Poor physical and mental health costs firms 38 days per employee

24 Feb 2020

Employee health and wellbeing programmes really are a win-win: they help your workers to be healthy and happy, which in turn leads to greater productivity and better performance for your business.

But don't just take our word for it! New research from insurer Vitality provides some alarming figures illustrating the impact of ill health for UK businesses.

Its annual Britain's Healthiest Workplace study has revealed that last year firms lost an average of 38 working days per employee to physical and mental health related absence and presenteeism.

This adds up to an estimated £91.9bn impact on the economy in 2019, an increase of over £10bn compared to 2018.

Almost three-quarters of the productivity loss can be attributed to factors such as poor mental wellbeing and unhealthy lifestyle choices -- which can be addressed by businesses through effective deployment of health and wellbeing programmes, Vitality said.

Presenteeism (where employees turn up for work but are unable to give their best) due to mental and physical health concerns affected almost half (45%) of UK workers last year, up almost a third from 2014 (29%). The phenomenon was especially prevalent among young workers (aged 18 to 25), with 55% admitting to turning up for work but feeling unable to perform at their peak productivity, compared to just 38% of employees aged 45 or over.

And with growing numbers of employees suffering from stress, depression and anxiety, there is a need for businesses to further address workplace mental wellbeing.

The study found that rates of depression in the workplace have more than doubled in the past five years, with almost one in 10 workers now affected (8.5%), compared to just 4% in 2014.

Again, younger employees are particularly vulnerable: one in seven workers aged 18 to 25 suffer from depression (15%) and many more said they have felt unwell because of stress in the workplace (35%). This is far higher than the over-50s group, of whom 4% said they had suffered from depression and 32% had felt unwell as a result of workplace stress.

Across all UK employees, those with higher rates of stress and anxiety made unhealthier choices overall -- being more likely to smoke, binge drink and have unhealthy diets.

The good news is that the vast majority (75%) of those who engage in health and wellbeing schemes report a positive impact on their overall health. Yet overall awareness and uptake of them is low (28% and 29% respectively).

Commenting on the findings, Vitality chief executive Neville Koopowitz said: "Every year the results of Britain's Healthiest Workplace find the costs to business from ill-health and presenteeism are spiralling upwards.

"Despite this, many businesses continue to ignore the role of health and wellbeing and its intrinsic links to productivity. It's no longer enough to create a health and wellbeing programme for employees and hope they'll make use of it. The businesses that not only prioritise it, but also properly consider how they engage their employees to improve their mental and physical health, can see productivity increase in their workforce by as much as 40%, which is no insignificant number."

Fidelius can help your business create an effective employee benefit programme, including wellbeing initiatives, and communicate these benefits to employees. Contact us to learn more!