Productivity loss at work; health-related and work-related factors

J Occup Rehabil. 2010 Sep;20(3):331-9. doi: 10.1007/s10926-009-9219-7.


Introduction: Productivity loss is an increasing problem in an aging working population that is decreasing in numbers. The aim of this study is to identify work-related and health-related characteristics associated with productivity loss, due to either sickness absence or reduced performance at work.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, data of the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey of 2007 were used, which includes a national representative sample of 22,759 employees aged 15 to 64 years. Demographic characteristics, health-related and work-related factors were assessed with a questionnaire. Logistic regression analyses were carried out to study the relationship of work-related and health-related factors with low performance at work and sickness absence in the past 12 months.

Results: Poor general health, the number of longstanding health conditions, and most types of longstanding health conditions were associated with productivity loss. Health-related factors were in general stronger associated with sickness absence than with low performance at work. Performance: poor health OR 1.54 CI 1.38-1.71, >1 health conditions OR 1.21 CI 1.09-1.35; sickness absence: poor health OR 2.62 CI 2.33-2.93, >1 health conditions OR 2.47 CI 2.21-2.75. Of the different types of longstanding health conditions, only psychological complaints and to a small extent musculoskeletal symptoms, were associated with low performance (respectively OR 1.54 CI 1.27-1.87; OR 1.09 CI 1.00-1.18). Low performance at work was less likely among employees with high physically demanding work (shift work OR 0.70 CI 0.63-0.76, using force OR 0.78 CI 0.72-0.84, and repetitive movements OR 0.74 CI 0.70-0.79). Psychosocial factors were stronger associated with low performance at work than with sickness absence (performance: job autonomy OR 1.28 CI 1.21-1.37, job demands OR 1.23 CI 1.16-1.31, emotionally demanding work OR 1.73 CI 1.62-1.85; sickness absence: job autonomy ns, job demands OR 1.09 CI 1.03-1.17, emotionally demanding work OR 1.09 CI 1.02-1.16).

Conclusion: Except for psychological complaints, workers with a longstanding health condition generally perform well while being at work. Nevertheless, the likelihood of taking sick leave is increased. Among work-related factors, psychosocial work characteristics have the strongest relation with productivity loss, mostly with performance while at work.

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Efficiency*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Occupational Diseases / complications*
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Work / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult