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Want Healthier Employees? Treat Them Fairly

Want Healthier Employees? Treat Them Fairly
Credit: www.BillionPhotos.com / Shutterstock

When employees' perceptions of fairness over issues like pay, rewards, promotions and assignments change, so do their perceptions of their health, finds a new European study.

"People who feel fairly treated are not only more likely to be motivated at work and go the extra mile for their organization, but they are also more likely to be healthy, have an active lifestyle and feel positive," Constanze Eib, one of the study's authors and a lecturer in organizational behavior at the University of East Anglia in England, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers used data collected between 2008 and 2014 for the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health, which focuses on the associations among work organization, work environment and health. In the survey, participants rated their general state of health and were asked about their perception of fairness by saying to what extent they agreed with statements relating to their organization's decision-making processes, such as whether their employer hears the concerns of all those affected by decisions, whether their employer provides opportunities to appeal or challenge decisions, and whether all sides affected by decisions are represented.

The findings revealed that the employees who felt they were treated more fairly reported being in better health. The study's authors said this finding suggests that employers that make changes to treat their employees more fairly can improve how healthy their workers feel. [See Related Story: Being Bored at Work Might Be Bad for Your Health]

Moreover, changes in employees' health were linked to changes in how they perceived fairness, which indicates that employees' health status may also affect how employees feel they're treated at work, the researchers said. In other words, the two factors are linked, and one doesn't necessarily cause the other — it works both ways.

Eib said the findings should help raise awareness among employers that fairness and health are both important factors for employers to consider when trying to increase employees' satisfaction, well-being and productivity in the workplace.

"It is important to know about these issues, as there may be things that can be done to improve perceptions of fairness at work — for example, making sure people feel their views are considered, they are consulted about changes and that decisions are made in an unbiased way," Eib said.

The study, which was published recently in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, was co-authored by Constanze Leineweber and Claudia Bernhard-Oettel of Stockholm University in Sweden, and Paraskevi Peristera of Athens University of Economics and Business in Greece.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.