Mental and Physical Health Drive Employee Productivity

Mental and physical health are the most important factors affecting workplace productivity, reports an open-access paper in the June Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Martin Stepanek, MA, of Charles University, Prague, and colleagues present a "systematic and simultaneous" analysis of the many factors influencing workplace productivity. "Our study shows that the network of influences affecting employees' productivity is more complex" than previously reported, the researchers write.

The study used a comprehensive dataset of nearly 32,000 UK employees, drawn from the 2017 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey. Using a technique called structural equation modeling, the researchers analyzed the combined effects of a wide range of determinants of lost productivity — not just absenteeism but also reduced productivity while at work (presenteeism).

Four main determinants of employee productivity were identified: mental health, physical health, job characteristics, and support from the organization. Mental health was the single most important factor, followed by physical health. Together, mental and physical health mediated 93% of the indirect effects on productivity identified in the model.

"Some influences lose most of their explanatory power in more complex models with additional explanatory variables," the researchers write. For example, while work engagement was a strong predictor of productivity in individual models, it became negligible in models including health, job, and workplace characteristics.

"There is a need for a more tailored strategy to improve employees' well-being as well as the overall organizational, work and management culture," Mr. Stepanek and coauthors conclude. Employers need strategies that do more than just address the symptoms of poor mental and physical health, the researchers add: "It is equally or even more important to address the source of such problems through supportive management, promoting more inclusive work atmosphere, and improving job satisfaction in a healthy work environment."
About the Author
Mr. Stepanek may be contacted for interviews at
ACOEM (, an international society of more than 4,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


Stepanek M, Jahanshahi K, Millard F. Individual, workplace, and combined effects modeling of employee productivity loss. J Occup Environ Med. 2019;61(6):469-78.