Health and wellbeing
28th September 2016

Can employers really influence the lifestyles, health and wellbeing of their staff?

Employers play a key role in promoting health and wellbeing. A little education and awareness can go a long way and makes sound business sense.

The easiest way is to engage with your workforce.  By doing so, businesses are able to tailor their approach to raising health and wellbeing across the organisation. We know that everyone has a different learning style and it’s important to ensure your approach reflects this. Some examples of ways in which a company can raise awareness include onsite wellbeing days or remote campaigns that enable office and field based staff to participate. We have recently run a number of wellbeing campaigns which engender the competitive spirit within companies and help people push towards certain goals, for example moving more, improving hydration or weight loss. You could also consider providing healthy alternatives in vending machines or canteens and making sure that these are affordable for you employees.

A company which makes proactive changes when it comes to promoting employee health and wellbeing will see positive changes in productivity. When employees feel engaged and happier in their work lives they are more likely to have a good work/life balance which, in turn, has benefits for their health – both physical and mental.

Other practical solutions include adopting a proactive Occupational Health service which provides a structured system of feedback and assessment. This can include return to work programmes and promotional opportunities which are all benefits that have been shown to improve employee wellbeing. When a company is seen to care about its employees, fostering a culture of support and encouraging them to grow and thrive within the company, then employees feel valued and appreciated. This in turn leads to increased productivity and, ultimately, profitability for the company.

Investing in your employees’ health and wellbeing has been proven to bring benefits. There are numerous studies showing the return on investment for introducing wellbeing and engendering an engaged workforce.

A recent study has shown that happy employees are 12% more productive. Other research has shown that return on investment can be as high as 9.3 times the investment. Employees who are engaged at work and feel valued and appreciated are less likely to look for a new job, meaning better retention rates and less money needing to be spent on recruitment. Disengaged or disgruntled employees have been shown to be less productive, absent in higher numbers and more likely to leave the company. (MacLeod and Clarke, 2009)

Happy employees are 3-5 times more productive than unhappy employees which can only be good for business. The extent to which work related stress plays into mental health and wellbeing cannot be understated. Research undertaken by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health estimated the cost of reduced productivity at work due to mental health conditions to be one and a half times greater than that due to days lost through mental health related sickness absence. Presenteeism is also a factor that companies should consider. Evidence shows that it can cost employers 2-7 times more than absenteeism (Main, Glozier and Wright, 2005) so it stands to note that it’s a subject which employers should take seriously.

Most declines in physical and mental capacity across a lifetime are not directly related to age, but more due to environmental and lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption, stress, work environment and psychosocial factors (Harper and Marcus, 2007)

Research undertaken by Towers Perrin-ISR showed that companies with a highly engaged workforce typically see operating income rise by 19.2% compared to companies with low engagement scores, who saw operating income decline by 32.7%.

Engaged employees are reported to take an average of 2.7 days per year, compared with disengaged employees taking an average of 6.2 days per year. This can equate to increased costs of £502 per employee per year (£882 for 6.2 days absence compared to £387 for 2.7 days per year).

Further examples from the PWC (2008) review have provided evidence to suggest that a positive relationship exists between wellbeing programmes and improved business key performance indicators. Cost-benefit ratios, which measure the financial return for every unit of expenditure, found that returns could be as high as 10 times the investment.

To find out how you can improve employee health and wellbeing, contact our experts on 0845 862 8040


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