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© NOVA JUNE 2010
If you're a businessperson
working long and hard
in today's challenging
business climate, Dr Peter
Dingle PhD offers a recipe
for true success. And
your health is the main
Being successful at business or
work should not be mutually
exclusive of your health. In fact,
for any good business the two
should be given the same importance.
You may think you don't have the time
to look after your health or the health of
your employees, but you literally can't
afford not to. What many people don't
realise is that our productivity levels are
directly proportional to the state of our
health. This is logical and supported by a
plethora of scientific research, including
research of my own, my colleagues and
For a number of reasons, our state
of health affects our ability to think; how
we think and learn; how we behave and
therefore our productivity. It is obvious
that we become unproductive when we
have a headache, feel ill or have simply
had a poor night's sleep. When a person is
ill they cannot fully participate and, as
a result, there is lost opportunity. One
person's poor health, low productivity or
low mood can also dramatically influence
those around them, thereby dropping
office productivity even further. Even more
seriously, you have to go home because
of poor health. The number of hours and
days that are taken off sick cost businesses
thousands of dollars each year per staff
member and many millions of dollars to
the economy each year -- yet most of these
are due to health problems that are quite
What is less obvious is the low level
poor productivity that results, not of you
feeling ill but because of your poor health,
whether you call it fatigue or brain fog or
blame the fact that you are a few years
older and it is expected. When at peak
health your productivity is excellent, but
as soon as it begins to deteriorate, your
productivity goes down. Even something
as simple as a bit of fatigue or a headache
can have a dramatic effect.
This has important consequences for
everyone at work, but more so for those
over 35 years of age (or has it dropped
to 30 now?) who are often starting to feel
less well, getting a bit slower, a bit stiff, not
able to focus and concentrate as much
and maybe have to take a few more days
off with poor health -- not illness, just poor
The costs of this to business are:
● Low productivity
● More disease
● Early death
Many of these costs are hidden but
they add up to a large burden on any
business. A good example of this is some
Gallup research in the US that shows that
around 55% of people are not engaged
in their work and that 19% are actively
disengaged, at a cost of trillions of dollars
to the US economy. The longer people
are in the job, the greater the degree
of disengagement. After six months on a
job, 38% of people are actively engaged,
but after three years it has dropped
In addition, when your health is poor,
your stress levels increase which has a
further negative effect on your health
and productivity. If not adequately dealt
with, this situation quickly becomes
compounded, creating poorer health and
productivity and a downward trend. On
the other hand, maintaining good health
allows you to deal with stress more
effectively, leads to fewer illnesses and
reduces the length and severity of infections
such as a colds and 'flus. You need to take
fewer sick days and have increased energy
I have never met a person who believes
that success is poor health, yet we let our
health deteriorate in our pursuit of so
called "success". Success is good health
in every aspect of our lives -- physical,
emotional, mental and spiritual. Being
healthy is more than the absence of disease
and serious disability.
Changing the way we do
While most organisations want improved
productivity, the focus is often only on
improving the technology and in most
cases only lip service is given to improving
health. All too often we invest large sums
of money into the technology and
equipment or even run special wiz bang
technology workshops. It does not matter
how fast a computer is if the person is slow
or even not there at all. The latest computer
is of little value if the person is too ill to
work at it or to focus on the work.
A small increase in personal health
can mean large increases in personal and
professional productivity. My suggestion is
to stop wasting your money on high tech
productivity solutions until you get the
low tech end right. Get the foundations of
a good and productive business right first.
There is a large and growing amount of
scientific evidence to show that improving
someone's health can have a dramatic
effect on their productivity and the
productivity of the business.
Our productivity is also undermined
Life and Work
The Health Equation
Productivity and health is a balance
between our physical, emotional,
mental and spiritual energy. Another
way to break this down is into a simple
Productivity and health
= Mental energy (thinking +
concentrated mental effort +
Physical energy (doing things).
Emotional energy (interactions with
other people and self).
Spiritual energy (living by your values).
Therefore anything that affects any of
the components above can have an
affect on productivity.
When your health is poor you
decrease your :
● Mental capacity
● Memory, focus and concentration
● Stamina and energy
● Tolerance levels (emotional and
● Recuperation period
● Physical ability and mobility
● Communication skills
And you risk becoming more:
Peter Dingle is Associate Professor
in Health and the Environment at
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