Obese Workers Cost Workplace More Than Insurance, Absenteeism

There should be an image here!The cost of obesity among U.S. full-time employees is estimated to be $73.1 billion, according to a new study by a Duke University obesity researcher, published today in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

This is the first study to quantify the total value of lost job productivity as a result of health problems, which it finds is more costly than medical expenditures.

Led by Eric Finkelstein, deputy director for health services and systems research at Duke-National University of Singapore, the study quantified the per capita cost of obesity among full-time workers by considering three factors: employee medical expenditures, lost productivity on the job due to health problems (presenteeism), and absence from work (absenteeism).

Collectively, the per capita costs of obesity are as high as $16,900 for obese women with a body mass index (BMI) over 40 (roughly 100 pounds overweight) and $15,500 for obese men in the same BMI class. Presenteeism makes up the largest share of those costs. Finkelstein found that presenteeism accounted for as much as 56 percent of the total cost of obesity for women, and 68 percent for men. Even among those in the normal weight range, the value of lost productivity due to health problems far exceeded the medical costs.

As part of this secondary analysis of the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 2008 US National Health and Wellness Survey, presenteeism was measured and monetized as the lost time between arriving at work and starting work on days when the employee is not feeling well, and the average frequency of losing concentration, repeating a job, working more slowly than usual, feeling fatigued at work, and doing nothing at work. The study included data on individuals who are normal weight, overweight and obese, with sub-groupings based on BMI.

“Much work has already shown the high costs of obesity in medical expenditures and absenteeism, but our findings are the first to measure the incremental costs of presenteeism for obese individuals separately by BMI class and gender among full time employees,” said Finkelstein, also associate research professor of global health at the Duke Global Health Institute. “Given that employers shoulder much of the costs of obesity among employees, these findings point to the need to identify cost-effective strategies that employers can offer to reduce obesity rates and costs for employees and families.”

When all costs of obesity are combined, individuals with a body mass index greater than 35 (grades II and III obese) disproportionately account for 61 percent of the costs, yet they only represent 37 percent of the obese population. “The disproportionately high per capita and total cost of grade II and grade III obesity is particularly concerning given that these BMI ranges are the fastest-growing subset of the obese population,” said Marco daCosta DiBonaventura of Kantar Health, a co-author of the study.

With a burgeoning obese population in the U.S., the study has important implications for employers, as they are faced with increasing costs to insure full-time workers.

“Our study provides evidence of yet another cost of obesity,” said Finkelstein. “Employers should consider both the medical and productivity costs of obesity when thinking about investments in weight management or other wellness programs.”

Finkelstein recommends that employers promote healthy foods in the workplace, encourage a culture of wellness from the CEO on down, and provide economic and other incentives to those employees who show clear signs of improving their health via weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, and/or participation in health behavior activities that have a strong correlation with health improvements, such as walk-a-thons or gym attendance.

[Photo above by Colin Rose / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Geelea Seaford @ Duke University

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Measuring The Preference For Multitasking

There should be an image here!A new study led by Elizabeth Poposki, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, may help employers identify employees who enjoy multitasking and are less inclined to quit jobs involving multitasking. The study presents a new tool developed to measure preference for multitasking, information which may be of interest to bosses who tire of repeatedly hiring and training new employees.

A growing number of individuals must multitask at work and positions requiring a significant amount of multitasking typically have high turnover. Even positions which in the past did not require multitasking may now do so as staff reductions require remaining workers to pick up additional assignments. Technological innovations (e.g., e-mail) also create frequent interruptions. How workers feel about multitasking may influence their job satisfaction and the likelihood that they will quit, important factors in hiring and placement decisions.

Poposki and co-author Frederick L. Oswald, Ph.D., of Rice University, report on the conceptualization and design of the Multitasking Preference Inventory (MPI) in a study published in the current (July 2010) issue of the journal Human Performance.

“Multitasking has now become an important component of job performance for a growing number of professions – air traffic controllers, 911 operators, taxi drivers, receptionists and countless others. We found that individuals who prefer to work on multiple tasks simultaneously enjoy the experience of multitasking more. This finding may sound like common sense, but if we have a tool to assess who will enjoy multitasking and who will not, we may be able to do a better job of selecting employees who will flourish in jobs requiring multitasking,” said Poposki, an industrial-organizational psychologist who takes a psychological perspective on analyzing the workplace.

In her next study she plans to use the new measuring tool in an attempt to predict job satisfaction and turnover among emergency response workers who multitask throughout their shifts.

Poposki notes that our current understanding of multitasking is relatively poor. Although many people believe that multitasking involves doing multiple things at once, the performance of multiple tasks actually requires the rapid shifting of attention among ongoing tasks.

“Neuroscientists tell us that the human brain is incapable of doing two things at once. What we do when we multitask is switch back and forth between tasks in a manner similar to how a computer goes back and forth between programs,” said Poposki.

