Britain’s workplaces are costing the UK economy £77.5bn a year in health-related lost productivity, a nationwide survey by our partner Vitality shows, with an average of 35.6 days of productive time lost per employee last year.

The latest Britain’s Healthiest Workplace report has revealed a sharp rise in the loss of productive days since the survey began - up from an average of 23 days in 2014. Productive loss is higher among those on low incomes and young workers, while young staff are also more at risk of mental health issues.

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace was launched in 2013 to understand what staff health and wellbeing means and to create a standard for employee health in the workplace. Participating employers - which have included Adidas, Unum and Scottish and Southern Energy - receive an in-depth organisational health report, while employees completing the survey get a personal health report in real time, including information such as their ‘Vitality age’.

The latest survey shows that:

  • UK employees lost 13.6% of their working hours in 2018. 1.2% of working hours were lost to absenteeism and 12.5% to presenteeism, where they were present at work but limited in their role due to a health issue
  • This equals an average loss of 35.6 days of productive time per employee in 2018, compared to 23 days in 2014
  • 21.5% of employees showed low work engagement, while only 12.7% showed high work engagement
  • Young employees are particularly at risk of mental health issues, with 12.5% of those aged 21-25 and 17.2% of 18-20 year olds indicating they suffer from depression
  • 34% of employees indicate they have felt unwell because of work-related stress, with this being more common among employees who earn lower incomes

The report also found that more than half of employees aged 18-40 year have financial concerns. Workers with increased financial concerns were shown to be losing more than twice as much productivity than those without any financial concerns and were also more likely to smoke, to be obese, to suffer from hypertension or cholesterol or to experience difficulty sleeping. Almost four in ten employees (37.2%) reported sleeping for less than seven hours per night, while almost half (45%) have problems with the quality of their sleep.

Despite better overall health indicators for women in the workplace – such as being less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, being less likely to smoke or drink and being more likely to sleep better - women lost, on average, more working hours (15.1%) due to ill-health than men (12.1%). The report also found that 28% of women aged 60-64 experienced depression, compared to 17% of men.

When it came to interventions by participating organisations:

  • Employers offer, on average, more than 20 workplace health interventions, such as fresh fruit and vegetables at work or clinical screening. For medium and large organisations, this increases to an average of 35 interventions
  • Less than four percent of participating organisations did not offer any of the 83 workplace health interventions included in the survey
  • 74% of employees who participated in any given intervention felt positive effects on their health, but only 27% of employees, on average, were aware of the interventions made available to them by their employer.

Launched in response to the fact that many UK employers are failing to adequately invest in the health and wellbeing of their staff, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace aims to significantly reduce lost productivity with adequate investment.

The survey uses a broad set of questions covering lifestyle, clinical and mental health, work engagement and productivity, and an in-depth assessment of the health and wellbeing interventions being offered by employers. Since 2013, more than 370 companies and 124,000 employees have taken part in the study, with previous winners including Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Adidas, Quintiles and Nomura.

Interested employers can register for Britain’s Healthiest Workplace here. You can also think about offering company health insurance, with good staff benefits shown to improve productivity and boost employee wellbeing in the workplace.