Do you have a health and wellness program in your organization? What about an employee engagement initiative? If you have both, do you look for correlation between the two? How about causation?

Causation, of course, is harder to prove than correlation, but Gallup recently released interesting research on the effects of employee engagement on employee health.

“Engaged people feel less stress, and the stress they do feel is offset by a lot more happiness and enjoyment and interest. …

“Not only do anxiety and depression take a personal toll on workers, but they also result in significant direct costs to businesses in medical expenses — and indirect costs, including lost productivity. In 2000, for example, the economic burden of depression in the United States was estimated at $83.1 billion, which included $26.1 billion in direct treatment costs and $51.5 billion in indirect workplace costs from absenteeism and “presenteeism,” or reduced productivity while at work due to depression. And a 2003 study found that workers with depression reported an average of 5.6 hours of lost productive time at work each week, compared with an expected 1.5 hours of lost productive time among workers without depression.

“A recent Gallup study into the effects of disengagement on mental health — conducted February 2008 through April 2009 — studied U.S. workers as the country moved through the recession. … actively disengaged employees were 1.7 times as likely as engaged employees to report being diagnosed with anxiety for the first time in the next year. And actively disengaged employees were almost twice as likely as engaged employees to report being diagnosed with depression for the first time in the next year.”

Obviously, the recession and its effects on the workforce has caused employees to react in a variety of ways, including with physical and mental symptoms of illness. How they will choose to handle that reaction is an even more important question.

The Chief Happiness Officer blogger, Alexander Kjerulf, recently posted the story of a reader of his book, Happy Hour is 9 to 5. The reader tells of his decision to change careers into one that paid much better but required him to leave the field he loved. After gaining 100 lbs. and suffering several other physical ailments, the reader completed an exercise in Kjerulf’s book. The main lesson he learned:

“I used to take better care of myself when my work was more in line with my personal values.”

The main take away – you may not be able to alleviate the stress of layoffs, pay reductions or other challenges faced by your team. But you can help them see how their personal values are reflected by your company values. You can give them a greater sense of personal meaning and purpose in their work.

*image credit: Flickr

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