by Alex Palmer | October 11, 2012
Employee wellbeing is a strong predictor of a range of performance outcomes, according to a new report published on Oct. 4 in the journal Population Health Management. The study found improvements in metrics ranging from short-term disability and absenteeism to job performance and intentions to stay with an employer as the healthiness of employees improved.

Conducted by the Center for Health Research at Healthways, this study drew on the responses of more than 11,700 employees. The researchers grouped employees into five categories of wellbeing at levels from low to high, allowing for comparisons across employers over time. 

The results showed that those who have low wellbeing are twice as likely as those with high wellbeing to have high healthcare claims cost, are four times more likely to take short-term disability days and visit the emergency room, and are seven times more likely to have low job performance. Additionally, they were a full 47 times more likely to have high presenteeism, seven times more likely to miss work, and twice as likely to have low intention to stay with the same employer.

“We believe this comprehensive measure of well-being will show strong correlation with business outcomes, and the results confirmed our hypothesis,” says lead author Yuyan Shi of the Center for Health Research at Healthways. “We extend the narrow definition of health to a more holistic view of individual’s overall well-being, which not only captures physical health and health behavior, but also other dimensions in work and personal life such as emotional health, work environment, basic access and life evaluation.”

While the study does not look directly at how wellbeing incentive programs should be implemented, it does offer takeaways as to how employers can use the results to encourage such wellbeing. Shi points out that the association between wellbeing and outcomes suggests there is clear business value in programs that target employees’ overall wellbeing, including smoking cessation, disease and stress management, and on-site fitness facilities. 

“For instance, those in the lowest wellbeing risk segment may not be in need of much intervention, and so it may suffice to provide them access to educational, motivational resources,” says Shi. “In contrast, individuals in higher wellbeing risk segments may need more frequent outreach and contact with a coach to help hold them accountable for achieving goals.”