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In-School Productivity Campaign | Mind, body and soul is important for increased productivity

Published:Sunday | February 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMTamar Nelson
The swimming pool of the The Wexford Hotel in Montego Bay.
Tamar Nelson

A few months ago, I was asked to give a presentation on 'Nutrition, Wellness and Productivity' at the Jamaica Island Nutrition Network's symposium and exposition. My research hypothesis was that 'good nutrition leads to wellness and wellness leads to productivity.' Wellness is defined by the World Health Organization as "... a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

A 2012 study on nearly 20,000 employees conducted by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), Brigham Young University and the Center for Health Research at Healthways Companies reveals that persons who had a healthy diet and exercised regularly had 27 per cent lower rate of absenteeism and 11 per cent higher levels of performance. Most persons can relate to the direct link between wellness and productivity, but the benefits of wellness extends well beyond lower absenteeism and higher job performance.

My research for this presentation, plus my personal experiences in developing a healthy lifestyle, led me to conclude that there is a positive relationship between productivity and nutrition, and that the process of improving productivity and nutrition were very much alike.

Highlighted below are top similarities obtained from my research and experience:

1. Wellness, health and productivity are related to everything we do, think and feel. The health of an organisation is highly dependent on what persons (individually or collectively) do, think and feel. On the matter of feeling, for example, studies have shown that workers who are happy were 12 per cent more productive. A single act or doing by one person can impact the entire organisation. For instance, a valve left open by one person can result in damages, increased cost or more.

2. The process of becoming healthy and productive is hard at first, but becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice. Like a healthy lifestyle, it needs to be a habit; something you don't think about, you just do. From the perspective of a business, you must continuously ask yourself, what area can be improved? What is the pain point in my systems and processes? What bottlenecks exist? And how might these be eliminated or reduced to bring greater satisfaction to the customer?

3. The process of achieving wellness and productivity means doing things differently and consistently. Small things accumulate, leading to great changes; similar to how interest is compounded in a savings account. Studies show that improvement in one area of life can positively impact other areas, as success gives you energy and confidence.


Enrolled in beginner's swim class


I worked with an organisation once, and one summer, half of the staff enrolled in a beginner's swim class for two evenings a week for five weeks after work on their own. As a result, the team members were learning a skill, got their exercise allotment at least twice a week, they were challenging their limitations and they were doing it together.

Outcomes were numerous. Morale increased; cross-functional teams emerged. There was increased throughput and overall happiness - all from one month of swimming. Give it a try. It may be painting, cooking - totally unrelated to your core business. The effect can be far-reaching.

4. Wellness and productivity are available to anyone who is willing to get on and stay on the path, regardless of age, sex, nationality or in the case of a business, one's sector, age of company or level of experience.




5. With health, wellness and productivity, measurement is key to staying on the desired path, whether it is weight, blood pressure, blood sugar or body mass index. A record of key metrics is useful at particular intervals each day, each week or even annually. In improving organisational productivity, sometimes we measure too much and not at the right frequency and more often none at all. Measuring a few key performance indicators and having a system of tracking and sharing this information throughout the organisation can yield big results.

6. Mix things up. There is no one size fits all when it comes to improving health, wellness and productivity. You may have to try different approaches over time, and then at some point in your journey it all comes together. The right combination of the things you have done consistently over time - that is the best fit for you and your lifestyle. This may work for a time and then something changes whether socially (unsafe to walk alone), environmentally (it rains every morning), financially (can't afford the gym fee) or even personally (other competing demands on your time).

7. Celebrate successes. When you are on the path of improving health and wellness, it's good to celebrate along the way. For example, a new outfit or workout gear serves as motivation to continue on the journey. The same is true with organisational improvements. Celebrating successes can help with sustaining improvement initiatives. As the old Jamaican adage goes: "Encouragement sweetens labour."

8. As in the case of health and wellness, productivity is not a goal or a destination but rather, a process, a journey.

We live in a world where everything is fast moving and immediate gratification is sought, but when it comes to productivity there are no quick fixes.

Organisational Improvement can be challenging as well as interesting. It entails making the best use of the current situation and seeing gaps as opportunities. Lean Six Sigma typically focuses on waste reduction, optimisation (minimising cost or maximising profits), continuous improvement, as well as incorporating the voice of the customer. These focus areas, as well as tools from lean sigma, will be shared with participants at the upcoming 'Cracking the Productivity Code Workshop' on February 7.

- Tamara Nelson is senior director for Jamaica Productivity centre and a system and industry engineer.