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Health Culture Shown to Improve Employee Performance

A 'culture of health' can raise productivity and create competitive advantage

Employees at companies with a strong commitment to health and wellness spend more time working, work more carefully, and concentrate better than employees at other organizations, according to a study by the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), a nonprofit research firm.

The study,Opening a Closed System: The Influence of Health Culture on Job Performance, explored the relationship between an employer’s health culture and workers’ job performance using a database of health-risk appraisal data from 1,268 employees at 53 U.S. organizations. Employees rated their organization’s interests in employee health and creating a healthy workplace and measured difficulties they encountered in their job performance during the prior 28 days.

The majority of respondents (86 percent) rated their organization’s health culture as excellent or good; the remaining 14 percent rated it as fair or poor.

“If a workplace sets a high priority on the health of employees—who, in turn, are healthier and have better job performance—then it can reasonably be said that an employer’s culture gives it a competitive advantage,” wrote IBI research director Kimberly Jinnett, the main author of the report.

The study reveals a statistically significant relationship between the type of health culture and job-performance measurements such as carefulness, diligence and concentration at work:

  • Not careful at work. Workers in an organization with a weak health culture reported not being careful at work “all” or “most of the time”—more than three times more frequently than those who work in places with a strong health culture.
  • Not working as often. Forty-four percent more people who work in an organization with a weak health culture reported not working as often as they should “all” or “most of the time,” as compared with employees in companies with a strong health culture.
  • Not concentrating. Thirty-one percent more employees who work in companies with a weak health culture reported they did not concentrate “all” or “most of the time,” compared with employees in organizations with a strong health culture.
  • Getting less work done. There was no difference in the responses from those in a strong versus weak health culture with regard to getting less work done—but employee health is a differentiating factor. Emotional distress and overall health strongly influence how much people accomplish, and employees in organizations with a weak health culture have worse outcomes on both measures.

“Increasingly, employers acknowledge that health care is not a closed system and that the health of workers—whether treated in the medical system or not—has broader impacts on the organization that are important to senior management,” said IBI President Thomas Parry. “As more employers recognize that health influences productivity, as well as health care costs, health outcomes such as absence, disability and presenteeism are being brought into the larger discussion of the business cost of poor health.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.​


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