How businesses should focus on health and worker wellbeing

Poor health and wellbeing standards among the UK’s working population could be having a negative impact on performance and growth.


A number of causes of preventable ill health were discovered by Wellbeing People and The Health Insurance Group during a study of nearly 17,000 people.


Among them were poor nutrition, smoking, alcohol excess and a lack of exercise, with the study suggesting that firms could have a role to play in tackling these issues.


It claims that more needs to be done as one in five men revealed they never eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – just one part of what is recommended for a healthy and balanced diet.


Women were marginally better, but 15% still said they were not meeting the recommendations.


While firms can not directly force food into people’s mouths, they can provide guidance and advice for workers as good health and wellbeing carries a number of benefits for a business.


Not only is the time taken off for staff illness reduced, but a healthy workforce is also more likely to be motivated at work.


In severe instances, companies can suffer as a result of staff absence due to sickness, while it also places pressure on existing staff who often see their workloads increase to cover the absence.


This could leave a firm in financial difficulty should they lose clients or sales, while possibly leaving them facing company administration or in need of alternative financial assistance.


Alternatively, a healthy workforce could bring financial benefits, as productivity and performance should improve, meaning a higher output of sales or services.


Various studies have also suggested that firms with wellbeing programmes note a reduced staff turnover compared to those without.


Encouraging workers to get active is important for businesses, as 19% of men and 24% of women were found to not be exercising at all.


Setting up clubs or providing company benefits such as gym memberships are just two ways that firms are focusing on this particular aspect of health and wellbeing.


Raising awareness of lifestyle choices may not figure too highly on the agenda for businesses, but the benefits of promoting health and lifestyle mean it should certainly not be ignored.


By Phil Smith


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