- Healthy employees are more productive: They are also happier, more engaged and contribute to better company culture.
- Focusing on employee wellbeing benefits business: Prioritising the health of employees reduces staff absence, improves employee retention and reduces hiring costs.
- There are many ways an employer can promote good employee health: Employee assistance programmes, health benefits and workplace initiatives are worth considering.
As of November 2022, there were an estimated 24.6 million full-time workers in the UK, 1.8 million of whom suffered from work-related illness between 2021 and 2022. These figures don’t include injuries and conditions that are not work-related, so the total number of employees navigating poor health in the last year is likely to be much higher.
In this guide, we look at what ‘employee health’ means, the relationship between employee health and productivity, how businesses benefit from good employee wellbeing and the ways in which employers can promote better employee health.
What does ‘employee health’ mean?
‘Employee health’ doesn’t just refer to physical wellbeing, it also encompasses psychological, emotional, social and even financial health.
As an employer, it’s good practice to be aware of common health issues that may affect your employees and have resources and protocols in place for how to support them:
Mental health: In 2021/2022, it was reported that 914,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
Musculoskeletal conditions: 477,000 workers are currently managing a work-related musculoskeletal disorder.
Cancer: 3 million people are living with cancer in the UK, set to rise to 5.3 million by 2040.
Cold and flu: On average, adults experience 2–3 colds a year and flu is responsible for 800,000 GP visits a year.
How does employee health affect productivity?
When employees are suffering from poor health, it can lead to absenteeism and/or presenteeism.
Absenteeism: This is when employees do not come to work. It causes a loss in productivity as staffing levels reduce whilst employees are on sick leave. In 2021, an estimated 149.3 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK.
Presenteeism: This is when employees come into work when in ill health. There is a reduction in productivity as employees do not feel well enough to engage with their work wholeheartedly. A study found that 80% of people continue to work when unwell, costing the UK economy £15.1 billion every year.
How does good employee health benefit businesses?
Overall, good employee health can have a significant, positive impact on a business’ bottom line. Not only does good employee health improve productivity but it also:
- Reduces sick leave and presenteeism
- Lowers the rate of employee turnover
- Reduces hiring costs
- Leads to higher levels of skilled employee retention
- Improves company culture and inclusion
- Increases ages diversity and intergenerational collaboration
- Helps attract top talent
How can employers support employee health?
Prioritising employees’ health speaks volumes about a company. It indicates that as a business, you want to protect your most important asset – your people. It also demonstrates a company’s commitment to improving the quality of its employees’ lives, both in and out of work.
Supporting employee health requires investment, financially and in terms of time, but can have a hugely positive impact on individual employees, company culture and the business overall.
There are many ways that you can support employee health. Before rolling out any initiatives or offering any employee programmes, it’s a good idea to consult your workforce to find out what they actually need and would value.
Lead by example
For employees to place importance on their health, their employer must do the same. Managers and HR departments should encourage employees to do things that benefit their wellbeing and follow this advice themselves. Ways to do this include:
- Taking time from the working day to attend medical appointments
- Staying at home if poorly
- Stepping away from your desk for a headspace break
- Taking a short walk during the working day
- Keeping a water bottle at your workstation
- Engaging in health initiatives such as Bike2Work
Optimise the working environment
For employees that come to a physical work location such as an office or production facility, the environment can contribute to their wellbeing significantly. A well-considered working environment can ensure employees are physically comfortable and help promote good mental health. Ways that you can optimise the working environment include:
- Providing ergonomic office furniture
- Ensuring equipment is fit for purpose
- Being mindful of airflow and temperature
- Making use of natural light
- Creating quiet spaces
- Offering fresh water and healthy snacks
- Keeping things clean, tidy and safe
If you have remote or hybrid workers, it’s important to consider them too. For example, you could provide equipment for them to use at home or vouchers they can use to purchase lunch.
Offer a wider range of leave and flexible working arrangements
Leave and flexible working enables employees to juggle work and life more effectively and gives them the control to make choices that are best for their wellbeing. This in turn can reduce stress and improve motivation and productivity. Examples of leave and flexible working arrangements you can offer (above and beyond statutory requirements) include:
- Maternity leave
- Paternity leave
- Parental leave
- Adoption leave
- Menopause leave
- Volunteer leave
- Compressed hours
- Job sharing
- Part-time hours
- Hybrid working
- Remote working
Employee health benefits are those benefits that specifically relate to promoting and maintaining the wellbeing of your employees. Health benefits demonstrate that a business values employee health over employee output. What’s more, they give staff all-important peace of mind that they can access healthcare regardless of their personal circumstances. Types of employee health benefits include:
- Private medical insurance
- Gym membership
- Free flu vaccinations
- Fertility benefits
- Dental care
- Eye care
Provide access to tailored, specialist support
For employee health benefits to be worthwhile, they need to be accessible and meet the individual needs of your employees. Perci Health offers online support for anyone impacted by cancer. We have a range of support types available, and our specialists help each person navigate their own unique experience of cancer. Find out more about how we can help you support employees with cancer today.
Number of full-time workers in the United Kingdom from May 1992 to November 2022, Statista.com, January 2023: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1119783/full-time-workers-in-the-uk/
Number of working people who suffered from a work related illness as well as work-related stress, depression or anxiety from 2021 to 2022, HSE: https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/
Number of people living with cancer, Macmillan, October 2022: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/dfsmedia/1a6f23537f7f4519bb0cf14c45b2a629/9468-10061/2022-cancer-statistics-factsheet
Number of colds people have per year, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, February 2022: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/common-cold/background-information/prevalence/
Number of GP visits for flu each year, National Library of Medicine, December 2006: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1676118/
Number of working days lost to sickness or injury in the UK in 2021, Office for National Statistics, April 2022: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/labourproductivity/articles/sicknessabsenceinthelabourmarket/2021
Number of UK employees who work when sick, Work Mind, 2020: https://workinmind.org/2019/10/17/presenteeism/