Employees who aren't engaged in their work are more likely to suffer from a variety of health-related issues, according to a new study.
The research from Gallup found that "actively disengaged" employees — defined as those who are not only unhappy, but also act out their unhappiness by undermining what their engaged co-workers accomplish — are significantly more likely to experience physical pain and stress on any given day and have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression.
In addition, disengaged workers also have more days in which health issues limit their activity. The study discovered that on a monthly basis, employees who aren't immersed in their jobs have 2.17 "unhealthy" days, compared with 1.25 days per month for engaged employees.
"These results do not necessarily indicate that engagement causes better health, but they do show that there is a strong relationship between levels of engagement at work and health," the study's authors wrote.
Unhealthy days translate into hundreds of lost dollars for an organization, the study's authors noted, and the cost is even greater for disengaged workers. For example, the research shows that engaged workers ages 40 to 49 cost their employers $127.76 per month, on average, in lost productivity due to unhealthy days, while the cost of an actively disengaged worker in the same age range was $236.20. [Communication Is Key to Genuine Employee Engagement ]
The study's authors believe the results show that employers can reduce health care costs — a main objective of many organizations — in ways other than implementing wellness programs.
Employers "should not discount the role of employee engagement in creating a healthier workforce," the study's authors wrote.
The researchers said organizations will benefit most by integrating social, financial, community and physical well-being principles into company-sponsored benefits and education programs.
"High engagement and high well-being have an 'additive effect,' and when employees achieve both, their organizations benefit immensely," the study's authors wrote. "These employees miss fewer days due to illness, are less likely to leave their companies and are more likely to say they are adaptable to change and are performing at an 'excellent' level."
The study was based on interviews with a random sample of 140,579 U.S. adults employed full time or part time.