Are healthier employees more productive?

Healthy foods on the Misner plan http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Healthy_food.jpg

(MoneyWatch) The popularity of workplace wellness programs suggests that more employers than ever believe that healthy employees are more productive. Ivan Misner, founder of networking organization BNI.com, which has over 150,000 members worldwide, believed it and challenged his staffers to a 90-day diet makeover -- what he called "The Misner Plan Challenge."

Followers ate fresh, organic produce, small amounts of seafood, and food rich in healthy fats like olives and avocados, while avoiding processed, packaged foods and saturated fats. Here's what he's finding with his healthy experiment:

CBS MoneyWatch: What inspired you to try this?

Ivan Misner: A desire to see our staff reach their fullest potentials, be productive, filled with energy and have strong immune systems. Wanting our staff to be as fit and healthy as possible to the benefit of their families, as well as the company. I was also inspired by my recent experience with cancer. After being diagnosed, I did a health makeover and noticed a major change in my energy level, my ability to focus, and I even became more creative. I'm happy to say that at my last appointment I found out that I'm officially in remission.

Have you had any feedback from employees?

Here is one response from an employee: "I believe that it has helped me to juggle two hats during my recent departmental transition, changing to desks and roles in a positive and productive manner." And another said: "I think the greatest shift is my energy level. I work full-time at BNI, then I go to school until 9 p.m. -- and of course when I get home there are always a million things to do there." 

Why do you think healthier employees are more productive?

Healthy people tend to cultivate healthy exercise habits. Exercise releases endorphins, hormones that are opiate-like substances, which can bring a sense of euphoria. Exercise also combats depression through this release of endorphins. A happy employee tends to be energetic, focused and positive. These are the people on our team we see consistently coming up with the most creative ideas and the thorough, detailed reports. These are the staff members making the least mistakes and causing the least problems, in our experience.

How can employees in poor health affect a workplace?

Employees with poor health habits usually are the ones with negative attitudes -- the ones who are depressed and grumpy. They bring a black cloud into every room they enter. And their attitudes can be contagious. A specific poor health habit that negatively impacts the workplace is getting too little sleep. When members of our staff have a short night's sleep, they are more prone to being short with others, can make more mistakes in their tasks and are generally more negative.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons User Fae

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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