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How Employee Health Affects Productivity

You probably aren’t surprised to learn that employee health directly correlates with productivity. Employees who are physically, mentally, socially, and financially well are more likely to do their best work than employees who are struggling in one or more of these areas.

How Employee Health Affects Productivity

You probably aren’t surprised to learn that employee health directly correlates with productivity. Employees who are physically, mentally, socially, and financially healthy — and doing well in other dimensions of well-being) are more likely to do their best work than employees who are struggling in these areas.

There’s actually a term for when employees are physically present at work but not performing at their best due to underlying health issues or stressors: presenteeism. Presenteeism is not a new phenomenon, but it is a growing concern for employers because it’s harder to recognize and address than absenteeism. It’s also significantly more costly: The total cost of absenteeism in the United States is estimated to exceed $150 billion a year; presenteeism is estimated to cost more than 10 times that.

Employers can help by recognizing the immense influence they have on the health and well-being of their employees. Taking steps to improve employee health (e.g., offering well-being programs, improving company policies to support employee health, and improving company culture to reduce presenteeism) has been shown to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism while improving employee retention.

Let’s take a closer look at what impacts employee health and well-being — and what employers can do to help their employees live their best lives.

What Impacts Employee Health and Well-Being?

  • Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological needs, such as food, water, and shelter.
  • How Employers Can Contribute: Employers provide jobs that enable employees to fulfill these basic needs.
  • Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Safety needs, such as personal security and employment security.
  • How Employers Can Contribute: Employers should provide a safe, secure working environment where employees understand what is expected of them.
  • Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Love and belonging needs.
  • How Employers Can Contribute: Employers should promote a healthy (not toxic) social environment where people are allowed to express themselves.
  • Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Esteem needs: Respect, self-esteem, feelings of accomplishment.
  • How Employers Can Contribute: Employers can promote a culture of respect, celebrate wins and learnings, and help employees achieve their own professional goals.
  • Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-actualization: A desire to be the best that one can be.
  • How Employers Can Contribute: Employers can provide an environment where employees have everything they need to perform at their best.

Access to healthcare is a basic physiological need. The ability to access and afford that care is a safety need. Without these needs met, employees cannot be expected to perform at their best.

The Relationship Between Employee Health and Productivity

Even with employer-sponsored health insurance, many full-time workers struggle to access and afford medical care for their families. Some 25% of people surveyed said they have delayed medical care due to cost. There is also the possibility that an employee is prolonging their illness or condition by attempting to work through it rather than resting or otherwise addressing it. This lengthens the period of time during that lost productivity is a factor and often increases the total cost of treating the illness.

Financial stress contributes to both absenteeism and presenteeism. Researchers have consistently found that financial stress can negatively impact health, contributing to migraines, heart disease, insomnia, and deteriorating mental health. Employees enduring financial stress have been shown to take twice as many sick days as employees who are not financially stressed.

Although companies should aim to fulfill employee needs at each level of Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs, they should focus first on fulfilling the physiological and safety needs that they can influence — including improving medical care access and affordability.

How Employers Can Impact Employee Health

Absenteeism and presenteeism are serious concerns for employers. Luckily, these are not new problems — and research has shown that there are things employers can do to actively combat them.

There are several ways employers can support the health and well-being of their employees, mostly focused on improving company policies and culture while reducing financial stressors. Here are a few ways to get started:

Offer increased employee leave options.

One of the most obvious solutions is to offer a wider range of leave (e.g., family, personal, medical) and more of it. Providing employees the opportunity to take care of themselves and their families without penalty can help to reduce the risk of turnover and presenteeism.

Lead by example to improve employee health.

Company cultures need to adapt to allow employees to take advantage of leave when they need it: Managers need to encourage employees to take time away from their work when they are not feeling well and follow that advice themselves. They should also set an example by taking time during the workday as necessary for doctor’s visits, dental appointments, and other preventive health measures so that employees feel comfortable doing the same.

Improve your well-being programs.

Many companies have had varying degrees of success with well-being programs aimed at improving the physical and mental health of their employees. These well-being programs vary in structure and content, but they typically involve incentives for employees to eat well, exercise, limit unhealthy habits, and reduce stress. They can also include initiatives to encourage preventive health measures, such as health screenings and flu shots offered at the office.  

These programs certainly can improve employee health and productivity, but they don’t address a larger problem that impacts employee health: the affordability of healthcare.

Make healthcare more affordable for employees.

There are a few ways employers can contribute to making healthcare more affordable for their employees, such as:

  • Contributing to HSAs (or matching employee contributions).
  • Paying for healthcare outright.
  • Offering Health Payment Accounts (HPAs) as a benefit.

Paying for healthcare outright is, of course, the most expensive of these options, and out of the realm of what is financially possible for most employers. Contributing to HSAs puts more money in the pockets of employees, but studies have shown that these dollars don’t go far in helping employees get the care they need.

Offering Health Payment Accounts (HPAs) through Paytient is a low-cost, high-impact way for employers to help make healthcare more affordable. For just a few dollars a month per employee, HPAs give employees the ability to pay for their care at the time of service and then pay it off over time — without interest or fees.

Paytient gives employers a practical, low-cost way to improve the physical and financial wellness of their employees. By giving employees a healthier way to pay for their medical, vision, dental, and even veterinary care, employers can have an immense impact on the overall wellness of their team.

Healthcare Equity
Employee Wellness
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