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How Healthy Habits Improve Work Productivity

Sedentary activity contributes to approximately 80% of time at work. This statistic is a reflection of how work life has changed since the introduction of the "technology age"; there are a lot more "desk jobs" than ever before. As a result, workplace productivity, health and wellbeing is significantly affected.

A healthy and productive workforce is critical for economic success and population health. Illness at the workplace can result in lost productivity, which arises from two sources: absenteeism and presenteeism. Absenteeism refers to an employee's time away from work due to illness or disability. Presenteeism refers to the decrease in productivity in employees whose health problems have not necessarily led them to take time off, instead are present at work, but limited in some aspects of job performance by a health problem, and it is often a hidden cost for employers. It includes time not spent on job tasks and decreased quality of work (e.g. product waste and product defects). Absenteeism and presenteeism are part of a continuum within which workers likely transition back and forth over time. In Australia, absenteeism and presenteeism is responsible for $33 billion in wages and lost productivity each year. In 2017, 40% of organisation reported an increase in workplace absenteeism. What can be done?

To prevent, minimize and eliminate both absenteeism and presenteeism, the workplace should promote and encourage healthy habits for a sustainable and productive work life, some examples include:

1. Bring packed lunches

2. Change or avoid unhealthy office snacks, that you may find in a vending machine, to healthier alternatives like fruit or healthy office snack baskets

Points 1 and 2 encouraged health eating habits. Diets that consist of "quick" energy fixes, like sugary drinks and foods, often lead to spikes in energy that are quickly followed by periods of low energy. This can make us feel sluggish and irritated, which can encourage presenteeism. It is not only detrimental to the quality and output of work, but can also lead to developing obesity and metabolic disease such as diabetes.

3. Standing and moving around periodically throughout the day, specifically, every 30 minutes is recommended. Utilising a sit-stand desk is helpful, having standing or walking meetings and getting outside for a walk on your break should be encouraged

Standing while working and encouraging regular movement breaks habits lead to increases in work productivity for a number of reasons. For starters, movement and standing increases the circulation of oxygenated blood to the body and brain. The better the circulation, the happier and more alert the brain is. This is reflected in better attention, information processing speed, short-term memory, working memory and task efficiency - all of which make for an efficient worker. Furthermore, regular movement and physical activity has a profound positive affect on mood and mental health.

4. When possible, avoid negative situations like office gossip or drama

Office gossip and drama between co-workers should be things you avoid at all costs. Office gossip and friction between co-workers can be toxic and is not conducive for work productivity. Recognising it and choosing not be a part of it will reduce the mental drain and stress, and keep you focused on your work.

5. "Unplugging" for periods of time

Work can be stressful and your job may require you to be constantly "dialled" in for most of the work day. Taking breaks where you "unplug" briefly may allow perspective and reflection on your task and/or social interaction and connection. Short breaks, for whatever reason, can make you feel refreshed, happier and more productive.

Cancelliere, C., Cassidy, J. D., Ammendolia, C., & Côté, P. (2011). Are workplace health promotion programs effective at improving presenteeism in workers? A systematic review and best evidence synthesis of the literature. BMC public health, 11(1), 395.
Losina, E., Yang, H. Y., Deshpande, B. R., Katz, J. N., & Collins, J. E. (2017). Physical activity and unplanned illness-related work absenteeism: Data from an employee wellness program. PloS one, 12(5), e0176872.

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