Why your business needs an employee wellbeing strategy

High levels of staff absenteeism due to sickness can be a sign your business could be doing more to support employee wellbeing.

From workload pressures and deadlines to unsafe working practices and unhealthy work environments, employee productivity can tumble in organisations without a holistic approach to employee wellbeing.

With pre-pandemic data showing that an estimated 38.8 million working days were lost in 2019/20 due to work-related ill health, costs can mount for both businesses and employees.

The Health and Safety Executive found that workplace ill-health and injuries cost businesses £3.2bn in Great Britain, with individual costs totalling £9.6bn.

Workplace wellbeing schemes aim to improve employees' mental and physical health, reduce lost productivity, and could be an appealing incentive for attracting new staff.

Implementing a wellbeing strategy can help create a positive, healthy work environment.

Why an employee wellbeing strategy is important

Employee wellbeing is defined as emotional, physical, and mental health and many factors can influence an employee's wellbeing.

A wellbeing strategy covering both mental and physical health could help reduce employee turnover, minimise costs associated with absence, and help improve employee motivation.

According to a recent Health and Wellbeing at Work survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), over half of organisations (51%) surveyed have a strategic approach to employee wellbeing, with these organisations more likely to report positive outcomes from wellbeing support for both individuals and the wider business.

Benefits of having a workplace wellbeing strategy

Having a plan of action and implementing practices to maintain employee wellbeing can benefit different areas of your business.

Return on investment

Wellbeing support – from paid sick leave to access to fitness schemes – can seem like a significant cost for smaller businesses.

Coupled with the impact of the increased cost of living on wage demands, rising inflation, and customers cutting back on spending means that wellbeing schemes can seem an unnecessary expense.

However, spending on employee wellbeing, especially mental health support, may have a positive return on investment.

The World Health Organization found that for every $1 spent supporting common mental health issues, there is a $4 return on improved health and productivity.

Reduce absenteeism

A wellbeing strategy can help reduce staff absence according to research by the Department for Work & Pensions, with employees less likely to take time off work due to physical or mental ill-health issues.

Schemes that focus on healthy lifestyles, coupled with workplace support such as access to healthy snacks, water, and ergonomic workspaces, can reduce sickness due to work-related ill-health.

Reduce presenteeism

The CIPD found that businesses are seeing an increase in presenteeism for employees working from home.

This is where employees continue to work even when unwell.

A supportive wellbeing culture can encourage staff to take time off as sick when ill, allowing employees to recover and be more fully engaged with tasks when they are working.

Improve employee retention

Holding onto to good employees is vital for any businesses.

The resulting recruitment costs, lost productivity, and training requirements when an employee leaves can all impact a business's bottom line.

Research by not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health found that 42% of UK businesses have experienced an employee leaving the business because their mental wellbeing wasn't supported.

Staff retention can help companies to retain important skills and save money filling new vacancies – research by Glassdoor found it costs a business an average of £3,000 to hire a new employee.

Improve business reputation

Supporting employee wellbeing can form part of your Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) strategy.

Stakeholders, including customers and investors, are likely to seek businesses with a clear plan to tackle social issues, such as supporting diversity and equal opportunities for employees regardless of ability or circumstances.

How to improve employee wellbeing

There are various ways to help improve the wellbeing of your employees as part of your wellbeing strategy.

Physical wellbeing

With adults of working age in England averaging about 9.5 hours per day of sedentary time and research showing people who spend long periods sitting have been found to have higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, encouraging physical activity is important.

You may want to consider the following incentives:

  • cycle to work schemes
  • gym memberships
  • health and safety training
  • access to healthy foods and snacks
  • access to health services, private health insurance and providing free eye tests
  • team activities away from office/desks/roles
  • enforcing breaks away from desks and screens, especially for work-at-home employees.

Mental wellbeing

Reducing the stigma that’s often associated with mental health can encourage employees to talk about issues and seek professional help when needed.

  • employee assistance programmes such as access to confidential counselling and support
  • flexible work arrangements such as hybrid, remote, or part-time hours support childcare or appointments
  • mental health awareness training for staff and managers
  • regular performance reviews and checking in on staff
  • encouraging a positive workplace culture where wellbeing is prioritised.

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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