Insurance · 10 February 2017

Poor lifestyle choices cost unhealthy employees a month of productivity every year

Unhealthy employees
Encouraging good habits in unhealthy employees could boost profits for an employer

Unhealthy employees are costing small businesses an average 27.5 working days every year as a result of poor lifestyle choices, according to new research that highlights the link between ill-health and low levels of productivity.

The nationwide study, undertaken by medical insurer VitalityHealth and HR firm Mercer, uncovered several connections between poor health and drops in work rate. Smoking habits and poor nutrition were found to be the greatest factors affecting productivity levels.

Perhaps predictably, the research showed that healthier employees produced greater volumes of work and were found to be engaged at a much better rate than staff not keeping themselves well.

One surprising trend found in the study was that many unhealthy employees believed there were no issues with their lifestyle. When medically assessed, however, over two-thirds of all UK workers displayed two “risk factors”, such as high blood pressure, poor diet or high cholesterol.

Further data revealed that as owners invest more resources into workplace wellbeing programmes, employees would be likely to improve their health and, subsequently, their levels of productivity.

The message to employers at small businesses was simple – encourage unhealthy employees to make better lifestyle choices and bottom line profits would increase over time.

Shaun Subel, strategy director at VitalityHealth, said that traditional productivity-boosting initiatives such as automation of human tasks were typically poorly received by employees.

A positive health and wellbeing strategy, however, could be the ideal approach for small business owners seeking to get more out of their workforce.

“While wellbeing interventions can be of relatively low cost compared to the alternatives, they deliver tangible improvements in employee engagement and productivity, and are typically viewed positively by employees. Together, these ultimately lead to improvements in a business’s bottom line,” Subel said in a statement.

Commenting on the benefits of a wider workplace health strategy, Mercer partner confirmed that “or organisations have great influence in setting shared values and behaviours – both positive and negative”.

“Those employers enabling positive health choices and behaviour in the workplace are seeing real benefits as they reduce lost productivity and give themselves a competitive advantage,” he concluded.

Find out the eight health and wellbeing apps that could support your workforce

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.