Does poor physical health actually lower productivity?


There’s been a huge shift of focus in the HR world towards consideration of employee health. However, does poor physical health actually lower worker productivity?

In an interview published in HR Grapevine with Entreprenuer, Brian Hazelgren, Author of Healthy Habits of Highly Productive Employees: Thriving in Health, Wealth and Self, argues that yes, it does. In fact, poor health has a ripple effect on the whole organisation.

For example, if an employee is unhealthy and takes time off or pays to visit a doctor, it affects the pricing of products a company sells in order to retain staff and manage absence.

Hazelgren argues that health, wealth and self-need to match up and it’s all about finding balance. And whilst financial wealth is not the answer to good health, it does have an impact. The stress that not having financial security has is a huge cost on wellbeing.

Recently, HR Grapevine also spoke to Dragon’s Den mogul, Theo Paphitis and Richard Boland Smith, Chief Executive of RetailTRUST, about how and why HR are beginning to pay attention to financial wellbeing.

“If you look at what contributes to a lack of wellbeing it’s stress – physical, mental or financial,” Smith says. “When we researched the industry before setting up the union, one of the key reasons we found for people not performing at work was financial stress.

“Separate research has shown that if financial stress could be eliminated there could be anything up to a six per cent spike in productivity. We know that happier employees serve customers better, which makes sense for business.”

Financial stress, however, is just one side of the coin to address. Working cultures that pressure employees to come in, despite being unwell, are part of the issue too. A sobering report from Canada Life Group Insurance found that UK employers are failing to reduce levels of presenteeism, as almost one quarter (23%) of UK workers – equating to around seven million people – would only take time off work if they were hospitalised.

The research found that nine in ten (89%) say they still go to work despite feeling sick.

Paul Avis, Marketing Director at Canada Life Group Insurance, says that ‘the ‘stiff upper lip’ culture of presenteeism still pervades the British workforce.

And, with the latest ONS statistics finding that UK productivity is up just 0.9%, employers should improve “the way people are both managed and developed at work,” Ian Brinkley, Acting Chief Economist at the CIPD advises. He believes that “the restrictions of unnecessary workplace procedures,” should be left behind in 2017. This should be a call to organisations who have stringent policies, for example, around flexible working.



You can view the original article in HR Grapevine here.


You can find out more about Brian Hazelgren and his report, Healthy Habits of Highly Productive Employees: Thriving in Health, Wealth and Self: here.