The New Skills Gap? Workplaces Struggle with the “Wellness Gap”


Production within the American manufacturing industry increased more than 2 percent last year, according to research from the Federal Reserve. But despite this growth, manufacturing businesses are struggling to reach their full potential, with the average firm operating at 75 percent capacity, according to the Fed. Why? They cannot find enough mentally and physically-fit workers to meet production demands.

Poor worker health contributes to this score as absenteeism results in more than $225 billion in productivity losses per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Symptomatic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure sap productivity from older workers, with the average chronic obstructive pulmonary disease sufferer missing 12 days of work per year related to the illness. Arthritis has a similarly powerful impact on employees of advanced age, facilitating an absenteeism ratio of 2297 lost days per 1000 workers. Younger employees are prone to miss shifts due to migraine headaches, which affect 15 percent of the U.S. population, the CDC reported. Obesity is at the root of the COPD epidemic. More than one-third of Americans are obese and, as a result, are at risk for developing heart disease and other ancillary conditions, according to the CDC.

But physical conditions account for just a portion of the health problems American professionals face. Many suffer from equally impactful psychological disorders. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting 300 million people and causing $1 trillion per year in lost workplace productivity, according to the World Health Organization. Overall, 20 percent of adults grapple with at least one diagnosable mental health problem in a given year, researchers from the American Psychiatric Association discovered. Stress is one of the primary culprits behind depression and other psychological conditions, Psychology Today reported. In fact, many employees develop stress within the workplace, with sufferers attesting to worrying over workloads, interpersonal problems and job security, according to the American Institute of Stress.

Together, these health problems drag down productivity and make it difficult for enterprises to meet the demands of the marketplace. Businesses that leverage health and wellness programs to help workers reduce excess weight and blood pressure readings by just 1 percent stand to save up to $103 per employee, the CDC found. Similar progress is possible when it comes to mental illnesses as more than 80 percent of workers attest to experiencing improved levels of productivity and professional satisfaction following treatment, according to APA.


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