Beyond Health Risks: Workplace Climate, Stress, Health and Sick Days

The Issue: Employers seeking to improve workforce productivity have focused on reducing health risks while often paying scant attention to how workplace climate contributes to both health and to absence. In this IBI research, we find that:

Evidence: Using data over three years from a nationally-representative survey of employed adults, IBI investigated the direct and indirect links between work climate, health, stress and sick days.

  • Employees who characterize their workplace favorably in terms of work load, work-life balance, relations between workers and managers, and time-demands also report fewer sick days.
  • Workplace climate influences sick days only indirectly, primarily through an influence on stress levels but also with some influence through health more generally.

Solution: Wellness efforts may be most effective at improving productivity when they are part of a broader approach to health and productivity that also entails a full understanding of how the workplace climate influences health. Employers should pay special attention to helping employees manage the demands of their jobs and cope with work-related stress in efforts to maximize employee performance.