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Improving employee productivity through a healthy lifestyle

Roderick - 5 May 2019

Healthy living is primarily seen as a responsibility of the employee himself. But a healthy employee is usually more productive than an unhealthy one and is less likely to drop out. What is the influence of a healthy lifestyle on labor productivity and what can an employer do to encourage this?

Overweight and obesity

Overweight employees are on average less productive than employees with a healthy weight. A study into the effects of overweight and obesity on labor productivity and absenteeism in the US, showed that employees with severe obesity lost on average more than 23% of the total working time due to poor health and sick leave. This was more than 14% for employees with a healthy weight or more than and 16% for employees with moderately overweight. An employee with obesity can cost up to $ 4000.00* more in lost labor productivity per year than someone with a healthy weight.

Move and work-out

Various studies have shown that both exercise and training during working hours are an effective way to increase labor productivity. A study of a combination of strength and fitness training under supervision showed an increase in productivity that compensated more than for the loss of working hours. And also resulted in a 29% reduction in sick leave. Other studies also support this view and indicate that regular exercise, such as walking, has a positive influence on labor productivity.

Sleeping behavior

A good night’s sleep is essential for a good concentration at work. Lack of sleep or lack of quality sleep is becoming more common. Employees suffering from insomnia are up to 6% less productive than well-sleeping colleagues. This translated into $ 3156 in annual lost income per sleepless employee that participated in the research.


Finally, smoking can have a significant effect on work performance and costs for the employer. Studies indicate that smokers are between 2.8-4% less productive than non-smokers. Productivity in itself does not differ much from non-smoking employees, but this small difference in productivity would entail an additional cost of $ 461 per employee per year. However, these figures do not include the smoking breaks. Earlier research from the US shows that smoking breaks cost the employee between $ 1641 and $ 4102 per smoking employee per year. If you add the extra costs of sick leave and health care to this, a smoking employee costs on average $ 5816 a year more than a non-smoker.


Employees who have a healthy lifestyle are on average much more productive. There are several areas where there is much to be gained. For the employee, who by living healthier not only feels better and can work harder, is also less ill and is able to live a fitter life. The employer has a more productive company with healthy staff and much lower costs.

Although an employer does not, of course, have control over how employees live privately, there are steps that can be taken to encourage employees to live healthier lives.


  • - Encourage employees to lose weight and become healthier in the event of obesity, for example by offering information about healthy food and healthy alternatives in the canteen. Another step could be to engage a professional dietitian or nutritionist for proper information and possibly guidance towards a healthier diet.

  • - Encourage employees to become healthier and fitter by giving them opportunity for strength and / or fitness training. Even during working hours this will be worth it.

  • Encourage employees to exercise by walking daily, for example during the lunch break.

  • - Provide information, advice and possibly guidance to strengthen the importance of sleep and how to improve sleep quality. Such as prevent to watch cell phones or screens such as television or computers 1 hour before bedtime.

  • Provide information and guidance for quitting smoking. Do not allow extra smoking breaks.

*All aforementioned costs have been taken from the respective studies and stem from the employee populations investigated therein with associated salary and costs. Moreover, inflation is not taken into account.


DiBonaventura, M., Lay, A.L., Kumar, M., et al. ., The association between body mass index and health and economic outcomes in the United States. Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, 2015. 57, 1047–54.

Lehnert, T., Sonntag, D., Konnopka, A., et al. Economic cost of overweight and obesity. Best Practice& Research: Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2013, 27, 2, 105-115.

Goettler, A., Grosse, A., Sonntag, D. Productivity loss due to overweight and obesity: a systematic review of indirect costs. BMJ Open 2017;7:e014632. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014632.

Walker, T.J., Tullar, J.M., Diamond., P.M., et al. The association of self-reported physical activity, muscle strengthening physical activity, and stretching behavior with presenteeism. Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, 2017, 59, 5, 474-479.

Rosekind, M.R., Gregory, K.B., Mallis, M.M., et al. The cost of poor sleep: Workplace productivity loss and associated costs. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2010, 52, 1, 91-98.

Guertler, D., Vandelanotte, C., Short, C., et al. The association between physical activity, sitting time, sleep duration, and sleep quality as correlates of presenteeism. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2015, 57, 3, 321-328.

Berman, M., Crane, R., Seiber, E., et al. Estimating the cost of a smoking employee. Tobocco Control, 2013, 0, 1-6.

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