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New research revealed that three-quarters of ill-health related absence and presenteeism in 2018, equating to £61bn, came from factors such as depression, poor lifestyle choices, and stress, all of which are can be targeted by businesses through health and wellbeing initiatives.

The data - from Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study, which is developed in partnership with RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge – found that British businesses lost the equivalent of £81bn as a result of ill-health related absence and presenteeism in 2018 overall, a £4bn increase on 2017.  The study also revealed that employers lose, on average, 35.6 working days per employee per year due to health-related absence and presenteeism.

The companies with the best results in the study demonstrated a 30-40% reduction in productivity loss linked to ill-health, compared to other companies in the survey. Interventions from business were shown to have a marked effect on employees’ health and these top performing companies all showed common characteristics such as embedding a culture of health, having capable line managers who supported employees and having high awareness and participation in their health and wellbeing programmes.

Mental health was found to be a significant driver of productivity loss, accounting for £38bn of the total cost to businesses last year. Of this, £17.2bn stems specifically from workplace stress, a driver which businesses can address through various interventions and initiatives. For instance, 83% of people who used one-on-one coaching to support mental health and wellbeing found it impactful and 78% of people said the same for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). 83% of employees who used massage or relaxation classes also said it had a positive impact on their mental health at work.

However, the research demonstrated that awareness of and engagement with such interventions was low. For instance, while 67% of employees have access to interventions in the mental health space, only 26% of them claim to have knowledge and awareness of the interventions on offer. Additionally, once aware, only 18% of employees actually participate in any of the programmes, demonstrating that not only do employers need to increase awareness, but employees need to engage with the interventions available to maximise impact.

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