When work hurts Premium

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Can work damage employee health? Yes. Can work damage company health? Yes. For several years, research tracking the physical and psychological state of employees has shown an increase in occupational diseases, with serious consequences for organizational performance. But the spiral of ill-health is not irreversible — all it takes to reverse the trend is a collective commitment to building work processes that are more respectful of individual health.

When work hurts

 

The most engaged employees are also those in the best health.

From musculoskeletal disorders to psychosocial risks to adverse effects of inactivity on the one hand, and, on the other, financial crises to fierce competition to “the client is king” mentality, businesses are torn between two seemingly opposed interests: financial performance and employee wellbeing. In the face of this paradox, the urgent need to boost profitability is often given precedence over the development of human capital. But this paradox is based on a false premise, given the fact that employee health is a major factor in organizational performance. Both highly personal and complex, health is an issue that may seem difficult to address.

 

3 conditions for caring for employee health

1. Do not be afraid to get personal
In recent years, employees have seemingly become more open to crossover between the public and private spheres. A 2010 survey conducted by the French insurance firm Médéric Malakoff shows that employees are favorable to company investments in their health. For example: 62% of employees expect their company to give them time to exercise, with 55% hoping this will provide psychological help in difficult times.

2. Optimize the work environment
Balanced meals at the cafeteria, ergonomic workstations, sports facilities, and support services are all ways to improve the work environment. A company where employees feel good is a company that provides individuals with the means to carry out their work. A Swedish study conducted in 2011 shows that taking 2.5 hours out of work time every week for sports classes cuts in half the number of prolonged absences.

3. Initiate a company-wide approach to health
While health is an individual concern, making it a company-wide focus can benefit the organization as a whole. Managers must regularly assess and diagnose health conditions at work and communicate the results and measures taken in response.

Read our focus
When work hurts

Business Digest no. July 2012.
Based on, among others, “Wellness is the Responsibility of Business as Well as Worker” by Ellen Galinsky (huffingtonpost.com, September 2009); “Investing in workforce health generates higher productivity” (towerswatson.com, November 2011); “Sitting all day: worse for you than you might think” by Patti Neighmond (npr.org, April 2011) and “Quel est l’état de santé des salariés en France en 2010?” {“What is the state of employee health in France in 2010?”}, a Sociovision survey for Malakoff Médéric (December 2010).