In U.S., Engaged Employees Exercise More, Eat Healthier

By Daniela Yu and jim Harter, first posted on Gallup.com, January 16, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — American workers who are engaged in their work and workplace are more likely to report a healthier lifestyle than their counterparts who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged. Engaged employees eat healthier, exercise more frequently, and consume more fruits and vegetables.

Health Habits & Engagement

These findings are from Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted January through December 2012. Gallup’semployee engagement index is based on extensive research on actionable workplace elements with proven linkages to performance outcomes, including productivity, customer service, quality, retention, safety, and profit. The 12 questions included in the survey are intended to help sort workers into one of three categories: engaged, not engaged, or actively disengaged.

Engaged employees are deeply involved in and enthusiastic about their work. Those who are not engaged may be satisfied, but are not emotionally connected to their workplaces and are less likely to put in discretionary effort. Employees who are actively disengaged are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace and jeopardize their teams’ performance.

Gallup research previously found that employee engagement is positively correlated with better health —engaged workers are less likely to be obese and to have chronic diseases. The positive correlation between employee engagement and healthy behaviors holds true after controlling for respondents’ health conditions and key demographics, such as age, gender, race, income, education, and marital status.

Implications

Gallup research shows that how leaders manage their workers can significantly influence their employees’ engagement, which in turn affects a company’s bottom line and workers’ health and wellbeing. Separate Gallup research found that engaged employees were 21% more likely than actively disengaged employees to be involved in wellness programs offered by their company. This finding is consistent across age, BMI groups (normal, overweight, and obese), and among people with or without chronic diseases.

Taken together, the data showcase the link between being engaged at work and leading a healthy lifestyle. It is not clear though which way the relationship between engagement in the workplace and healthy behaviors goes. It is possible that workers without healthy lifestyles are more prone to illness, which then reduces their chance for being engaged at work, or that those who are actively disengaged are less likely to take part in healthy behaviors, perhaps due to time or a depressed outlook on life.

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