Health & Wellness Articles

Are You Fit to Climb the Corporate Ladder?

Healthy Body, Healthier Paycheck

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College degree? Check.
Professional resume? Double check.
Perfect health? Ah, not so fast.

What does your health have to do with your career? Plenty. Besides having the right skills and qualifications for your profession, you may also want to make sure you’re healthy—if you want to get ahead financially, that is.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal showed that the healthier you are, the richer you are. Researchers found that healthy employees are more productive at work, earn more and spend more time in the workforce because they take fewer sick days. Employees in poor health, on the other hand, are more likely to be out of work for extended periods of time or forced into early retirement—two factors that reduce overall earning potential.

Research conducted by Professor Martin McKee and his colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine yielded similar results. They found that an employee's salary is dependent on some seemingly unconnected factors, such as height. Taller people earn more than those of average height. Apparently your adult height reflects your overall childhood health—meaning the healthier you were as a kid, the taller you are as an adult.

The High Cost of Poor Health
Employers have long recognized that healthy employees cost less. Absenteeism due to sickness (related to obesity and inactivity) is expensive and employers are now convinced that good employee health saves money in the end.

Sedentary employees spend 30 percent more days in the hospital than exercisers and the severely overweight are 48 percent more likely to have yearly medical claims of more than $5,000. Obesity currently costs U.S. employers more than $13 billion each year in lost productivity and sick days.

Fair or not, the size of your waistline is a threat to your career and being significantly overweight can even impact your ability to find a good job. Several studies have shown a pervasive discrimination against overweight employees—especially women—who are less likely to get promoted than their skinnier peers. Other research suggests that overweight employees are paid less than thinner ones, regardless of education and experience.

Good Health Pays Off
Along with taking fewer sick days, a healthy employee is more apt to demonstrate leadership characteristics, such as creativity and energy. This vibrancy is reflected in how leaders speak with customers, employees and investors. People naturally prefer to follow someone who is confident and energetic—two positive outcomes of living a healthy lifestyle.

According to a survey conducted by TheLadders.com, 75 percent of responding executives felt that good physical fitness was critical for career success at the executive level. The same number of respondents also felt that being overweight was a serious career impediment. Gone are the days of liquid lunches and cigars for corporate managers.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • KAZFROMOZ
    oy - what about the short bit???? There are races of people who are ALL short... don't they get a good job? (I'm tall, by the way). - 6/12/2014 3:55:17 PM
  • RACEWELLWON
    This article fits in with age discrimination also , we all need to eat and pay bills . As we age we may not look as if we are in Shape but we might be under all that required Dress that perhaps one 's bust is bigger than the other and it might appear that busty or solid people are not in shape, can be deceiving, One size does NOT fit All. I can climb the Corporate Ladder better than the Executives in the physical sense but in todays market it does seem to boil down to the pretty people getting the well paid positions. - 7/30/2013 6:55:12 PM
  • SOUHAIT
    I want to make a comment here. I think this article is backwards. I don't think healthy people become rich. I think rich people are healthy. Why? They can afford it.

    The fact is, if you are rich, you have the funds have a well rounded, happier, 'healthier' life. You can afford organic. You can afford produce. You can afford a gym membership. You can afford massages. You can afford high quality foods. And, better yet, you have a reason to do it all.

    If you are poor or 'average', you cannot afford organic without sacrificing something else in your life. You will pick cheap processed food over produce because you need it to last and it will save you money. You might not find the excuse to fork over the money for a gym membership. Forget massages or any other added health programs. You can't afford high quality foods. And you probably feel like you don't have anything going for you, and therefore you don't 'strive' or work hard to make yourself healthy. Because what's the point? Plus, you are working your ass off at your current job (most likely doing 2 or 3 jobs and being paid only for one because the rich boss wanted to cut costs and put more work on you) and then at home. You can't afford a nanny. You can't afford a butler or a maid. You do it all yourself.

    I'm sorry, but this is just my opinion. - 5/26/2013 2:46:05 AM
  • Like so many other commenters said, replace "healthy" with "skinny" and you're good to go. I've lost count of how many times I've sat at lunch with my (99% male) colleagues and went over files of INTERNS (not even full-time, fully qualified employees but interns!) and they made disparaging, cruel and unnecessary remarks based on the photographs attached to the CV (they still do that in Germany). The ones who got the internship/job were always very skinny, conventionally beautiful women or the sons of members of the Old Boys' Club's local chapter.

    It's hard enough being a woman banging on the glass ceiling, but having to look like a model while doing it? Really hard!

    I'd also contest the managers=fit assumption stated in the article. Might be that the public figurehead fits that image, but I can almost guarantee that the behind-the-scenes powerbrokers are just a little paunchy and even worse in their regard of other humans than the fronts. At least from my experience and not inconsiderable observed sample size they are- as long as you're white, male, and your family name carries some significance your chances of getting in are a lot higher than even the smart model's.

