Sickness absence and presenteeism cost British businesses and the economy an estimated £91.9bn in 2019, a more than £10bn increase on 2018, research shows.
The data from Vitality’s annual Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study reveals an average of 38 working days were lost by each employee in 2019 because of physical and mental health related absence and presenteeism.
Poor mental wellbeing and unhealthy lifestyle choices made up three-quarters, or £68bn, of the total productivity loss.
The study, delivered in partnership with RAND Europe, the University of Cambridge and Mercer, reveals a further rise in presenteeism with just under half (45%) of UK workers admitting to suffering from presenteeism in 2019, up almost a third from 2014.
Young workers (18 to 25 year-olds) were particularly vulnerable, with 55% admitting to turning up for work but feeling unable to perform at their peak productivity, compared to just 38% of employees aged 45 or over.
Young employees are most likely to struggle with their mental health with almost one in seven suffering from depression (15%) and many more saying they have felt unwell because of stress in the workplace (35%). This is far higher than the over-50s group, with 4% saying they had suffered from depression and 32% having felt unwell as a result of workplace stress.
8.5% of workers are now affected
by depression – up from 4% in 2014
(Source: RAND Europe/University of Cambridge/Mercer)
Neville Koopowitz, chief executive of Vitality, said despite the costs of ill-health and presenteeism spiralling upwards, many businesses continue to ignore the role of health and wellbeing and its intrinsic links to productivity.
“It’s no longer enough to create a health and wellbeing programme for employees and hope they’ll make use of it,” he said. “The businesses that not only prioritise it, but also properly consider how they engage their employees to improve their mental and physical health, can see productivity increase in their workforce by as much as 40%, which is no insignificant number.”
Chris Bailey, partner at Mercer Marsh Benefits, added that in tackling the issue of wellbeing in the workplace, businesses must reach beyond the latest tech and ensure the support offered to employees is tailored and communicated well.
CASE STUDY: Marcol – an organisation that takes part in Vitality’s annual Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study
MARCOL is an international investment house with a 44-year track record in equity investment and asset management. With around 150 employees across various European offices, the company’s Operations department operates health initiatives across the group.
We spoke with Victoria Boxall-Hunt, Group Operations Director at MARCOL, to find out about their involvement in BHW and what health and wellbeing initiatives are working for them in terms of creating a community, one that supports engagement and productivity improvements.
“We started looking at Britain’s Healthiest Workplace around three years ago and realised that we actually do a lot already. So, around the same time we formalised everything into an employee wellbeing programme. We already had excellent staff retention, but we’ve grown a lot in the last 15 years and part of retaining the special culture was to continue supporting the team around health and wellbeing.
“BHW also brings us valuable employee insights, highlighting what we do and what our staff value as part of that. It gives teams in other businesses an idea of what’s appreciated by staff.
“We do lots of things but one specific initiative that stands out is our ‘lunch and learn’ sessions where we bring in an external expert who has been credible in their career path, nutrition, sleep, whatever it may be. We get the topic suggestions from our staff, to help encourage their contribution in the growth and evolution of the wellbeing programme.
“Our European offices often dial in to these topic sessions, listen to the presentation and ask questions. We then follow up with a news blast, interesting podcasts and other avenues for information. We also encourage people to research their own health in line with the focus of these topic-based initiatives.”
Additional things that MARCOL is doing to improve employee engagement:
- Leading by example: “Being a senior woman in the business, I feel it’s important to live by example, encouraging employees to have walking meetings, exercise, good nutrition and getting quality sleep, also talking openly about meditation and mindfulness.’’
- Creating a community:
– Providing everyone in the London Headquarter with lunch: “We provide lunch to everybody in the London HQ, every day, it’s a great way to get people away from their desks and down to the kitchen. People get together, they engage, and they chat. it helps create our community.”
– Encouraging cooperation within and across departments: MARCOL has standing desks, they actively promote walking meetings, they have charity runs and Wednesday walks. “People are much more likely to open up and talk to different areas of the business in that more social environment. The sense of community is the web that holds together people who truly like who they work with, developing friendships that ultimately help the business too. Without a doubt it has paid dividends.”
– Presenteeism prevention: MARCOL is very open on its support for mental health. They do forums and make sure they train managers on how to provide better support. They also do welfare checks to make sure the staff are well looked after.
– Sharing best practice within the company: “All of our businesses do things differently, taking part in BHW has provided us with the information we need to identify initiatives that work well in other parts of the business and applying them where needed to other parts of the business.”
– Sharing best practice with the businesses it works with: MARCOL’s Founders, Terence Cole and Mark Steinberg, founded the MARCOL Health division in 2015 to invest in health technology and over the last five years have invested millions in improving people’s lives through advanced technologies and innovative services. The health and wellbeing of employees is paramount to the overall success of the business, and the employee health and wellbeing programme has been developed to support this strategy.
Name: Victoria Boxall-Hunt
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7402 0402