Health Status of the Australian Workforce
Employees with poor overall health are far more likely to be absent from work and are nine times more likely to have sick days, compared to healthy employees.
Lifestyle risk factors such as smoking, drinking, lack of physical activity and excess weight contribute to this time away from work.
Employee morale and stress in the workforce contribute significantly to absenteeism and sick leave. A worker’s health status impacts upon their productivity.
The healthiest Australian employees are almost three times more productive than their unhealthy colleagues.
Research shows that:
- 10 per cent of Australian workers surveyed are inactive, 40 per cent engage in minimal exercise and 12 per cent do less than one hour per week 1
- Almost half (46 per cent) of workers surveyed live on high fat diets 1
- 62 per cent of surveyed workers are overweight (28 per cent obese) 1
- 53 per cent of Australian workers surveyed felt overwhelmed with stress and pressure a significant proportion of the time 1
- 56 per cent of Australian workers surveyed are in the medium to high-risk area in participating in risk behaviours (including smoking, drinking an sun protection)1
- More than half of workers surveyed did not get enough sleep 1
- 21 per cent experienced a medical condition in the three months preceding the survey (back and neck pain:29 per cent, heart disease 21 per cent, headaches/migraines 14 per cent, asthma 13 per cent and depression 12 per cent) 1
- Nearly a quarter of full-time employees believed that the work-life balance had deteriorated in the last two years 2
- 61 per cent of public sector employees and 41 per cent of private sector employees said workload/intensity had increased in the last two years 2
- 28 per cent (quarter) of employees work more than 50 hours per week (16 per cent 50-60 hrs and 12 per cent >60hrs) 2
1 The Health of Australia's Workforce. Medibank Private survey, 2005
2 DOCEP Work-life Balance, 2005
What are unhealthy employees costing organisations?
If a Healthy, Active Lifestyle Initiative was able to achieve a one per cent increase in employee involvement in workplace programs (10,438 persons), cost impact per annum for the Western Australian workforce would be approximately $5.8 million (based on the $560 per employee per year saving as indicated by the World Health Organisation).
Ill health is attributed to stress, absenteeism, poor motivation and reduced productivity in the workplace. Some research indicates that a 20% reduction in a person's wellbeing equates to a 10 per cent drop in performance. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), workplace physical activity programs can reduce sick leave by up to 32 per cent and increase productivity by up to 52 per cent.
National research indicates:
- Obesity was associated with m ore than 4 million days lost in the workplace in 2001 due to absenteeism
- Stress-related claims costs Australian business more than $200 million annually
- Absenteeism is costing Australian businesses $7 billion annually, or roughly $1000 per employee per year.
A Western Australian study into the Health of the Workforce found that:
- Employees with poor health behaviours have up to nine times the annual sickness absence of healthy individuals (18 days, compared to 2 days per year)
- Healthy individuals have a two-fold better self-assessed work performance
- When effective working hours were calculated, healthy employees nearly were three times more effective than the least healthy (143 effective working hours per month, compared to 49)
Reducing the time spent sitting can be the first important step in achieving the recommended healthy goal of 30 minutes activity a day.
Choosing activity during breaks, or active travel to and from work, can also make a big difference to energy levels and work efficiency.