that employers can save an average of $3 for every $1 they invest in improving their workers’ health, so there are opportunities for companies to increase profits and wages while they improve worker health.”
Researchers at The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) agree that a strong American economy depends upon an able, productive workforce, but they note that the challenges have never been greater: The American workforce is rapidly aging and is increasingly burdened by epidemic levels of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. Middle-aged and young workers are facing earlier onset of chronic health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes.
In response, they have introduced Total Worker Health, described as “a strategy integrating occupational safety and health protection with health promotion to prevent worker injury and illness and to advance health and well-being.” As part of this initiative, they have compiled a comprehensive suite of Employer and Employee Wellness Resources. If you are looking to strengthen your workplace wellness program, that is a good place to start.
Building a Stronger Evidence Base for Employee Wellness (PDF)
New evidence that wellness programs yield high ROI
How healthy are your employees? Track via your state’s Well-Being Index
Learn how ESI Employee Assistance Program can help address your employees’ wellbeing issues – from a wellness benefits and help for everyday work-life matters to comprehensive assistance for a wide array of potentially disruptive issues and problems.