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Skill Use May Lead to Healthier Workers

Road signs that say work, career, health, and familyMaking use of employee skills may lead to a healthier workforce.

“Doing what I do best”: Making use of employee skills may lead to a healthier workforce.

Employees will be more productive, not only if they have proper skills, but also if the workplace provides them with opportunities to use those skills. The benefit of high skill utilization is not limited to productivity; these employees are also more satisfied with their jobs and enjoy better health.

Lower Risks for Hypertension and High Cholesterol

A new study shows that high skill utilization is associated with better self-reported health as well as lower likelihoods of having hypertension and high cholesterol. Interestingly, the link between high skill utilization and better health is partly explained by healthy behavior, the study finds. Those who had the opportunity to do their best at work were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly. This in turn was associated with lower risks for hypertension and high cholesterol.

Self-Efficacy in the Workplace

Why would using one’s skills at work encourage healthy behaviors? Health promotion theories have long recognized that people are more likely to acquire and maintain a healthy lifestyle if they have high self-efficacy (i.e., the belief that they can do what they decide to do). Therefore, a major part of health promotion programs is cultivating self-efficacy, which is achieved through repeated success experiences and constant support and encouragement.

This can happen in a workplace. If employees are given the opportunity to do their best every day, they experience repeated successes and receive appreciation and recognition. This signals that they are capable and efficacious people. Efficacious people take on new challenges both inside and outside the workplace, which can include acquiring and maintaining healthy lifestyles.

A Win-Win Situation

This study suggests a chain of positive events—workplaces give employees the opportunity to do their best; employees thus experience success and recognition, cultivate self-efficacy, engage in healthy lifestyles, and ultimately reduce their risk for chronic diseases. The positive health outcome is in addition to previously known benefits of skill utilization, such as high job satisfaction, better mental health, low turnover, and high productivity. What a win-win situation for both employees and employers!

To create such a situation, supervisors need to identify the valuable skills each employee has. This should not be limited to technical skills for a particular job. For example, social and interpersonal skills, emotional capacity, organizing skills, and problem-solving abilities are all important for a well-functioning workplace. Once supervisors identify these skills, they can facilitate the best use of them, develop them further, and then recognize employees for jobs well done. These are all good, well-established management strategies. The new twist is that these strategies may have health benefits, too.

Reference

  1. “Doing what I do best”: The association between skill utilization and employee health with healthy behavior as a mediator
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