Relationship of employee-reported work limitations to work productivity

Med Care. 2003 May;41(5):649-59. doi: 10.1097/01.MLR.0000062551.76504.A9.


Background: Work limitation rates are crucial indicators of the health status of working people. If related to work productivity, work limitation rates may also supply important information about the economic burden of illness.

Objective: Our objective was to assess the productivity impact of on-the-job work limitations due to employees' physical or mental health problems.

Research design: Subjects were asked to complete a self-administered survey on the job during 3 consecutive months. Using robust regression analysis, we tested the relationship of objectively-measured work productivity to employee-reported work limitations.

Subjects: We attempted to survey employees of a large firm within 3 different jobs. The survey response rate was 2245 (85.9%). Full survey and productivity data were available for 1827 respondents.

Measures: Each survey included a validated self-report instrument, the Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ). The firm provided objective, employee-level work productivity data.

Results: In adjusted regression analyses (n = 1827), employee work productivity (measured as the log of units produced/hour) was significantly associated with 3 dimensions of work limitations: limitations handling the job's time and scheduling demands (P = 0.003), physical job demands (P = 0.001), and output demands (P = 0.006). For every 10% increase in on-the-job work limitations reported on each of the 3 WLQ scales, work productivity declined approximately 4 to 5%.

Conclusion: Employee work limitations have a negative impact on work productivity. Employee assessments of their work limitations supply important proxies for the economic burden of health problems.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Disabled Persons
  • Efficiency*
  • Employee Performance Appraisal*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Disclosure
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Work Capacity Evaluation*