As multitasking becomes more prevalent in society and workplaces, a better understanding of which workers prefer to work on multiple tasks simultaneously may ultimately aid in practical issues such as staff selection and retention.

[Photo above by ky_olsen / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Cindy Fox Aisen @ Indiana University School of Medicine

[awsbullet:dave crenshaw multitasking]

Don’t Call A Meeting For The Sake Of Meeting

I’ve come across many teams who have re-occurring meetings, even though they don’t have agendas. Some people feel that regular meetings are important. However, holding meetings for the sake of holding meetings is a great way to alienate attendees. Why is that? Meetings without actionable agendas are a waste of your attendees’ time. What ends up happening is you meet to discuss what to discuss as opposed to specific action steps. The result — a lot wasted time. It’s much better to be conscious of people’s time and only call meetings when you have a concrete purpose.

Furthermore, each meeting should end with an action step that identified who will do what by when. You should question the purpose of any meeting that ends without at least one concrete actionable item. If there are no actionable outcomes, chances are you didn’t need the meeting.

[awsbullet:Meeting Excellence]

Provide Your Employees With Meaningful Feedback

Feedback, whether it is positive or negative, is an important part your employees’ professional growth and development. However, having a conversation with another person about their performance can be uncomfortable and as a result, many managers avoid having these conversations with their employees.

Believe it or not, employees want feedback on their performance and the more frequent, the better. Managers who do provide frequent feedback are likely missing golden opportunities to recognize as well as change employees’ behavior.

For those managers who struggle to provide feedback, here are some tips for making the process and conversation more effective:

  • Provide feedback in a timely manner. In fact, when you observe a specific behavior, feedback should be given as shortly after as possible.
  • Choose the correct medium. Positive feedback can be given almost anywhere — in a public forum, through email, during one-one meetings, etc. Negative feedback however should remain private and be delivered during one-one meetings.
  • Prepare yourself for the conversations. Take some time, even a few minutes, to think about what you want to say, particularly when you deliver negative feedback.
  • Stick to the behavior. Provide feedback about employee’s behavior, not about the employee.
  • Follow the facts. Any feedback provided should be based on facts. Do not base feedback on assumptions or on something you heard through the grape vine.

Finally, remember that the overall goal of any feedback conversation is to coach or guide employees’ behavior to improve performance.

[awsbullet:Make Their Day Employee Recognition That Works]

Participation = Engagement

One of the best ways that managers can engage their employees is by asking for their full participation. Participation does not mean inviting your employees to sit through meetings or attend team building events. Participation in this sense means inviting your employees to share their ideas and opinions on how they can contribute to achieving results. It means inviting employees to share their ideas and opinions on initiatives, problems, solutions, etc.

Many managers don’t see the connection between participation and engagement. These managers frequently end up telling their employees instead of engaging them in two-way dialogue to give them an opportunity to be heard.

Bottom line — if participation leads to engagement and engagement leads to more productive employees, all managers should be focused on encouraging full participation for their team.

If you’re still not sold, check out this great article from the Globe and Mail called Engaged Employees Can Drive Revenue.

[awsbullet:Employee Participation]

The Key To Creating A Great Workplace

Organizational Development professionals implement all sorts of activities to create a great workplace for employees — employee engagement activities, fun/team building activities, etc. However, fun activities are not the key to creating a great workplace. The key is front line or local level managers who interact with employees on a day-to-day basis.

If Organizational Development professionals really want to create a great workplace, they should focus much of their efforts on developing, empowering and sensitizing front-line managers. Let’s face it; front line managers are the lenses through which employees largely view the rest of the organization. So when you’re designing your strategy for creating a great workplace, make sure that your front line managers are at the heart of the strategy.

[awsbullet:Make Your Workplace Great]


Recently, a lot of people have been trying to dust off their resumes and get back into the job hunting game because the economy has taken many jobs over the past year or two. Many of the people who are now unemployed have had secure jobs for many years, so the process of trying to find a new job is something that they haven’t had to deal with for a long time. For some, one of the hardest parts about finding a new job is simply creating a resume. That may sound easy, but since your resume is usually your first step in the door, it’s important to get it right. A service called CeeVee (clever) takes your resume online and prevents you from having to worry too much about formatting, etc.

While an online resume won’t be acceptable to every employer, it’s still nice to have an online version that you can point people to. With CeeVee, it’s all about the actual content. The service provides themes for you to choose, and from there it’s just a matter of using the tool to input your information. Resumes can be public or private, saved as a PDF, and shared through social networks. We’re all wishing you the best in your job hunt.


