Even before the coronavirus outbreak occurred, UK productivity was slowing at an alarming rate. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that productivity in the UK has pretty much flatlined since the 2008 recession. In fact, research from academics at Loughborough University and the University of Sussex shows that the productivity growth slowdown since the 2008 financial crisis is unprecedented in more than two centuries.
Now more than ever, with the country still in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, employers need to be doing everything they can to boost productivity.
Happier, healthier employees are more productive
The link between employee wellbeing (both physical and mental health) and productivity is well known. Healthier, happier employees are absent less and are more productive when they are at work. This is because they are focussed, engaged and content in their roles.
Meanwhile, other employees are putting aside their physical and mental health problems and heading in to work, even though they should stay at home. This phenomenon, known as ‘presenteeism’, has a profound effect on productivity levels. Indeed, presenteeism is estimated to cost UK employers between £26 billion and £29 billion annually through lost productivity – almost four times the cost of absenteeism!
[Related reading: The High Cost Of Poor Mental Health In The Workplace]
When you consider that research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that more than 80% of British employees still continue to work when they are unwell, the severity of the situation becomes very clear. This is especially consequential because just one less productive individual can impact an entire team’s overall performance.
The role of employers
Keeping employees both physically and mentally fit is crucial to an organisation’s sustainability. Therefore, employers should be doing everything in their power to ensure the health and wellbeing of their staff.
In the first instance, employers must offer services that are dedicated to supporting the health and wellbeing of their employees. Employee Assistance Programmes are one of the most impactful and cost effective solutions an employer can explore. They are designed to support employees facing work and life challenges.
Then there are the less obvious interventions that can have a positive impact, simple things like ensuring the working environment is conducive to being productive – lots of natural light, good ventilation, the right temperature, etc.
Finally, employers can boost the health and wellbeing of their employees by offering suitable benefits packages. Financial safeguards, such as Group Income Protection, Group Critical Illness and Private Medical Insurance all help to provide employees with peace of mind.
[Related reading: A Simple Guide to Popular Employee Benefits]
Discounted gym memberships and bike to work schemes can also help to boost employees’ physical and mental wellbeing – and neither require a significant investment from the employer.
The bottom line though, is that any employee benefits and support services must be effectively communicated. If employees don’t know that support is available and/or don’t know where to access it, they simply won’t take advantage of it. That’s why clear signposts are needed that encourage individuals to get help when they feel they need it.
During these uncertain times, when absenteeism is clearly on the rise due to the obvious Covid-19 situation we find ourselves in, it is also the most important time in the history of employee health and wellness that businesses do as much as possible to look after their employees’ mental and physical wellbeing. Working from home, job uncertainty, furloughing staff are all playing their part in disengaging employees from their roles and the business, which ultimately will impact business profitability and sustainability.
I have over 15 years client facing experience in the Employee Benefits industry having worked for Mercer HR Consulting and The Willis Group in London. Bringing my expertise to mid and large corporate clients, I joined Premier Choice Healthcare in December 2015, with the aim of advising and developing a varied Corporate client portfolio.