Productivity nosedives as staff wellbeing plummets

Employers have been urged to focus on staff wellbeing as new research on lost productivity has been described as a “wake up call” for British business.

The research by insurer, Vitality, and broker Aon found Britain’s economy lost £127.9 billion in 2022 as a result of employee absence or a lack of productivity at work. This is up 39% from £92 billion in 2019, when the research was last conducted.

The research, which surveyed more than 8,500 employees in organisations across the UK to determine Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, found that productivity worsened for a range of factors. One in five of those surveyed (20%) said they were suffering from burnout, with those affected typically losing 93 productive days per year – more than double that of those who did not experience burnout.

Similarly, individuals with symptoms of depression (10%) lost an average of 110 productive days per year (compared to 12% in in 2019, who lost 98 productive days), while long Covid sufferers surveyed lost an average of 87 productive days compared to 47 days for those without.

“These shocking productivity losses come despite the substantial efforts by employers to support colleagues,” the research added. “80% of employers surveyed offered more than 40 separate health and wellbeing offerings, such as physical and mental health workshops, on site health clinics or on-site gym facilities, as part of their employment package. This compares with 2019 data, when only 5% were offering the same level of support.”

Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality, said: “As the UK faces an increasingly challenging economic backdrop, the dramatic increase in lost productivity is truly alarming.

“While some of the factors are a hangover from the pandemic, the data shows that this is just a small piece of the puzzle and it’s far more complex than that. Businesses must look at what they are doing and why. Only by taking a tailored, targeted and informed approach to their employees’ health and wellbeing, can they develop an impactful strategy and bring in the interventions that will make an impact – it’s a definite case of quality and not just quantity. When businesses get this right and tackle the health and wellbeing issues head on, they’ll see huge changes to their productivity levels, which will only benefit us all.”

While the amount of health and wellbeing support has risen significantly,  the study found this has not translated to workplace productivity of employees. However, there are signs that offering more flexible primary care solutions, like a virtual GP service, can have an impact. Employees with this type of health intervention actually reported lower than average productive days lost at 46 days per year, compared to 56 days for those without.

The work environment has also been shown to impact productivity losses and absence, with hybrid workers having lost the least number of productive days (47) and home workers the most (53), a difference of 13%.

Colin Barnes, Director, UK Health Solutions at Aon, said: “The scale of the health and wellbeing decline among the UK workforce should be a wake-up call to employers. While the intent and ambition are there, the findings of Britain’s Healthiest Workplace show that this is not translating into results for employees. Businesses should take this as an opportunity to refocus their strategy with data to ensure budgets are spent in the most impactful way – including providing the support that employees need – which ultimately benefits the business too.”

The research, which surveyed more than 8,500 employees in organisations across the UK to determine Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, found that productivity worsened for a range of factors. One in five of those surveyed (20%) said they were suffering from burnout, with those affected typically losing 93 productive days per year – more than double that of those who did not experience burnout.

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