An apple a day might keep the doctor away but it also might keep the pink slip at bay. A new study of almost 20,000 American workers reveals a link between poor employee health habits and reduced workplace productivity. Researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU), the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and the Center for Health Resources at Healthways are publishing the results of their study in the October issue of Population Health Management.


The researchers focused on the issue of what they call “presenteeism” — which is defined as being at work but not performing at optimal productivity levels. Poor employee health is responsible for a surprising amount of workplace productivity loss.


"Total health-related employee productivity loss accounts for 77 percent of all such loss and costs employers two to three times more than annual healthcare expenses, " said lead author Ray Merrill, a professor in the Department of Health Science at BYU. Source: HERO (PDF)


Key findings from the study include:


  • 66 percent of employees with an unhealthy diet were more likely to report lost productivity
  • 50 percent of employees that only exercised occasionally reported lost productivity
  • 28 percent of smokers reported lower productivity levels than non-smokers

While an employee’s overall diet can negatively impact workplace productivity, on the job snacking can have an even bigger impact. The study reports that employees that rarely eat healthy snacks at work, like fruits and vegetables, were 93 percent more likely to have a greater loss of productivity.


If you sometimes eat healthy snacks at work, do you feel more productive than you do on the days that you don’t make a healthy snack choice?


Diet may affect workplace productivity
Study examines the link between lost productivity and poor employee health habits.