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Productivity linked to employee wellbeing

Older women using gym equipment

Happy employees are more productive and take less time off sick. So — apart from being the right thing to do for your staff — it makes good business sense to invest in workplace wellbeing.

New research shows that on average, unhappy employees take almost two weeks’ more sickness absence per year compared to those who are happy — costing UK businesses and the economy £11bn per year through lost productivity.

The survey of more than 4,000 employees by WPI Economics, commissioned by employee benefits provider Unum UK, also found that almost half (48%) believe they do not have good mental wellbeing and that this is having an impact on their productivity and overall health and happiness.

Nine hours of productive time lost

Focusing on the productivity aspect, the findings show:

  • Just 13% of unhappy staff think they are very productive at work — three times lower than their happy counterparts
  • The average unhappy, unproductive worker loses nine hours of productive time per week — more than a typical day’s work
  • 80% of workers said that they are more productive when they are healthy and happy

According to the report, if the number of people who are unhappy at work was reduced by half, this could lead to a reduction in lost output from sickness absence and presenteeism worth around £6.4bn a year and an increase from improved productivity of around £7.3bn a year.

“Well over half (58%) of employees — equivalent to more than 16 million people — believe that improvements in the health and wellbeing services their employer provides would lead to less time off and/or increase their productivity,” said Mark Till, chief executive of Unum UK.

“Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to health and wellbeing benefits. Employers’ ability to offer such benefits depends on the size of their workforce, cost and, crucially, the needs of the business and its workers. However, this research presents clear evidence that workplace health and happiness can reduce sickness absence and presenteeism, as well as boost productivity.”

Industry ranking of wellness benefits

Some industries are doing better than others when it comes to health and wellbeing offerings, according to separate research by flexible wellness workspace provider UNTIL.

Researchers looked at the availability of gym subscriptions or discounts, cycle-to-work schemes and other wellbeing initiatives at companies across the UK.

The retail industry ranked highest for supporting employee wellness, with Co-op coming out on top. The financial services sector came second, followed by higher education, the tech industry, professional services firms, manufacturing, the food & beverage sector, utilities, healthcare and logistics.

UNTIL said that, as employers pay closer attention to their duty of care to employees, there needs to be an emphasis on including health and wellbeing support in benefits policies — whether that is private medical insurance, mental health support, encouraging work-life balance, or fitness incentives such as gym facilities and discounts.

“Companies and industries reluctant to invest in the foundations of a supportive workplace for employee wellbeing may risk losing out on top talent unless they meet the demands of their workforce by enhancing their wellbeing benefits packages,” said UNTIL co-founder Dan Chappell.

Posted by Fidelius on January 8th 2024

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