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Britain's Healthiest Workplace: Three key insights

Published: 13/02/2024

With UK productivity steadily declining and UK employees facing a raft of health and wellbeing challenges, we share what we’ve learnt from our latest set of Britain’s Healthiest Workplace data.

Over the past decade, through our yearly Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study, we’ve conducted comprehensive research into the main challenges facing UK organisations and their staff, with a particular focus on the relationship between employee health and productivity.

Supporting better employee health is not only the right thing to do, it helps drive powerful benefits for businesses, though reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as delivering improved rates of recruitment and retention.

As a result, as an insurer, we advocate that employee wellbeing should be viewed as a significant business risk and prioritised at board-level as part of an organisation’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda. To help build this case, here are three things we’ve learnt from the latest set of data.

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1. Employees are losing a significant amount of time due to ill-health.

On average, organisations are losing on average 49.7 days of productivity per employee each year, with 90% of this being down to presenteeism (where employees are at work but not performing productively) and the rest is due to absenteeism (a result of health-related issues).

The rate of productivity in the UK has been steadily declining over the past decade, more than doubling since 20141. As a result, low productivity is costing the UK economy £138bn per year.

On the flipside, healthier employees lose significantly less productive time compared to those who are less healthy. Vitality data shows that those with a Vitality Age* two years lower than their actual age lose just 32 days of productivity a year, compared to a whopping 81 for those with a Vitality Age gap of seven or more.

*A scientific calculation based on data that assess the impact of lifestyles factors on an individual member’s health.

2. Improving employee health is complex and requires a personalised, data-driven approach.

Mental and physical health are highly linked to employee productivity, with those at risk of depression and burnout losing significantly more days each year (the equivalent of 109 and 93 days respectively compared to 43 and 42 days for those not at risk). We also see less productivity for those with lower physical activity levels and poorer diet, with 13 and seven days lost respectively compared to those who are more active and eat better.

From the data, it’s clear that UK employees suffer from a range of health risks, with 37% physically inactive, 56% eating an unhealthy diet and 23% obese (58% overweight). Meanwhile, 10% suffer from anxiety or depression. When combined, these risks affect almost all UK employees, with 81% encountering at least one lifestyle health risk2, while 96% suffer from at least one lifestyle of clinical risk3.

Given the wide range of health and wellbeing challenges faced by UK employees – such as mental, physical and financial health – and how they vary across the differing age groups, it’s clear that organisations need to take a more personalised approach to understanding the different needs of its workforce.

For example, while 46.5 is the average number of interventions offered by employers, 70% of employees said they were aware of them and only 25% had made use of them. The good news is that 85% of staff who had used their interventions found them useful.

What we’re also seeing in the data is that some employees lack motivation to improve their lifestyles, across a range of factors such as smoking, diet and alcohol intake. However, this is where behaviour economics and targeted interventions using data can make a big difference.

3. Employees with VitalityHealth insurance are healthier and feel more supported compared to other insurers.

Encouragingly, we’re seeing that employees with access to the Vitality Programme are more active, with 8% more reaching the recommended guidelines for exercise compared to those who are with other insurers. They are also at less risk of depression (11% lower).

The data also reveals that employees on a Vitality business health scheme are happier at work (17% more so compared to those with another insurer) when it comes to feeling as if their employer plays an active role in maintaining their health and wellbeing. Fewer of them have lower job satisfaction (13% less).

On average, all this amounts to an additional two and a half productive days per year for employees with Vitality, as a result of them enjoying better health and higher levels of productivity.

Find out more about how Vitality can support your client's business to improve the health and wellbeing engagement of their employees, whilst providing fast, seamless access to care.

Where to next?

  • Health leaders call for preventative approach to healthcare

    A landmark report into the state of health and social care in Britain, using Vitality data, was recently published at The Times Health Summit in London.

  • Prevention is in our DNA

    Given high demand and rising claims incidence, embedding prevention into private medical insurance (PMI) is helping to manage costs and deliver better health outcomes, writes VitalityHealth Distribution Director Athos Rushovich.

  • Insights Hub

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1 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace data since 2014
2 Percentage of employees at risk for at least one of physical activity, diet, smoking, alcohol or obesity
3 Percentage of employees additionally at risk of depression, musculoskeletal or chronic health conditions