Healthy Productivity

August 20th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

A new study measures the effects of unhealthy habits on workers’ productivity.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Put down that morning donut – it could be negatively affecting your productivity, not just your waistline.

Intuitively, it makes sense that eating better would lead to feeling better, which would lead to working more efficiently. To back that up, a recent study measured workers’ reported loss in productivity when they indulged in unhealthy habits. The study, conducted by researchers from Brigham Young University, the Health Enhancement Research Organization and the Center for Health Research at Healthways, found that unhealthy lifestyle choices could result in drastically lower levels of productivity.

The study, published in Population Health Management, surveyed nearly 20,000 employees of three large companies in significantly different geographical areas. It focuses on “presenteeism,” or being at work but not performing at an optimal level. The key findings include that 66 percent of employees with an unhealthy diet were more likely to report lost productivity; half of the polled employees that only exercised occasionally noted lower productivity; and 28 percent of smokers surveyed felt that their productivity decreased because of their habit.

On the other hand, the study found that snacking on the job could have positive effects. Employees that reported rarely eating healthy snacks at work were 93 percent more likely to have noticed a drop in productivity.

For employers, the obvious conclusion is that emphasizing the health of your employees can help boost your bottom line. The study’s lead author, Ray Merrill, a professor in the Department of Health Science at BYU, said that health-related employee productivity losses accounted for 77 percent of total productivity losses, and cost employers two to three times more than their annual healthcare expenses.

Do you snack healthily during the workday, or do you notice a difference when you don’t? Do you think employers should offset losses in productivity by passing out memberships to the local gym? Weigh in here.