It has become clear in recent years that a business that looks after its workforce is more likely to thrive than one that does not. A healthy workforce feels actively committed to the success of the workplace and will increase the business’s productivity and profit.
Where health promoting workplaces care for and support their workforce, and ensure that the workforce is safe, valued, and supported, its staff will show more loyalty and take greater responsibility for their role in the success of the business. A health promoting workplace extends its supportive vision to its workforce’s family, and the community and environment that surrounds the business.
The benefits to a business of a healthy workforce include reduced absenteeism, increased presenteeism, fewer workplace injuries, and most significantly of all, greater productivity. Absenteeism can occur for a variety of reasons including illness, injury, stress, poor general health and lifestyle choices, and mental and social wellbeing factors.
Sometimes the workplace itself can be the trigger for an employee’s ill health or injury, but a workforce that engages in an unhealthy lifestyle is more likely to develop chronic diseases that will ultimately impact their presence and productivity in the workplace. Smoking, risky alcohol consumption, obesity, poor diet, and a lack of physical exercise are common risk factors in the workforce population that lead to ill health and increased absenteeism. A workplace that takes steps to reduce these risk factors will enjoy not just greater productivity, but also a happier workforce, staff that feel valued, want to work, and are motivated to work more efficiently.
The evidence from research published by Healthier Workplace WA¹ has shown that workplace health programs can reduce absenteeism by up to 20% and that a healthy workforce is almost 30% more productive than an unhealthy one. Research published by Worksafe Victoria² revealed the economic cost of obesity to businesses in Victoria alone was as much as $14.4 billion (2008).
An unhealthy workforce is more likely to experience workplaces injuries than a healthy one, with economic implications when injury compensation claims are made. Compensation payouts for workplace injuries – as a consequence of poor health – have been the single biggest drain on Victorian business productivity and profits, since 2002. Research from regional Australia-wide workplaces has revealed a marked improvement in productivity when a holistic psychosocial approach is taken to employee health – making staff feel valued and creating opportunities for a flexible workplace as well as providing opportunities for improved physical health leading to increased motivation and productivity in the workplace.
Internationally, there is resounding economic evidence to support the implementation of effective workplace health programs and investment in workforce health and wellbeing. A nearly six-fold return of investment due to reduced absenteeism highlights the real value of a well-supported and healthy workforce.
Taking a few simple steps to make the workplace a healthier environment, will transform staff morale and create a business that people want to work for. A business that transparently values its workforce, seeks strategies for promoting and supporting positive health and wellbeing lifestyle choices, and provides opportunities for its staff to take positive action, will be a business that stands out above the rest, becomes an employer of choice, and enjoys greater productivity as a direct result.