Healthy workers better for your bottom line, study shows

Workers who have a healthy diet and exercise at least thrice weekly have lower levels of absenteeism and greater job performance, the study found. Photo / Thinkstock
Workers who have a healthy diet and exercise at least thrice weekly have lower levels of absenteeism and greater job performance, the study found. Photo / Thinkstock

As we head into winter, many of us are starting to think about how we can keep fit and healthy to avoid those extra "winter layers" piling on. But recent research tells us the benefits of keeping fit and eating well extend beyond good health and weight loss to also include increased productivity at work.

A study conducted by the Health Enhancement Research Organisation (Hero), Brigham Young University and the Centre for Health Research at Healthways found that employees who have a healthy diet and exercise at least three times a week have lower levels of absenteeism and greater job performance. Conversely, employees with unhealthy diets are 66 per cent more likely to experience a loss in productivity than those who regularly eat fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

The study also revealed that employees who do not believe their work environment supports them in becoming physically and mentally healthier experience a drop in productivity.

Leanne Irwin, a consultant at Kenexa, an IBM company, says "data from the Kenexa Best Workplaces Survey 2012 supports this evidence, showing that 90 per cent of employees from the top 25 per cent of New Zealand organisations [as rated by their employees] feel that their organisation cares about their well-being, compared to just 64 per cent of people in the bottom 25 per cent." The most important difference is having managers that support employee well-being initiatives, and an organisational culture that encourages healthy practises, such as taking regular breaks and leaving your desk for lunch.

Once this foundation is in place, there are some practical tips that could be considered:

• Select a team of "wellness champions" to co-ordinate social sports teams, running clubs or entry into events such as the Auckland Marathon.

• Hold well-being seminars/lunch and learn sessions related to nutrition, exercise and managing stress.

• Allow flexible schedules to enable employees to exercise.

• Encourage "walking meetings" rather than sitting in a meeting room.

Clearly, there is real benefit for organisations to be concerned about and actively involved in employee health and well-being. So this week, make it your goal to pull your trainers out, grab your workmates and get out for a bit of exercise.


The Kenexa Best Workplaces Survey runs from May 1 to August 30 and registrations are now open. Visit bestworkplaces.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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