Obesity in the Workplace, a Serious Issue January 14th, 2013
– by Janice Haddon
The World Health Organisation states that obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and in 2000, the number of overweight people surpassed the number of underweight.
65% of the world’s population now live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than those underweight. Janice Haddon, managing director at Morgan Redwood, takes a look at how serious the issue is within the UK, and why businesses should be taking note…
The UK Government paid out £40million from 2000 to 2005 on incapacity benefits to people whose primary diagnosis was obesity. And a few months ago the Department of Health estimated 18 million working days are lost due to obesity related health problems each year with obese workers taking twice as much sick leave as those not obese.
Now, there have been several initiatives by the UK government to look at health inequalities, the outcome of which have provided recommendations for changes to policy and reforms to deal with the issues. These issues have been highlighted in UK government
reports over the past 30 years but without a full strategy or implementation of consistent approaches to resolving these issues. The 2010 Marmot report estimated that the cost on health and the NHS of these inequalities was in excess of £5.5billion!
In 2010 the coalition government produced a white paper outlining how businesses could help to tackle the crisis and in January 2012 put together a Public Health Outcomes Framework, however there is little evidence of the extent that this has been taken up and
actioned by many UK businesses.
The work environment has been identified as a contributing factor to overweight and obesity, interventions here could have a positive effect and not only help with employee health but also improve business performance.
Quickly looking across the pond for the moment, the cost of obesity in the workplace in the US alone is estimated at a staggering $73 billion a year, including lost productivity, with $1,000 to $6,000 per year being accountable to each obese person. Obese workers have also reported experiencing greater health related limitations and slower productivity which has been equated to $506 in annual lost productivity per obese worker.
In considering how work place interventions could impact the crisis, previous research shows that interventions have a positive correlation from employee wellness programmes to an increase in productivity and weight loss (Heinen et al, 2009). Other studies show that changes in behaviour, exercise and nutrition have had a positive impact on weight management (Haslam et al, 2005; Emmons et al, 2001) and therefore a positive impact on health.
Exercise interventions alone have been shown to have many benefits to health in the workplace. Studies into improvements in heart health, blood pressure and diabetes through exercise have shown vast improvements and specifically improvements relating to obesity.
Other studies have added to the benefits and shown that weight loss has had a positive impact on increased productivity and employee engagement.
Obesity and being overweight can have a severe negative impact on health, personal performance, business performance and costs. It’s time UK businesses addressed this serious issue, as when addressed, positive results will appear.
Janice Haddon has over 25 years’ experience in strategic and operational Human Resources and management consultancy. Working across a range of sectors and with start-ups to top 20 companies, Janice is a qualified coach and has a passion for integrating performance, personal positivity and wellbeing into the work place. A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology, an MA in Psychotherapy and an MBA from Henley Management College, Janice is also a Master Practitioner in NLP, a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapy Counsellor and runs a number of businesses
including Morgan Redwood.