Healthy employees cheaper, loyal and productive

Employee health and well-being is directly linked to improvements in future retention, productivity and healthcare costs, says a new, comprehensive study of employees at a Fortune 100 company.

Findings from the two-year study, which focused on 11,700 individuals, were published online recently in the peer-reviewed journal, Population Health Management.

This study demonstrates that a scientifically-validated measure of a workforce’s well-being is a strong indicator of future retention, productivity and health outcomes and can serve as a meaningful business performance metric. The findings also reveal there is a significant connection between improvements in a workforce’s well-being over time and in better employee health and performance outcomes—which should accrue to a company’s bottom line.

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Key insights from the study:

  • Higher well-being during the baseline year was associated with lower healthcare costs, better productivity and higher likelihood of retention (staying with the employer) one year later.
  • Well-being improved significantly in this sample over one year, with healthy behaviors of employees increasing the most dramatically.
  • Those employees whose well-being increased tended to experience a decline in healthcare costs, improvement in productivity and an increased likelihood of staying with their employer over the course of one year.

“This study underscores that when employees’ well-being increases, outcomes also improve for individuals and organizations,” said Lindsay Sears, lead author of the study and executive director and principle investigator, the Center for Health Research at Healthways. “When well-being decreases, outcomes also tend to get worse. We are seeing that positive changes to the well-being of employees lead to improvements in their quality of life as well as bottom line outcomes for their employers.”

Earlier the year, the Center for Health Research at Healthways collaborated with Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and Brigham Young University on similar research about employee wellness and productivity that was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

They found that employees who eat healthy all day long were 25% more likely to have higher job performance, while those who eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables at least four times a week were 20% more likely to be more productive.

In addition, employees who exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times a week, were 15% more likely to have higher job performance. Overall, absenteeism was 27% lower for those workers who ate healthy and regularly exercised and that their job performance was 11% higher than their peers who were obese.