The impact of workplace health initiatives

Small business insight

1 January 2018

When employees are off sick, it’s disruptive – productivity is likely to drop, and you may feel that you’re losing money. Long-term sickness can be a particular problem as paying for cover and sick pay can feel a big commitment when budgets are tight.

However, an economic evidence report for health at work programmes compiled by ERS Research & Consultancy, concluded that caring for your employees can be beneficial to your bottom line, after all.1  

The report found that sickness absence costs UK businesses around £29bn every year, with the average worker taking 6.6 days off per year. In addition, it was estimated that the average London business of 250 employees loses around £250,000 a year due to ill health.

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Reduced sickness absence

A further review of UK employer wellbeing schemes by ERS Research & Consultancy found that reduced sickness absence was evident in 82 per cent of the programmes. This means that staff spent more time at work, were more productive overall as a result, and the businesses were saved the cost of recruiting temp cover.

Reduced turnover

The same case studies also reported reduced turnover of 33 per cent. Keeping your employees happy and healthy incentivises them to stay – once again saving you the cost and disruption of recruiting and training up new staff. In fact, the businesses reported an average 25 per cent increase in employee satisfaction.

According to a survey of more than 500 SME decision makers by AXA PPP healthcare, 17.6 per cent of businesses claimed it cost between £10k-25k to replace an employee, and 11.4 per cent claimed it cost between £25k-50k2. These costs are substantial and generally not expected or planned for.

Brand image

Paying attention to your staff’s health and wellbeing can help nurture a reputation for being a good employer, which in turn is good for your brand image and reputation. So when you next look to recruit, you are a more attractive prospect.

“The healthcare agenda for business has shifted significantly over the last 20 years. Nowadays there’s an expectation that employers will offer a remuneration package that provides for employees’ health and wellbeing needs,” said Mike Davis, head of SME Business at AXA PPP healthcare.

It all comes down to balance

As with all things, there is a balance to find between ignoring your employee’s health and wellbeing and feeling the obligation to put the most comprehensive schemes in place.

There are many ways in which you can promote health and wellbeing initiatives at your workplace. For example, you can have events that tie in with national awareness campaigns, or you can have a more holistic approach to a health and wellbeing scheme that ties in to everyday working practices.

Some health initiatives might be beyond your budget, but there are some things that can be implemented cost-effectively. For example, encouraging employees to walk or cycle to work, providing fresh fruit in the office or having pamphlets on various health issues available in the break room. Small business owners could also consider taking out business healthcare cover to protect their employees. It could cost less than you might think, with the ability to tailor it to suit the needs of your business and budget.

There’s no one right way to look after your employee’s health and wellbeing, but putting something in place can certainly be good for your staff – and ultimately, good for business. Employers should adopt strategies that focus both on preventive and reactive approaches to health and wellbeing, as well as considering the physical and psychological concerns that affect their workforce. It is also important to ensure that benefits that are provided are both appealing and accessible to all employees – wherever and whenever they work.

Sources and references

1ERS Research & Consultancy (2016). Health at work – economic evidence report for workplace health  

2Online survey of 507 SME senior decision makers, September 2016 by market research agency Atomik for AXA PPP healthcare.

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