- Mental health, job characteristics and physical health have the most direct and indirect impact on productivity, data from a study by U.K.-based insurer Vitality Group, Cambridge University and Charles University showed. Researchers analyzed more than 30,000 employees across 173 organizations that participated in Vitality's annual Britain's Healthiest Workplace survey.
- The study evaluated how employees' physical and mental health, well-being, job and workplace environment, lifestyle and commuting time impact productivity. The results showed that mental and/or physical health accounted for more than 84% of direct effects on productivity loss, as well as 93% of indirect influences.
- "Our analysis highlights that while physical and mental health are the ultimate determinants of employee productivity, healthy work environment and supportive management play an essential role in the process," Martin Stepanek, a study author and researcher at Charles University in Prague, said in a statement. "In addition to medical benefit packages and assistance programs, employers need to focus on building a supportive management culture and inclusive work atmosphere and bolstering employee job satisfaction."
Employers have an obvious stake in promoting employee well-being and minimizing factors that negatively impact employees' mental and physical health. But recent research shows there may be a lot of work to do on this front: employees in a recent CareerCast survey reported being more stressed out today than they were in a similar 2017 survey. In a separate survey from behavioral health platform Ginger, employee respondents acknowledged increased levels of stress with symptoms ranging from anxiety and fatigue to physical ailments that caused them to miss work. Moreover, 81% of respondents encountered barriers to using behavioral health services.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, said in a statement that employers should work at getting to the root causes of workers' anxieties. "Workplaces are making people sick (along with the managers who also do the same thing), adversely affecting people's ability to work," Pfeffer said. "And as the study points out, interventions to improve health that do not attack the root causes of ill-health are going to be less effective or ineffective."
HR and benefits personnel may need to take to get feedback from workers as to the effectiveness of employee assistance programs and similar services. As with other areas of benefits, sharing success stories and encouraging senior leadership to speak out may help to further culture in which employees feel comfortable utilizing the options available to them.
Now that the World Health Organization has classified burnout as an official "occupational phenomenon," employers should feel free to do what they can to prevent it, including adjusting workloads, providing well-being benefits and encouraging time off for mental health breaks.