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Getting a Grip on the Fluffy Stuff – The Hard Science on Workplace Wellbeing

happy colleagues round a table with laptops

Getting a Grip on the Fluffy Stuff – The Hard Science on Workplace Wellbeing

“The evidence shows that people who achieve good well-being at work are likely to be more creative, more loyal, more productive, and provide better customer satisfaction than individuals with poor well-being at work”.

New Economics Foundation (NEF, 2015).

What the evidence tells us

Fact # 1: Higher levels of employee wellbeing is associated with higher productivity

Employees with better health spend more time at work, and are more productive when they are, reinforcing the long-held belief that employees are a company’s greatest asset:

  • Extensive UK research covering 16,000 employees across 15 different organisations (both public and private sectors) found that higher employee productivity was associated with better psychological wellbeing.[1]
  • More recently, a study which reviewed over 87,000 respondents from a range of countries found an association between overall psychological wellbeing and employee performance [i]
  • An Australian study also found that the healthiest employees are almost three times more effective at work than the least healthy, with the healthiest employees working approximately 143 effective hours per month compared to 49 effective hours per month by the least healthy.[ii]

Fact # 2: Higher levels of employee wellbeing is associated with higher employee engagement

  • International research has found that when employee health and wellbeing is managed well, the percentage of engaged employees increases from 7% to 55%. In addition this study also revealed that self-reported creativity and innovation increases from 20% to 72%.[iii]
  • Similarly a large review of studies from 21 public and private industries (involving approximately 200,000 respondents) found a significant relationship between employee engagement and work performance.[iv]

Fact # 3: Higher levels of employee health is associated with less injuries and cost

Chronic disease is on the rise and impacting on the health of the Australian and New Zealander workforce. Chronic diseases, including arthritis, depression, cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, are considered the prime cause of lost work time in the working-age population.[v]

  • US research found that wellness programs focusing on lifestyle management can reduce health risks such as smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity. These are all direct risk factors for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.[vi]
  • Similarly, an Australian study has found strong evidence that multi-component workplace interventions focussing on physical activity and/or nutrition are effective in increasing physical activity levels, promoting healthy eating and preventing obesity. [vii]
  • New Zealand research conducted in 2010 on behalf of ACC, found that the existence of chronic disease is associated with increased workplace injury risk, health service utilisation, claim utilisation and higher medical treatment costs. The authors recommended workplace-based health promotion programmes targeted at improving the general health of the workforce with the aim of reducing chronic disease-related workers compensation costs and poor health status in general.[viii]
  • Similarly, a literature review of blue collar workplaces in New Zealand found that workplaces have good potential as settings for health promotion, showing that workplace interventions can lead to improvements in health outcomes, workplace environments, lifestyles, and productivity.[ix]

A word of warning

Wellness programs struggle when they fail to (1) get high participation rates and (2) change employee behaviour. Without behaviour change, a positive return on investment (ROI) is impossible. How do you get high participation rates and behaviour change? Watch out for our next email and we will show you. Every successful workplace wellness program has an effective communication and behaviour change strategy at its core.


“Employee well-being affects all areas of the organisation, from internal engagement to external success”.

New Economics Foundation (NEF, 2015)

A comprehensive health and wellbeing program such as Vitality Hub can empower employees by providing them with the knowledge and tools to improve their wellness. This will ultimately result in:

  • An excited and united workforce;
  • Improved engagement;
  • Fewer injuries;
  • Increased morale as employees feel valued and appreciated;
  • Decreased absenteeism; and
  • Increased productivity.

Employer of choice: Organisations that demonstrate a willingness to invest in the health and wellbeing of their workers, not only improves the relationship between employer and employee but can also enhance the organisation’s image with the public. It is a business investment that pays big dividends.

Please feel free to use the information in this email in your internal communications/newsletters and to help you build a business case for wellness in your organisation. At Vitality Works, we are all about helping you to have healthy people and a thriving business. Because this information comes from us you can be assured it is credible and not myths and misinformation.

[i] Ford, M. T., Cerasoli, C. P., Higgins, J. A., & Decesare, A. L. (2011). Relationships between psychological, physical, and behavioural health and work performance: A review and meta-analysis. Work and Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health and Organisations, 25(3), 185-204.

[ii] Medibank Private (2005). The health of Australia’s workforce.

[iii] Right Management (2009). Wellness and Productivity Management: A New Approach to Increasing Performance.

[iv] Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Keyes, C. L. M. (2003). Well-being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes. A review of the Gallup studies. In C. L. M. Keyes and J. Haidt (Eds). Flourishing: The Positive Person and the Good Life. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

[v] World Economic Forum (2008). Working Towards Wellness: The Business Rationale.

[vi] Mattke S, Liu H, Caloyeras JP, Huang CY, Van Busum KR, Khodyakov D, and Shier V (2013).Workplace Wellness Programs Study: Final Report, Santa Monica, Calif. RAND Corporation, RR-254-DOL.

[vii] Chau J (2009). Evidence Module: Workplace physical activity and nutrition interventions. Physical Activity Nutrition and Obesity Research Group, University of Sydney.

[viii] Wren, J. & Mason, J. (2010). Selected health co-morbidity Effects on ACC Injury Treatment Utilisation and Costs? ACC, Governance Policy and Research. Wellington, New Zealand.

[ix] Novak, B., Bullen, C., Howden-Chapman, P., Thornley, S. (2007). Blue-collar Workplaces: A setting for reducing heart health inequalities in New Zealand? The New Zealand Medical Journal, Vol 120, No 1261.