Health-related absenteeism and presenteeism cause employers to lose an average of 35.6 working days a year per employee, which equates to a staggering £61 billion in lost productivity annually. Those are two of the key findings of Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study, which was published earlier this year.
Back in 2014, the number of days lost annually per worker due to health-related absenteeism and presenteeism was 23, a reality that highlights how the situation is actually worsening over time.
However, the report also highlights that much of this lost productivity could be avoided if employers were to introduce suitable health and wellbeing initiatives, ones that are designed to tackle conditions like stress, depression and to address poor lifestyle choices – all of which are often behind both absenteeism and presenteeism.
Younger employees are particularly at risk
The study, which represents one of the largest and most comprehensive data-sets on workplace health and wellbeing in the UK, found that the total cost of absenteeism and presenteeism to businesses was £81 billion in 2018 – an increase of £4 billion on 2017.
Of this £81 billion, poor mental health accounted for almost half (£38 billion), of which workplace stress was the biggest contributor (£17.2 billion).
Younger employees are particularly at risk when it comes to experiencing poor mental health, with 17.2% of 18-20-year-olds saying they suffer from depression. Likewise, 12.5% of 21-25-year-olds reported the same.
In comparison, just 3.8% of over-55s reported said they suffer from depression. However, older employees were more likely to be suffering with a chronic health condition, with almost half of 51-60-year-olds saying they have asthma, arthritis, rheumatism and severe allergies.
What employers can do
The good news is that the Vitality study, which polled 129 organisations and 26,432 employees in total, found that there are a number of health and wellbeing interventions that can be introduced to reduce the cost of poor mental health on business.
For example, eight in 10 (83%) employees who used one-on-one coaching to support their mental health found that it had a positive impact. Similarly, 78% of employees who had used cognitive behavioural therapy said it had been beneficial.
Employees also said that less formal wellbeing benefits were helpful too. Indeed, 83% of workers who used massage services or relaxation classes said they had positively impacted their mental health at work.
Overall, 74% of employees who utilised some kind of health and wellbeing intervention said they had experienced positive effects on their health. But awareness and engagement are still lacking. Of the employees who had access to mental health interventions at work, only a quarter said they knew they existed. Moreover, once aware, just 18% of employees took advantage of such programmes.
“By prioritising and elevating employee engagement in health and wellbeing within the business, ideally to Board level, we can make a significant difference to productivity and the overall success of the business,” said Vitality Health CEO Neville Koopowitz.
“Not only can this bring about a competitive advantage for companies, but it will ultimately build a stronger and healthier society for us all,” she added.
And the results speak for themselves, with the organisations that scored the highest witnessing a 30-40% reduction in productivity loss linked to poor health. Having capable line managers, embedding healthy cultures and generating high levels of awareness and participation in health and wellbeing programmes all had a significant impact.
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