The UK is often referred to as the “sick man of Europe” – and with good reason. It’s estimated that sick days cost British employers about £29bn a year, which is four times that of other developed economies. Employee health is clearly a ticking time bomb that needs to be addressed.
Slowly, the world is waking to the realisation of how important good nutrition is to health – both physical and mental. Whilst poor nutrition is connected with many illnesses, obesity has a clear link with what we eat.
Recent research conducted in the US suggests that 86% of adults will be obese or overweight by 2030, mainly influenced by desk-bound lifestyles. The consequence will be more sick leave – overweight people are 32% more likely to miss work, obese people 62% more likely and the morbidly obese more than 118% more likely to miss work than their healthy weight counterparts.
Poor health equals poor performance
Another American study showed that obesity costs over $42bn in lost productivity time. This was considered a conservative figure, due to costs of recruiting and training new staff not being factored in. The estimate also didn’t include another important factor – the impact on the motivation and resultant productivity of co-workers.
It’s harder to quantify how employers lose out when workers’ minds are less than alert and present. This sort of mental sluggishness leads to mistakes, lower output, lost innovation and creativity. In other words, poor performance.
Research on 15,000 people in the US and the UK found that employees with poor nutritional balance reported 11% lower productivity than healthier colleagues. Meanwhile, data from the United Nation’s International Labour Office has estimated that poor diet – either due to malnutrition in developing countries or excess weight and obesity afflicting mostly industrialised economies – is costing countries around 20% in productivity.
Investment in health and wellbeing pays back in a number of ways. Any reduction in stress and sickness amongst employees will mean fewer sick days, whilst greater engagement and satisfaction will aid recruitment and staff retention.
Whilst we have covered the importance of efficient processes in ensuring a productive workplace in other articles, nutrition and health is rarely given attention despite the impact it can have on performance. How much of an impact? The Corporate Wellness Magazine reports that every $1 invested in corporate wellness yields roughly $4 in savings through reduced sick days, higher productivity and decreased overall costs.
Wellness isn’t something often discussed at the boardroom, but the statistics clearly illustrate it should be. A healthier workforce is more engaged and more productive, resulting in improved efficiency, higher output and potentially improved customer satisfaction – all factors that boost profits.