The Correlation Between Good Health and Business Success

The American system of capitalism has turned labor into a commodity which we as a country have a surplus in most industries. Increasing automation leads to increasing competition for many jobs, and the economic recession of the late 2000s pushed businesses to invest more heavily into labor replacements. This, plus the culture of “work hard to earn what you deserve” has put us in an interesting spot.

Without straying too far into politics, this entire issue has played into numerous discussions happening across the country. Paid maternity leave, paid sick days and vacation, job security; the current American worker has to juggle personal issues and professional development when both are frequently at risk.

Yet through all of this, there is a definite link between health and productivity. Here, let’s demonstrate. If you’re the CEO of a small business and you want maximum productivity, which reasoning do you follow?

  • Employees should work as much as they’re able. If they’re sick, they should do what work they can. Every minute spent on sick leave is a minute of lost work, and lost revenue for the company.
  • Employees should work as much as they’re able. If they’re sick, they should do what work they can. Every minute spent on sick leave is a minute of lost work, and lost revenue for the company.

The first viewpoint is the traditional view from many businesses, particularly those that have minimum wage workers. A low-paid worker performing manual labor, cashier work, and even up into low-end management is easy to replace. Employees should be giving every ounce they have to the company, or risk losing their position to someone who can give more.

The second viewpoint is the one that is increasingly backed up by science. Illness is a huge cause of lost productivity in the workplace, and when workers are living in an atmosphere of risk, they don’t feel like they’re able to take time off to recover from their illness.

Illness and Productivity

In the sort term, looking over a weekly or monthly tally of work performed, a worker taking days off to recover is going to underperform. However, when examined on a grander scale, this time off helps increase productivity. There are a lot of reasons for this.

  • When an employee is sick, they aren’t working at 100%. They get less done while at work, and are prone to making mistakes. They show up to make their presence known to avoid being fired for absenteeism, even if they’re doing very little.
  • When an employee is sick and they come into work rather than recuperating at home, it extends the length of their illness. Rather than taking two days off to recover and returning to operate at 100%, they may spend a week or more slowly struggling to recover. Illnesses simply last longer.
  • When one employee is sick and they come to work, they risk infecting other employees they work with. In an isolated small business this may not be too detrimental, but in areas where an employee works directly with customers, it can have a huge effect on sales and customer satisfaction. Even in more isolated positions, the lost productivity of one employee translates into a similar loss to a second, third, fourth, or more.

There’s also the psychological effect of having to work while sick. Employees begin to view the workplace as a place where they have had miserable experiences, which leads to more stress and less job satisfaction. This compounds on the effects of the illness, leading to lower productivity in general, and possibly employees jumping ship for another company that treats them with more care.

Fitness and Productivity

Illness isn’t the only way health affects the workplace. Most positions in the workplace are largely sedentary. Even labor positions are not necessarily healthy; you’re active, but not exercising or operating in a healthy way. Fitness then becomes important for employees and workers in every sector.

Sleep is important, and has been the subject of much debate. On one hand, highly successful people seem to sleep less on average than is recommended. At the same time, studies suggest that a lack of sleep hurts productivity and kills the drive for success.

Healthy eating, exercise, sleep; these all keep your body healthy. When your body is healthy, you’re under less stress, and you can devote more of your energy to your responsibilities, both personal and professional. You have more motivation and energy to pursue your goals. And, of course, a healthy body is less likely to fall ill and cause all of the issues mentioned above.

What’s the moral of all of this? Simply that you should consider the stress levels and health effects of the business regulations you have in place. It’s difficult to maintain a productive, loyal and happy employee pool when they fear for their positions each flu season. Going the extra mile to offer paid time off and an assurance of job security – within reason, of course, you don’t want to open yourself up to abuse – makes for a better business in the long run.

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