Fight Obesity To Improve Productivity In Your Workplace March 13th, 2012, by Ken Buckley

Loss in productivity due to obesity through absenteeism, presenteeism and premature death is estimated to be $6.4 billion a year, reports a 2010 research by Medibank Health Solutions..

Obesity in Australia: financial impact and cost benefits of intervention Medibank Research conducted by KPMG Econtech showed that the indirect costs associated with obesity include the impact of being absent from work (absenteeism) and being less productive at work than a healthy person (presenteeism). Absenteeism was found to be 14 % higher in obese employees compared with normal-weight employees in the working population. A study by the University of North Carolina reports that obese workers lose 13 more days of work due to work-related injuries and illnesses than their non-obese counterparts. These costs have an economic impact on the Australian economy, through productivity losses resulting in lower output.

The results of this research demonstrate that strategies aimed at reducing obesity in Australia could bring significant benefits to the economy, and strategies such as corporate health programs aimed at reducing obesity in Australia could bring significant benefits to the Australian economy and community.

What it means for your organisation is that you can’t ignore these alarming figures and have a major role to play in the fight against obesity.

In the face of a growing economic obesity epidemic, incorporating simple changes into seated workers’ daily lives could bring drastic reductions in the overall costs that incur to you as an employer, while providing immense health benefits to your employees’ health. Obesity can be treated using a range of methods and offering workplace health promotion programs aiming at lifestyle or ergonomic interventions is one of them.

Lifestyle InterventionsLifestyle interventions consist of a combination of dieting, physical activity and health/wellness coaching or counselling offered as part of a broader employee health program. KPMG’s report showed that the expected benefit of AU$2,846 is much greater than the expected cost of AU$1,081.

Ergonomic InterventionsSedentary workplace is a potentially hostile environment in terms of overweight staff member and obesity, according to a study presented in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Sedentariness is very different from not having a lot of physical activity and is related to the amount of time spent sitting. This has huge implications for your employees’ health and wellness who spend more than half a day – more than 6 hours – sitting.
Compared to workers of average or normal weight, obese workers spend 20 percent more time sitting at their workstation. It does raise the question whether the obesity rate comes from working in sedentary, seated jobs, or are these jobs preferred since the majority of Australians are obese or overweight?

According to Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, to reverse obesity, we need to develop corporate health strategies to increase standing and ambulating time by 2.5 hours per day and re-engineer our work. Dr Jennifer Buckley, post-doctoral fellow at the University of Adelaide confirmed that one of the intervention being trialled in Australia for office-bound staff is working at a desk while standing.

For more information on Corporate Health Program, contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888 ) and be sure to quote: “post1176” for eligibility of Healthworks latest online offers and Corporate Health initiatives.

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