Can Wellness Programs Boost Productivity?


The link between good health and greater productivity may not seem to be too big a stretch, but science has long struggled to establish the connection with hard data. Now, researchers at UCLA, University of California Riverside, and Washington University have done so with a small sample of workers at commercial laundry plants in the Midwest. Researchers found that employees who saw their health improve due to participation in an work-sponsored health program increased their productivity levels by 10 percent after just three weeks in the program.

The greatest change in productivity occurred among sick workers whose health noticeably improved from one screening to the next. They saw a 10.8 percent boost to their productivity output at work. But even workers who were considered healthy at the beginning of the study were able to be more productive at their work after participating in a workplace wellness program. 

“Our research suggests that corporate wellness plans can boost employee satisfaction by offering a tangible benefit that empowers them to take care of their health in a way that’s integrated into their busy lives,” says Timothy Gubler, the study’s lead author. “The result is healthier and happier employees who are not only less expensive and less absent, but also more productive.”

The researchers point to better nutrition, more exercise, and less stress as helping employees increase their productivity. 

“By showing concern for workers, organizations can strengthen employees’ loyalty and commitment to the company,” says Gubler. “When workers discover unknown health problems through the program they may feel increased gratitude toward their employer and reciprocate that by increasing their efforts. Additionally, when programs help employees make healthy choices, this can positively impact their wellness, mood, and energy, and ultimately increase their productivity through increased capability.”

Source: “Increasing Productivity by One Day Each Month,” University of California, Riverside (Aug. 1, 2017) and “Healthier Workers Are More Productive, Study Finds,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 9, 2017) [login required]