People in weight loss programs miss fewer days of work, study finds

ORLANDO — Following a structured weight loss program might help you not only be more productive on the job, but miss fewer days, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Michigan helped administer a study in which 92 obese individuals— weighing 253 pounds on average, and with an average BMI of 40— were put on a multicomponent two-year program to shed pounds.

The goal of the study was to determine whether such a program, which promotes low-calorie intake in both the short- and long-term, followed by interventions to help maintain a healthy weight in the longer term, could help morbidly obese individuals.

Weight loss, dieting
People who participate in weight loss programs are likely to be happier and more productive on the job, a new study finds.

“A concern shared by both employers and employees is that time spent in the program attending the physician and dietitian visits, and the vigilance required to maintain lifestyle modifications, might diminish time and productivity on the job,” says Dr. Jennifer Iyengar, the study’s lead author and an endocrinology fellow at the University of Michigan, in an Endocrine Society press release. “However, we found that participation in our program was highly valued and had a positive impact at work.”

Previous research had found that obesity can wreak havoc on the general economy in a variety of ways, including by causing employees to miss time and be less productive at work, along with promoting death at younger ages.

The participants were surveyed prior to starting the weight loss program, and following six months on the regimen.

They were asked to self-assess their levels of work absenteeism (defined as working fewer hours than they were expected to), and presenteeism (defined as the rating of one’s work performance).

Surprisingly, there was an 11.6 hour swing in absenteeism after six months on the weight loss regimen — prior to their participation, employees worked 5.2 fewer hours than expected, while six months in, they worked 6.4 more hours than anticipated by their bosses.

Work productivity only increased minimally, but participants proudly lost an average of 41 pounds.

Researchers found that absenteeism improved regardless of the amount of weight lost.

“One possible explanation is that the change in absenteeism rates may reflect improvements in co-existing medical illnesses or depression,” says lead researcher Jennifer Iyengar. “Our findings suggest that, through favorable effects on work attendance, participation in a weight management program may be mutually beneficial for workers and their employers.”

The study’s results are part of a presentation at the Endocrine Society’s 99th annual meeting in Orlando on April 9, 2017.