The UK economy lost almost £92bn as a result of ill-health related absence and presenteeism in the workplace — a £10bn increase on a the previous year, according to new research.
Data from health insurer Vitality shows that UK businesses lost an average of 38 days per employee a year, due to to these problems due to poor physical or mental health.
This figure has been increasing in recent years: five years ago only 23 working days were lost per employee. This research is part of the insurer’s annual “Britain’s Healthiest Workplace” study.
Almost three-quarters of the £92bn productivity loss can be attributed to factors such as poor mental wellbeing and unhealthy lifestyle choices. Vitality points out that these can be addressed by employers through deployment of effective health and wellbeing programmes.
This study is now in its eighth year. It is developed by Vitality and delivered in partnership with RAND Europe, the University of Cambridge, and Mercer. It remains one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys on workplace wellbeing in the UK.
An in-depth look at the figures shows a significant rise in presenteeism — where employees turn up for work but are unable to give their best, due to mental and physical health concerns. Just under half (45 per cent) of UK workers admitting to suffering from presenteeism in 2019, up almost a third from 2014 (29 per cent) .
This problem particular effects younger workers (aged 18 to 25 years) with 55 per cent admitting this was a problem, compared to just 38 per cent of those aged 45 or over.
The study also indicates the critical need for businesses to further address workplace mental wellbeing, with workers’ stress, depression and anxiety costing the economy £30 billion last year.
The results show rates of depression amongst workers have more than doubled in the past five years with almost one in 10 workers now affected (8.5 per cent), compared to just 4 per cent in 2014.
Again it is younger, employees (aged 18 to 25 years) who are most likely to struggle with their mental health. Almost one in seven (15 per cent) young workers say they suffer from depression, with a further 35 per cent saying they have felt unwell because of stress in the workplace.
This is far higher than the over-50s group, with 4 per cent saying they had suffered from depression and 32 per cent having felt unwell as a result of workplace stress.
However the survey also showed that employers can tackle these problems successfully. It found that vast majority (75 per cent) of those employees that engage in health and wellbeing initiatives report a positive impact on their overall health, yet overall awareness and uptake of them is low (28 per cent and 29 per cent respectively).
Vitality chief executive Neville Koopowitz says: “Every year the results of Britain’s Healthiest Workplace find the costs to business from ill-health and presenteeism are spiralling upwards.
“Despite this, 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. 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 per cent.”