University of Iowa report shows increased productivity barriers, health risk behaviors for faculty and staff

The report highlights “poor nutrition” as the most experienced high-risk behavior and “having too much to do” as the top productivity barrier.


Braden Ernst

Senior Director of University of Iowa Wellness, Megan Hammes, gives an updates about LiveWELL to the UI Staff Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

The University of Iowa LiveWELL 2021 annual report revealed UI faculty and staff have been experiencing an increase in productivity barriers and health risk behaviors since 2019-20.

UI senior director of wellness Megan Hammes said in her presentation to UI Staff Council on Wednesday that faculty and staff struggled with multiple health risk behaviors in 2021, with poor nutrition being the biggest risk behavior.

The report said 45 percent of staff members completed the Personal Health Assessment survey in 2021, a 6 percent decline from the 51 percent of respondents that took it in 2020.

The report revealed that:

  • 22 percent of faculty and staff experienced the health risk behavior of unmanaged stress, a seven percent increase from 2019
  • 80 percent of respondents experienced the health risk behavior of poor nutrition, a four percent increase from 2019
  • 35 percent of respondents experienced the health risk behavior of physical inactivity, a one percent increase from 2019
  • 32 percent of respondents experienced the health risk behavior of poor sleep, a three percent increase from 2019

The majority of increases the report reflects is likely because of COVID-19, Hammes said.

“This is what we’re seeing and hearing nationally and globally,” Hammes said. “What this means for our population in terms of these health behaviors are…we need to keep doing what we’re doing in terms of trying to connect our employees to resources when they’re ready to make healthy lifestyle changes.”

Respondents also struggled with an increased difficulty concentrating due to multiple factors, including physical health, caregiving responsibilities, having too much to do, and financial stress.

Hammes said she compared the percentage results to the 2019 annual report data because it was the last normal year before COVID-19.

The results of the report highlighted:

  • 25 percent of faculty and staff had difficulty concentrating due to their own health or physical condition, a seven percent increase from 2019.
  • 31 percent of faculty and staff had difficulty concentrating due to their caregiving responsibilities, a seven percent increase from 2019.
  • 56 percent of faculty and staff had difficulty concentrating due to feeling like they had too much to do, a five percent increase from 2019.
  • 29 percent of faculty and staff had difficulty concentrating due to financial stress, a two percent decrease from 2019.

When faculty and staff have too much to do, it often leads to something else not being completed, Hammes said.

“Something’s getting squeezed out. If we feel like we have too much to do and not enough time to do it, something that is really important to me is probably getting the short shrift,” Hammes said. “Whether that’s my family, or my hobby, or maybe even in some cases a work project that really needs my attention.”

Hammes told the council that she encourages faculty and staff to make the connection between the physical health behaviors and how that can affect one’s mental health, well-being, and stress, as work returns to normal after COVID-19.

“It’s really important, especially as we come back to the office, that we are moving our body just as much for our brain health and our stress as we are for our physical well-being,” Hammes said.

“We know if we want to keep using this data to inform and drive programming and strategy, we need good participation,” Hammes told the council. “Our team is really doubling down this year with more frequent communications.”

The proportion of responders who agreed that their workplace is giving them the opportunity to make healthy choices also decreased, dropping from 83 percent in 2020 to 81 percent in 2021. Hammes said that staff and faculty need to remember the stressors that their staff is experiencing in their daily lives.

“We need to be conscientious when we are working with our employees and the things that are causing them stress today, tomorrow, next week, so that we can help them manage staff the best that we can,” Hammes said.