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  • Investing in Employees’ Health Leads to Increased Productivity

    Annual Gain of 10 Hours in Productive Time for Workers Who Improve Health

    Workplace health promotion programs that improve employee health can lead to significant increases in productivity — and associated cost savings, reports a study in the October Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

    “Participating in health promotion programs can help improve productivity levels among employees and save money for their employers,” according to the study by Rebecca J. Mitchell, MPH, and colleagues of OptumHealth, Golden Valley, Minn.

    The researchers analyzed the productivity effects of a program in which wellness coaches provided telephone support to help employees address health problems or risks. The study used measures of lost work time including absenteeism as well as “presenteeism” — time spent at work with reduced productivity.

    The program led to significant reductions in lost work time — equivalent to about 10.3 hours in additional productive time per year. Savings averaged about $350 per participating employee, compared to similar workers who did not participate in the wellness program.

    The savings were even greater for employees who successfully improved their health or lowered health risk in at least one area. For a typical employee, the gain in productive time amounted to about 0.5 percent.

    Effective health promotion programs lead to savings in medical and absenteeism costs. The new results “add to the growing body of evidence that investing in a healthy workforce can help to increase productivity levels of employees,” Ms. Mitchell and coauthors conclude. However, they add, “It takes time and commitment for program participation to yield success.”

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    Citation — Mitchell RJ, Ozminkowski RJ, Serxner S. Improving employee productivity through improved health. J Occup Environ Med. 2013;55(10):1142-8.

    About the Author — Ms. Mitchell may be contacted for interviews at Rebecca.Mitchell@Optum.com.

    About ACOEM — ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

    About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine — The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.