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Walking Research

Walking Research

The body of evidence of the negative impact a sedentary workforce is having is growing daily. However, it’s not all bad news – statistics show companies that introduce wellness programs to reengage their workforce are emerging ahead of the pack.

Below, our researchers at Walk with Attitude, creators of Step Safari, provide a snapshot of the findings, facts and statistics from globally-respected sources.
 

2011–2012: The state of today’s workplace

“The cost of waiting for people to get sick far exceeds the cost of helping healthy people stay healthy,” Dee Edington, Director of the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center says – and statistics show this cost is not just measured in dollars. Employee health and wellness, workplace productivity and staff morale are suffering. 

So what are the facts?

Employee physical health is deteriorating

  • A survey shows 10% of Australian workers surveyed are inactive, 40% engage in minimal exercise and 12% do less than one hour per week. The financial cost of poor health and wellbeing in Australia is estimated at over A$7 billion per annum. A Guide to Promoting Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace, ACT Occupational Health and Safety Commission, 2009

Employee stress and depression is rising
  • The 2011 Global Mindset Index (GMI) found that more than one fifth of 1,071 employees surveyed across all industries were depressed. Respondents identified with five or more of the key symptoms of depression outlined by the World Health Organisation. Only 12% of the global workforce felt optimistic and just 14% found their bosses inspirational. ‘For all organisations, this degree of malcontent can only result in negative outcomes: efficiency and effectiveness will come into question, and in more serious cases, retention of key staff,’ the report concludes. 2011: Don’t Stop Believing: Global Mindset Index, RogenSi, 2011
 
Employees increasingly need to take more sick leave reducing productivity
  • Employees with poor overall health take up to 9 times more sick leave than their healthy colleagues. Healthy employees are nearly 3 times more productive than employees with poor health. A Guide to Promoting Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace, ACT Occupational Health and Safety Commission, 2009
 
And the financial toll this is taking on organisations is unprecedented
 

But there is a solution. Evidence shows workplace wellness programs reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, boost employee health & avoid health cost blowouts, while generating a high Return on Investment.

 
Greater employee health and longevity
 
Greater motivation & mental alertness
  • In the same study, 40 employees were tested for brain function, including the ability to plan, remember, simulate future scenarios and make decisions as well as their alertness, energy levels and levels of anger and stress. The research showed a clear link between vigorous physical activity, increased brain function and reduced stress levels at work. 10,000 Steps a Day Make a Happy and Productive Employee, Anne Witter, International Business Times, 16 September 2011
 
Increased productivity
  • Healthy employees are nearly 3 times more productive than employees with poor health. A Guide to Promoting Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace, ACT Occupational Health and Safety Commission.
  • In 2008, Dow Health Services’ health and productivity program helped save more than 7,000 workdays that would have been lost to injury and illnesses. The company saved more than US$3 million in the United States alone. Adding the projected savings from the reversal of “lost” productivity, the total was more than US$9 million. Staying@Work Report 2009/2010: The Health and Productivity Advantage, National Business Group on Health and Towers Watson 2010
 
Greater company loyalty
  • A Towers Watson and National Business Group on Health study revealed that organisations with effective wellness programs experience significantly lower voluntary attrition (9% versus 15%) by their employees. What's the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?Harvard Business Review, December 2010
 
A huge Return on Investment
  • A meta-analysis of workplace disease prevention and wellness programs found that for every US $1 spent on the program, medical costs dropped by US $3.27 and absenteeism costs dropped by US $2.73. Worksite Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings, Health Affairs, February 2010
  • Johnson & Johnson leaders estimate that wellness programs have saved their company A$250 million on health care costs over the past decade. From 2002 to 2008, the return was A$2.71 for every dollar spent. What's the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?, Harvard Business Review, December 2010
 

Why pedometer-based 10,000 step challenges in particular, are at the forefront of wellness program results

  • A clinical trial run by the Body-Brain Performance Institute, in association with Swinburne University’s Brain Sciences Institute, has found employees who walk 10,000 steps a day, and work out in the gym three times a week can give their employer up to $2,500 in added productivity per year compared to non-active colleagues. There was a marked improvement in the employees’ mood and cognition from the exercise group, with the exercising group showing a 4% increase in overall brain function. Exercise and Productivity Link Confirmed, Human Capital Magazine, 4 October 2011
  • In a study into the effects on absenteeism and cost savings from a workplace pedometer-based challenge, employees who participated in the pedometer challenge took an average of 3.3 sick days over 6 months, whereas non-participants took an average of 5.6 sick days – a difference of 41 percent. The cost of a single sick day in Australia has been estimated at A$230. Thus, the participants yielded a cost saving of $531.30 per person, almost a $6 return on every dollar spent on the program. The 6-month effect on absenteeism and cost savings from a workplace pedometer-based intervention: Australian Model, Associate Professor David Smith, 2007
  • In the same study, 66% of participants revealed they felt much more active after the challenge and 79.2% agreed that by taking more than 10,000 steps per day they felt healthier. The 6-month effect on absenteeism and cost savings from a workplace pedometer-based intervention: Australian Model, Associate Professor David Smith, 2007
 

Where to next? What the future holds for workplace wellness

“No company will be successful in a globally competitive world with anything but healthy and productive people,” says Dee Edington, Director of the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center.
“Senior leaders who embrace the new health care model that positions wellness first and integrates this strategy into the organisation’s environment and culture will create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.” 


For more statistical evidence of the impact workplace physical activity programs are having on the global employee population, please refer to the below reports.


Download Report here
What's the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?

 

Download Report Here
HSE Annual Health Statistics Report 2010/11


Download Report Here


Towers Watson Multinational Workforce Health

 


To find out more about how our technology is at the forefront of these developments, please contact us.