How Can We Best Measure Worker Productivity?

Can investing in employee health improve the bottom line by making workers more productive? To answer that question, companies need new and better tools for measuring employee productivity, according to an article in the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

In their article, Steve Schwartz, Ph.D., of Health Media Inc., and John Reidel, MPH, MBA, of Reidel and Associates, seek to “highlight important productivity measurement issues for consideration in an overall business strategy.” They outline key issues in the design and use of productivity measurement tools, focusing on their use in meeting real-world business challenges.

Determining the best tool for measuring productivity depends on the purposes of measurement and how the information will be used. “Descriptive measurement” looks at the effects of health on worker performance, while “comparative measurement” examines the impact of various health risks and conditions. A third category, “evaluative measurement,” focuses on changes in productivity over time – a critical consideration in judging the benefits of employee health programs.

Companies need some type of benchmarking data to assess the health and productivity improvements that can be realistically achieved. In addition, some way of monetizing the productivity impact of health conditions, and the potential for improvement, is necessary to assess the effect on the bottom line.

Finally, worker health and productivity data must be formatted in a way that makes it usable by decision makers. “Dashboard” formats are an especially promising approach, presenting data in a clear and concise manner that allows leadership to get a clear picture of how health status affects worker performance.

“A paradigm shift is underway,” Schwartz and Reidel wrote. “Progressive companies are recognizing the opportunity to re-conceptualize their employees’ health and well-being as capital investments.” The authors hope their article will lead to further maturation of high utility instruments for measuring worker productivity, and for using this information to improve worker health – as well as the financial health of employers.

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

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