San Francisco, CA, February 7, 2017 -  Employees with chronic health conditions, demanding jobs, or unsafe working conditions are less productive, according to a new study in Health Affairs by the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health, and Segue Consulting. The study found that workers who had a work-related injury in the past year, worked demanding jobs, and had a chronic health condition had significantly higher lost productivity costs than those without those indicators.

The study analyzed data provided by Colorado’s state-based workers’ compensation insurer, Pinnacol Assurance. From the nearly 17,000 employees who participated in workplace wellness programs across 314 businesses, researchers examined the combined impact of workplace safety, employee health, and job demands on productivity, in the form of absence and job performance. The study found that workers with physically demanding jobs were most likely to take time off from work due to an illness or injury, while workers with both physically and cognitively demanding jobs were more likely to come to work but be unproductive.

Employers are tasked with protecting an aging workforce with a rising prevalence of chronic conditions while maintaining productivity. If employers want to reduce productivity losses, they should take an integrated approach to mitigate job-related injuries, promote employee health, support return to work after an injury, and improve the fit between a worker’s duties and abilities. “By focusing on work-related outcomes such as attendance, job performance and leaves of absence, employers can make better decisions around how their investments in employee health and providing support at work impact these kinds of outcomes” explained Dr. Kim Jinnett, principal author and IBI EVP.

“If employers want to increase productivity, they need to think about the health and safety of their employees. Companies can do this by fitting the job to the worker, not fitting the worker to the job. This means designing or modifying work tasks with employees’ past injuries, chronic health conditions, and task difficulty in mind,” continued Dr. Natalie Schwatka, an investigator on the study from the Colorado School of Public Health.

The study was funded by Pinnacol Assurance, and the report will be featured in a special thematic issue of Health Affairs focusing on the relationship between work and health. The issue is funded by Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), Sedgwick and UnitedHealth Group, with additional support from Pfizer and Pinnacol Assurance. The journal will discuss strategies and barriers to building healthy and productive workforces. To showcase these and other study findings, Health Affairs will hold two briefings—one in Washington, DC, and the other in San Francisco—featuring authors from the journal.

About The Integrated Benefits Institute:

IBI is the leading not-for-profit research organization in health, wellbeing and productivity. The Institute provides the data, research and tools professionals need to make sound decisions in how they invest in the health of their workforces. Since its inception in 1995, IBI has been an independent nonprofit and currently serves more than 1,200 members and their 20+ million employees. For more information, visit Follow IBI on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.


Gia Harris, MPH
Manager, Marketing & Communications
Integrated Benefits Institute
(415) 222-7230