Do Health-Related Behaviors Ignite Performance?

by Jack Groppel, PhD

As I read the interesting interviews with C-suite executives in this issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion (AJHP), it brought to mind a common phrase we’ve all heard many times before: "You don’t know how important something is until you lose it." This often applies to health. Good health can very easily be taken for granted, both by individuals and by corporations. As companies set out to increase productivity and performance, health is often not top of mind. However, when asked whether health matters in the scheme of improving overall business performance, most executives give an unequivocal yes. So, although there is recognition by many C-suite execs that employee and organizational health is important to overall business performance, I would argue that the true impact of health has yet to be fully realized by many companies.

Before I get into more detail on the relationship between health and performance, it’s important that we take a look at some key insights that have emerged over the past several years, demonstrating how health-related behaviors affect performance. The most compelling survey findings include:

  • Companies who are committed to health as a business imperative achieve significantly better financial outcomes and lower employee turnover.2
  • Unhealthy employees – those faced with numerous chronic conditions – are not as engaged in their jobs as their healthier coworkers. 3
  • There is a strong link between highly effective health and productivity strategies and strong human capital and financial results. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of companies with highly effective health and productivity programs reported that they perform better than their top competitors, versus 50% of companies with ineffective programs.4
  • Employees who respond favorably to the proposition that their organization actively promotes health and well-being are eight times more likely to indicate that they are engaged and three times more likely to assess their organization as being productive. 5

Clearly, there is documented proof that those companies who take on employee health and wellness as a strategic business imperative versus simply a function of human resources have found success not only in driving overall business performance, but also in better engaging their employees. Still, many companies struggle to commit to taking on employee health at such a strategic level and fail to recognize the full potential and value in doing so.

I believe that if health-related behaviors are improved, individuals, teams and organizations may benefit. In fact, if focused on improving the right health-related behaviors, companies could even see increased performance.

When trying to improve employee and organizational performance remember: (1) All humans are multidimensional, (2) the body is business relevant and finally, (3) recovery is necessary to high performance.

As the issue of health and health-related behaviors impact performance, we must realize that health is much more than the physical, and that the emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions truly matter. This is the biology of business performance.

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1. Jack Groppel, Ph.D., “The Art of Health Promotion”, American Journal of Health Promotion: May/June 2014, Vol. 28, No. 5, pp. TAHP-6-8

2. Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health. The health & productivity advantage. In: Staying @ Work Report, New York, NY: Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health, 2010:2-3.

3. Blacksmith N, Harter J. Majority of American workers not engaged in their jobs. In: Gallup Wellbeing (October 28, 2011) Available at: Accessed April 3, 2014.

4. National Business Group on Health/Towers Watson. Pathway to Health and Productivity, 2011/2012 Staying@WorkTM Survey Report. New York, NY: National Business Group on Health/Towers Watson; 2012.

5. Right Management Survey on Employee Engagement, 2008-2009. Available at: Accessed April 3, 2014.