The overall health of U.S. workers declined between 2002 and 2008, and employers should promote "effective workplaces" to improve employee health and productivity, according to a report released Sept. 22 by Families and Work Institute (FWI), as reported by global occupational health and safety consultants, ORC Worldwide, based in Washington, DC.

Just what constitutes an “effective workplace”? Wellness programs, health insurance and paid time off, plus efforts to promote healthy employee lifestyles and reduce rising levels of stress and depression.

“The State of Health in the American Workforce: Does Having an Effective Workplace Matter?” is based on data from FWI’s National Study of the Changing Workforce. First ducted in 1992, the 2008 survey is based on a sample of approximately 2,800 wage and salary workers, and compares results with FWI’s previous survey, conducted in 2002.

Highlights of the 2008 study:
  • One third of the workforce show signs of clinical depression.
  • Distress levels for American workers have risen significantly over the past six years.
  • Only 28 percent of employees today say their overall health is ‘excellent,” a decline of 6 percent from 2002.
  • Employees’ physical and mental health, stress levels, sleep quality and energy levels all significantly impact important work outcomes, such as engagement, turnover intent, and job satisfaction.

An “effective workplace” is advocated in the report as an antidote to these modern day ills. The report identified six criteria for boosting health and productivity, and reducing distress:

  • Job challenge and learning
  • Autonomy
  • Work-life balance
  • Supervisor task support
  • Climate of respect and trust
  • Economic security

According to the report, an “effective workplace” leads to higher levels of employee engagement, job satisfaction, and the probability of retention. Overall workplace effectiveness had a positive effect on employee health and well-being outcomes across the board, lowering employers’ health expenses. The most frequent predictor of health and well-being outcomes is work-life fit, followed by autonomy and economic security. To read “The State of Health in the American Workforce,” go