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Walking Research

Walking Research

We at Walk with Attitude, creators of 10,000 Steps Australia, stay abreast of the latest research regarding the state of health care, and the costs and benefits of employee health promotion.

Here is a snapshot of recent findings, facts and discourse taken from professional journals, reliable websites and published articles, from around the world.

20102011: The state of today’s workplace
The modern day workplace is in a state of flux. Studies reveal it is an environment where workers are stressed, overworked and doing increasingly sedentary roles. The forecast is for offices worldwide to face additional pressures to employee health and productivity as the employee population ages, and more workers fall casualty to the toll the Global Financial Crisis has taken on their mental health.

So, what are the facts?

  • The key findings of management consultancy RogenSi’s Global Mindset Index this year give an alarming insight into the mindset of the workforce compared with a year ago, indicating a dramatic erosion of motivation in the workplace. The index surveyed 668 employees, 26% of whom were found to be suffering from symptoms specified as indicators of depression by the World Health Organisation. Clark Perry, Director and Psychologist at RogenSi says the results should ring alarm bells for organisations. He cautions that without interventions, employers can expect reduced performance and resignations as employees look for more rewarding work. Workers Suffer GFC Blues, Meera Vijayan, The Australian, September 18 2010.
     
  • In 2010, 1.3 million English workers suffered an illness they believe was caused or made worse by their current or past work. The total number of days lost due to work-related ill health was 23.4 million, or 64,109 years. The Annual Statistics Report 2009/10, Health and Safety Executive, 2010.
     
  • 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.

     
  • A survey conducted by Medibank Private shows 10% of Australian workers surveyed are inactive, 40% engage in minimal exercise and 12% do less than one hour per week. A Guide to Promoting Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace, ACT Occupational Health and Safety Commission, 2009.
     
  • A 2009 survey of 13,908 Australian workers reported half those who believed they were in excellent health were at high risk. Australian Financial Review, 30 October 2009, p.12.
     
  • 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.
     
  • Research in the U.S. has estimated that companies spend as much as US$61 billion on direct health care costs and US$56 billion on indirect costs due to loss of productivity as a result of obesity, A Healthy Helping Hand: Corporate Health and Fitness Programs, Human Resources Magazine, 2004.
     
  • As of late 2010, increasing the age of retirement was being mooted by the English and Australian governments. Andrew Probyn of the West Australian has predicted, “Where once everyone stood around the water cooler discussing the latest Desperate Housewives episode, come a few years it will be everyone talking about Antiques Roadshow.”


What evidence is there that workplace physical activity programs have the power to reduce absenteeism and health cost blowouts, increase employee productivity and health, whilst generating a very profitable Return on Investment? Here’s the tip of the iceberg:

  • In a study into the effects on absenteeism and cost savings from a workplace pedometer-based challenge, Associate Professor David Smith observed the following:

Employees who participated in the pedometer challenge took an average of 3.3 sick days over a period of 6 months, whereas non-participants took an average of 5.6 sick days – a difference of 41%. 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 than prior to the event and 79.2% agreed that by taking more than 10,000 steps per day they felt healthier.

  • An analysis of disease prevention and wellness programs in the workplace found that medical costs dropped by about US$3.27, and absenteeism costs dropped by about US$2.73 for every dollar spent on the program. Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings, Health Affairs, Katherine Baicker, David Cutler and Zirui Song, 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. Berry, Mirabito and Baun, December 2010.
     
  • Work health promotion programs can have positive effects on employee’s health and productivity – including more than a 20% reduction in sick leave. Research showed meaningful improvement in several key measures such as reduced emotional exhaustion and improvements in mental health. Work Health Promotion, Job Well-Being, and Sickness Absences – A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, November 2008.
     
  • 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. “Employees who participate in our wellness program do not leave,” Vicki Banks, Biltmore’s Director of Benefits and Compensation told Harvard Business Review. What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?, Harvard Business Review. Berry, Mirabito and Baun, December 2010.
     
  • ‘Companies with effective health and productivity programs are more likely to have lower health care costs, lower levels of presenteeism, fewer lost days due to disabilities and lower levels of turnover relative to their industry peers,’ concluded the Staying@Work Report 2009/2010: The Health and Productivity Advantage, National Business Group on Health and Towers Watson, 2010.
     
  • 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.
     
  • “No company will be successful in a globally competitive world with anything but healthy and productive people. 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.” Dee Edington, Director of the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center.


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 hereStaying@Work Report 2009/2010: The Health and Productivity Advantage, National Business Group on Health and Towers Watson 2010
 

Download Report Here
Workers Suffer GFC Blues
, Meera Vijayan, The Australian, September 18 2010

Download Report Here


A Guide to Promoting Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace
, ACT Occupational Health and Safety Commission, 2009


To find out more about how 10,000 Steps Australia’s technology is at the forefront of these developments, please contact us.