Investing in employees’ health increases productivity and output

When organizations search for ways to improve their financial performance, they should not overlook the importance of investing in the health and well-being of their employees. According to scientist Emile Tompa, a Canadian health and labour economist, several international studies have demonstrated the positive effects of health promotion programmes on a company’s bottom line. Between 65-85 per cent of programmes evaluated showed positive returns within a few years of their implementation.

This research will be presented at the international Work Well-being and Wealth conference being held August 26–28 in Helsinki. Organized by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), the conference will focus on the latest knowledge, challenges and solutions related to extending working careers, well-being at work and productivity.

”Human capital is a key factor of productivity growth and, in turn, is central to the growth of income and standards of living,” explains Tompa . Traditionally, human capital has been interpreted as education and skills. Today, health and well-being are seen as an increasingly important part of human capital.”

According to Tompa, several researchers have evaluated the economic impacts of measures to promote employee well-being, and many of these have proven to be cost-beneficial. The programmes evaluated usually fall into one of three areas: health promotion, disease management and wellness; disability management; or ergonomics.

Tompa has studied the impact of ergonomics programmes in the manufacturing and warehousing sector. The positive effects have been irrefutable.

”In the future, the health promotion measures should be particularly directed towards middle-aged and older workers, whose numbers are increasing in the workplace,” says Tompa. “Very few interventions aimed at older workers were found among the programmes evaluated. Furthermore, follow-up periods for evaluation of these measures ought to be longer, as some of the health and financial returns may take time to be realized.”

Measures to improve the mental health of young people create the most substantial savings in social funds

Guy Ahonen from FIOH has evaluated the economic impact of measures to develop workplaces. According to Ahonen, health-promoting measures often focus on the prevention of the most common illnesses, such as musculoskeletal disorders. These disorders are mainly found among middle-aged and ageing people.

However, Ahonen’s latest economic evaluations show that the most substantial savings for society, in terms of premature pensions and lost working years, are gained though measures to improve the mental health of young people. The evaluations are made on the basis of the statistics of the Finnish Centre for Pensions.

”An economic approach changes the focus of health politics,” says Ahonen .

” From the societal perspective, the economic approach emphasizes the importance of measures targeted at young people. However, other measures at workplaces that promote health and well-being should not be neglected. We need both to ensure our well-being and commercial competitiveness.

Further information:

Dr. Emile Tompa, MBA, PhD, Health and Labour Economist, Scientist, Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, Canada, ETompa(at)iwh.on.ca

Professor Guy Ahonen, Director, Knowledge Management, FIOH, tel. +358 50 0 47 7727, guy.ahonen(at)ttl.fi

Further information regarding the conference:

Mikko Härmä, Research Professor, FIOH, tel : +358 30 474 2729, +358 40 544 2750, Mikko.Harma(at)ttl.fi

Programme www.ttl.fi/www2013
Twitter #workhealth2013

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health researches, develops and specializes in well-being at work. It promotes occupational health and safety and the well-being of workers. It is an independent institution under public law, working under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It has six regional offices, and its headquarters are in Helsinki. It employs just under 800 people.

About Us

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Työterveyslaitos) researches, develops and specializes in well-being at work. It promotes occupational health and safety and the well-being of workers. It is an independent institution under public law, working under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It has five regional offices, and its headquarters are in Helsinki. It employs about 560 people.

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