It used to be a necessity for every individual looking for a job to have a resume, but in this day and age, the usefulness of a standard resume has diminished quite a bit. It’s now quite commonplace for an employer who’s looking to find out some information about a job candidate (especially if they’re involved with technology) to just do a Google search using their name, and in most cases, that will give them all of the information that they’ll need. With that said, the resume isn’t dead yet, but the format of the resume is certainly evolving thanks to services like VisualCV.

Since many employers expect that you’ll detail some of your professional experience online, why not just give them what they want? Instead of having to send a potential employer a document containing your resume, you can build an online resume with VisualCV that anyone will be able to discover and review, assuming that you make it public. The format will be attractive, and since it’s online, you can include links to Web sites and documents, embed pictures and videos, and so on. This service presents the next generation of resumes, and prospective employers will be impressed when they see your VisualCV.


Traditional resumes aren’t as important as they used to be for certain jobs, but overall, they’re still essential tools for all job candidates to have nearby. Since my projects change so much, I have a hard time keeping my resume updated, and I could definitely do a better job of keeping it current even though most of my work has started to come through referrals. Since your resume sums up your entire professional life, it’s important to take it seriously, but you can also have fun with it, too. Emurse makes standard resumes feel antiquated.

While the content may be the same, the way in which Emurse enables you to use it is what makes this so special. The service contains several layouts to help spice up your resume, but in addition to that, it also assists you with keeping track of where it’s been sent and what the status is. You can use this as your command center to store notes, stay organized, and even receive relevant job postings. Most of us think of a resume as a regular document, but Emurse enables you to turn yours into a Web site, and since employers are fully utilizing the Internet to find potential employees, this is definitely a worthwhile pursuit.

[tags]Emurse, Resume, Job, Employer, Employee, Work[/tags]


One of my least favorite things about the freelance lifestyle is the need to keep track of your time. I’ve been doing this for a few years, and I’ve found that a good reputation encourages each company to trust you and not give you a big hassle about where every minute of your time went. I usually end up doing so much at once that it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint each specific activity, and that’s why general task headings can be helpful. We each have our own way of tracking what we do while we work, but SlimTimer might provide a better solution for you.

This online service makes obsessive-compulsive time tracking easier than it’s ever been before. Once you’ve created your tasks, just click on one of them to make the clock start ticking, and click it again when you’re done with that task for the time being. Tasks can be marked off when they’re completed, and when it’s time to share your report with the powers that be, you can export it to a CSV file, syndicate it via RSS, or just use the old and reliable method of sending it as an e-mail. If nothing else, your employer will at least have to be impressed with your accuracy. Oh, and don’t include the time that you spent watching Maury while you were supposed to be working.

[tags]SlimTimer, Freelance, Time, Time Tracking, Work, Tasks, Report, Employer, Maury[/tags]

Employer vs. Employee

What kind of worker are you? Lockergnomie John Howard Oxley had a response to an earlier post on Extreme Multitasking:

I think this misses the point entirely — what is going on is something new in the world — the corporate environment can now use IT to select for the best worker bees on a Darwinian basis. Those of us who have any sorts of attachments outside of work, like family, hobbies, or even watching sunsets while smoking a good cigar will, of course, overload, sicken, and die [or be pushed aside to the economic scrapheap, which is an equivalent death sentence]. The lucky few [and in a severely overpopulated world only a few are needed] will be the Type A workaholics who, conditioned by the new environment of games, instant communication, and constant stimulation, thrive on the multitasking 24/7 routines.

I know at least a couple of people who, over the short run at least [and in the long run, replacing a burnt-out worker is cheap and easy] seem to thrive in exactly this environment. One thing they have in common — they profess to need little or no sleep — this may be an actual selective mutation.

Remeber that the boss doesn’t care [economically, it is suicide for him to try] — all he wants are those most willing to work the hardest, over the most hours, for the least pay. The technologies of the InterNet have made this Darwinian selection now operate globally as well — and we may in fact see that other cultures, like the Chinese and Japanese, which have been selecting for hard workers with few individual requirements for many generations, are superior to North America in ways that give them a permanent competitive advantage.

The outlook is plain — for all but a priveleged few, the new technological life will become more Hobbsean — perhaps not so “solitary”, but definitely “poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Talk about unintended consequences!

So, what kind of worker are you?

[tags]overworked, boss, employer, employee, work, work ethic[/tags]


It’s never any fun to be in a position where you have to find a job, like, yesterday. I’ve been there before, and I’ll likely be there again. Since I’m technically a consultant, I don’t really have any job security, which can be a terrifying thing to think about. In this position, you have to stay sharp and keep your eyes open for any work that might be of interest to you. You may have used one of the online job search engines before, and they are good for finding listings, but they don’t really tell you what the companies are like. Sure, they may offer you a job, but will you really want to work there? Jobster helps you to get noticed by potential employers while giving you some valuable information that could help you to make an educated decision about whether or not you should follow through on a certain lead.
Continue reading “Jobster”