    The tall thing is true, though. I'm just a smidgeon taller than average (5'7"), and always accentuate it with the highest heels I can wear but most of the "men in charge" easily top 6' and would tower over me.

    All in all, a depressing reminder of everyday life, if painted with slightly rose-colored glasses on. - 1/16/2013 11:59:37 AM
  • I really do NOT care for the premise of this article- so only the young fit and thin people are deserving of decent careers and jobs?? For SHAME!! - 12/5/2012 7:17:09 PM
  • Health issues have definitely affected my career. My weight was never really an issue, because I've never been that big, but I have several chronic health issues have affected my stamina, productivity, promotions and salary. - 7/1/2012 12:17:54 PM
  • I disagree with this article, I am obese, but i luckly do NOT have any health issues. Soceity needs to stop labeling everyone. Yes i am overweight because i am lazy, life has gotten in the way, but i go to work everyday and have only had to go to the DR for my physical. Don't judge all overweight people. - 10/11/2011 1:41:21 PM
  • I have to agree with CRIS7771's comment, "It's because of the youth-obsessed culture, that good looking people are promoted, not the other way around. " (I would also add "hired" to that). This has always been true; now they are simply using the excuse that overweight people are "unhealthy" or "less productive" to justify it. If they were really concerned about health costs or productivity, they could force employees to undergo a pre-employment physical, but how many do that? (Only once in my life so far, have I been asked to do that). - 4/30/2011 11:04:59 AM
  • GRYPHON55
    I definitely see the truth. While i was out of work for several months, my old manager got me an interview at his company (different office, though). I was good through three people, then the fourth, the actual hiring manager, walked in. She was thin, skin-tight jeans and leather jacket, and I could tell by the dismissive glance she gave me that I wasn't going to get that job. It did wake me up that I needed to lose some weight if I wanted to be better able to compete in a rough job market. It was the kick in the (size 18W) pants I needed to see that I really was obese and I lost 15 pounds before the next interview 4 months later. I got that job! - 4/12/2011 1:29:03 PM
  • It's unfortunate, but true, that people will judge you by the way you look, and that your image is very important in a chosen profession. I think we all believe differently in our hearts, but your first impression is all about the physical look of a person. - 2/23/2011 6:21:58 PM
  • Many very interesting comments... I think one HUGE point that has not been discussed is that fact that health care is now seriously taking a look at the cost of obesity...and they don't want to pay b/c it will erode their profits...therefo
    re, they are coming up with plan designs whereby the overweight person pays more! This reduces the cost to company and the insurance company. My belief... if the company presently does not look at weight as a deciding promotional factor - when the insurance companies divide people into pools, it may end up being more of a deciding factor... - 2/13/2011 1:19:08 PM
  • HEALTHYJ5
    I have a speaking engagement coming up this spring (one of my short term motivations for the weight loss) and I agree with this article completely. I don't want their first impression to be "oh, she's fat" and then have to convince them I know what I'm talking about. I would prefer to immediately be viewed as someone who is confident and in control of her life, and then really drive that message home with a great lecture. Like it or not, how we look does set the tone for our relationships and how we interact with people. I consider myself confident and intelligent, but I have to admit, I feel 100% better when I exercise regularly, eat right, and ultimately, weigh less than I do now.
    - 1/13/2011 11:35:09 AM
  • First, hello SATTUA, I like your comment... Great points!
    I teach psychology at the Royal Military College of Canada and I am a Major in the Army. I agree with you. I see it every day around me. In my occupation, it is very important to be fit and in return it makes you more productive. Being fit doesn't mean being a certain weight but being able to run, walk and perform certain physical tasks. AND it means taking care of yourself, psychologically. As a leader, I want my actions to reflect what I believe in and I want to be a good example for my students (Officer Cadets). My greatest reward is a thank you because at some point - just by doing what I call my job - a made a difference in someone's life! - 12/19/2010 9:24:24 AM
  • Two points I'd like to make about this article.

    First, authority makes people more likely to be critical of others and less likely to be critical of themselves. This makes me distrust the executives' opinion that physical fitness is important for success. They want their employees to be healthy so they cost less to employ; I bet a lot of them aren't healthy themselves.

    Second, the article confounds correlation with causation, and sees the correlation only from the healthy = successful standpoint. If we're going to draw inappropriate conclusions from the correlation, how about concluding that successful = healthy, due to increased access to education and resources? This is the way the thing is usually spun. Successful people are more likely to have a culture of exercise and healthful food, as well as greater access to gyms, health education, and health care. - 1/11/2010 10:30:56 AM
  • I like your article. Don't mind the unnecessarily offended overweight people, reacting like 12 year olds after being told that they were 12 years old.

    ;) - 1/2/2010 9:37:36 AM

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