News: Does obesity lead to lower work productivity?

Life @ Work

Does obesity lead to lower work productivity?

How obesity profoundly changes workplace dynamics and productivity
Does obesity lead to lower work productivity?

A silent epidemic is sweeping across workplaces worldwide – one that doesn't discriminate based on job title or industry.

It's the epidemic of obesity, and its impact on work productivity is a wake-up call for employers and employees alike.

Obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, is no longer just a personal health concern.

It's become a significant economic and societal issue, with the World Obesity Federation projecting that over half the global population will be overweight or obese by 2035.

The figures paint a grim picture of a future burdened by chronic diseases, soaring healthcare costs, and diminished workforce productivity.

In the US alone, the Milken Institute reports that the total economic and social cost of chronic diseases due to obesity and overweight reached a staggering US$1.4 trillion in 2020.

It is not surprising as the US Endocrine Society said at least 42% of Americans are obese or overweight, and are more likely to develop weight-related comorbidities.

“Employees with overweight and obesity may have higher loss of work productivity as measured by absenteeism, short- and long-term disability, and worker’s compensation,” said study co-author Clare J. Lee, MD.

The impact of obesity in workplaces

Beyond the strain it causes on the healthcare system, obesity has also been tagged as a culprit behind increased workplace absenteeism, reduced productivity, and higher disability claims.

Research has shown a clear link between obesity and decreased work productivity.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Science found that obesity increases job absenteeism due to illness or injury by a staggering 128%.

Moreover, the US Endocrine Society found that costs associated with absenteeism, short- and long-term disability, and worker’s compensation are higher for obese workers.

Costs associated with obesity are around $112 to $891 higher compared to people with normal weight, the study showed.

In Europe, a recent study of over 122,500 employees across 26 countries further solidified this connection.

The research revealed that overweight and obese individuals are significantly more likely to take sick leave than their healthy-weight counterparts.

The likelihood and duration of sick leave increase with higher BMI levels, indicating a dose-response relationship between obesity and work absence.

The reasons behind this decreased productivity are multi-faceted. Obesity is a major risk factor for numerous chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

These conditions can lead to frequent doctor's appointments, hospitalisations, and time off work for recovery.

Obesity can also cause fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and pain, all of which can hinder an employee's ability to perform their job effectively.

The implications of these findings are far-reaching. For employers, the costs associated with obesity-related absenteeism and decreased productivity are significant.

They can lead to increased healthcare premiums, lower morale, and a less competitive workforce.

For employees, obesity can mean missed opportunities for career advancement, financial strain due to lost wages, and a decreased quality of life.

Weighing down workplaces

What can be done to address this growing problem? The answer lies in a multi-pronged approach.

Employers can implement workplace wellness programs that encourage healthy eating, exercise, and weight management.

They can also offer flexible work arrangements and provide resources for employees to access healthcare and counselling services.

Governments can play a role by implementing policies that promote healthy food choices and physical activity.

This could include taxing sugary drinks, subsidising fruit and vegetables, and creating more opportunities for safe and accessible exercise.

Individuals can take charge of their health by adopting a healthy lifestyle, seeking support from healthcare professionals, and advocating for policies that promote healthy living.

The weight of obesity on work productivity is a heavy burden to bear, but it's not an insurmountable one.

By taking proactive steps to address this issue, we can create healthier workplaces, happier employees, and a more prosperous society. The time to act is now.

Read full story

Topics: Life @ Work, #Wellbeing

Did you find this story helpful?



How do you envision AI transforming your work?