In 2009/10, presenteeism cost the Australian economy $34 billion, with the average employee losing 6.5 days of productivity (Medibank, 2011). Presenteeism is the loss of productivity that occurs when employees come to work but cannot perform properly due to illness, or other conditions.
Considering the additional negative effects of absenteeism (taking a sick day) and the positive effects of a healthy workforce, the benefits of improving employee health are clear. A healthy worker is reported to have a self-rated performance of 8.5/10 and to work 143 effective hours a month – compared to an unhealthy worker with a self-rated performance of 3.7 who works 49 effective hours a month (Medibank Private, 2005).
Health factors that affect presenteeism:
Only 5.5% of Australian adults consume the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables (ABS, 2013). Eating 5 serves of fruit and vegetables in 4 out of 7 days reduces the risk of being in the worst quintile for presenteeism by 39%, and having an unhealthy diet increases the risk by 66% (Merrill, 2012).
Exercising for more than 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, reduces the risk of being in the worst quintile of presenteeism by 50% (Merrill, 2012) but less than 38% of Australian adults achieve minimum levels of physical activity (ABS, 2011).
Unhealthy diet and a lack of physical exercise and activity significantly increase the risk of being overweight, the greatest modifiable risk factor for health problems. Being overweight increases the risk of being in the worst percentile for presenteeism by 127% and being obese increases it between 40 to 44% (Merrill, 2012). More than 60% of Australians are overweight or obese (ABS, 2013).
A 2005 study commissioned by Medibank Private reported 53% of workers questioned felt overwhelmed by pressure or stress for a significant portion of time (Medibank Private, 2005). A 2008 study reported the cost of stress related presenteeism to the Australian economy was $9.69 billion, with a direct cost to employers of $6.63 billion (Medibank Private, 2008).
The 2005 Medibank Private study also reported 56% of respondents slept less than 7 hours a night (Medibank Private, 2005). Being tired at work impacts performance and significantly increases the risk of work place injury and road traffic accidents but lack of sleep also has far-reaching impacts on health and is linked to obesity, diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance, cardiovascular disease and hypertension, anxiety symptoms and depressed mood (AlDabal, 2011; Taylor, 2005; Mansfield., 2013).
Don’t pass up the benefits of a healthy workforce!
HealthChase directly, measurably and sustainably reduces risk factors of presenteeism. Through our research-backed, innovative online game, HealthChase approaches health and wellbeing in a fun way that improves employee engagement, teamwork and productivity. HealthChase can help your team perform at their best.
Written by Helen Fogarty, co-founder of HealthChase