Healthy workstyles: Why Health = Wealth

A healthy workforce is vital to recovering economy – and there’s no better time to look after staff than when the pressure is on. With fewer staff on the job, absence from work and reduced productivity can cause significant disruption.
Where to start? Two recently published research projects shed light on the problems and potential solutions.
The first, done by TNS Conversa for the Southern Cross Corporate solutions team, looked at the true cost of illness to Kiwi employers ( The second from UK health insurer Bupa, looked at the potential impact of recession on workplace health (
The first shows the cost of illness comes not only from the number of sick days taken but also the impact on productivity when employees go to work sick (known as presenteeism). It found NZ employers are paying high cost for their staff’s poor health – upwards of $1500 per employee per year or $2 billion across the entire workforce. And the biggest contributor turns out to be presenteeism.
While the average amount of time off work due to illness was 4.2 days year, the average for presenteeism was found to be 11.1 days.
Unsurprisingly, the number of absentee and presentee days correlates to the assessed health status of workers, with unhealthy workers averaging five sick and 13 presentee days versus healthier workers’ three sick/seven presentee.
The survey also looked at health and lifestyle issues contributing to poor workplace health based on which each respondent was given “health-adjusted age”. It found 70 percent have state of health equivalent to an older person with 20 percent rated as having the health of someone decade older. Nearly third were rated as obese while stress levels were poor to bad for 43 percent.
These are shocking figures – especially in the context of the Bupa research which suggests that as levels of job insecurity increase, people are more likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyle behaviours like drinking and smoking. It also theorised the downturn could restrict resources for employers to invest in workplace health.
That doesn’t yet seem to be the case in New Zealand with research finding that two thirds of companies offer employees health and wellness interventions. But with the very real possibility of workforce aging ahead, the case for workplace health interventions can only strengthen.
By investing in workplace health, employers can play fundamental role in supporting people with poor health, preventing future ill-health and promoting good health – all of which leads to happier, more productive workforce – and healthier bottom line.

What helps

•Flu vaccinations
•Health assessments, including blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) checks
•Workstation assessments
•Stress management support and information
•Vision and hearing tests
•Gym subsidies
•Local fun runs or competitions
•Walking / running groups
•Stop smoking programmes
•Nutrition / weight management programmes
•Health / lifestyle education
•Free fruit
•Meditation classes, massages
•Subsidised health insurance

Peter Tynan is chief executive health insurance, Southern Cross Medical Care Society.

Visited 2 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window