Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Can Worksite Nutritional Interventions Improve Productivity and Firm Profitability? A Literature Review

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Can Worksite Nutritional Interventions Improve Productivity and Firm Profitability? A Literature Review

Article excerpt

Keywords

systematic review; worksites; nutritional behaviour; intervention; health; productivity

Abstract

Aims: This paper investigates whether and how worksite nutrition policies can improve employee productivity.

Methods: The questions are pursued through a literature review, including a systematic search of literature - combined with literature identified from backward references - on randomized controlled or quasi-experimental worksite intervention trials and observational cross-sectional studies. Studies were selected on the basis of topic relevance, according to publication title and subsequently according to abstract content. A quality appraisal of the studies was based on study design and clarity in definition of interventions, as well as environmental and outcome variables.

Results: The search identified 2,358 publications, 30 of which were found suitable for the review. Several of the reviewed studies suggest that diet-related worksite interventions have positive impacts on employees' nutritional knowledge, food intake and health and on the firm's profitability, mainly in terms of reduced absenteeism and presenteeism.

Conclusions: Well-targeted and efficiently implemented diet-related worksite health promotion interventions may improve labour productivity by 1%-2%. On larger worksites, such productivity gains are likely to more than offset the costs of implementing such interventions. These conclusions are subject to some uncertainty due to the relatively limited amount of literature in the field.

Introduction

The prevalence of overweight and obesity and associated chronic diseases is increasing among adults in most industrialized countries. The development is caused by unhealthy lifestyle patterns, including poor dietary habits and lack of physical activity. Citizens in the lower socioeconomic groups appear to face the largest diet-related health threats in these respects,1 suggesting that environmental factors have an important role to play in nutritional behaviour.2 In addition, increasing numbers of people experience mental health problems often caused by work-related stress and irregular working hours.3,4 These developments have economic consequences for employers and workplaces.

At the same time, the workplace is one of the settings where it is feasible to implement new health promotion interventions. A number of reviews on worksite health promotion have found extensive evidence in the literature that worksite health promotion programmes reduce absenteeism and healthcare costs and improve employee productivity.5-13 Several of the analyses surveyed suggest cost savings in the range of 2.5 to 5 times the amount spent on health promotion, either in terms of saved healthcare costs or absenteeism savings.

One suggested worksite strategy to meet the challenges of lifestyle-related health problems is the development of initiatives related to eating at work (healthier canteen meals, free fruit/ vegetables, servings at meetings, etc.). Benefits from such facilities include short- and long-term direct benefits for the users of the facilities, derived benefits for workplaces (in terms of lower absenteeism, enhanced job satisfaction, low labour turnover, etc.), potential derived benefits to employees' families to the extent that such arrangements facilitate cooking at home, and derived benefits for the surrounding society (e.g. lower healthcare costs).

The objective of the present literature review was to assess the potential productivity effects of diet-related worksite health promotion interventions, mainly in terms of reduced absenteeism but also through reduced presenteeism (attending work while sick).

Method

For this study, the overall research question is whether and to what extent a healthy worksite food environment (e.g. due to interventions) can have productivity-enhancing effects. Furthermore, the paper addresses the research question of whether such productivity gains take the form of reduced absenteeism or reduced presenteeism. …

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