18 November 2015

United Kingdom, London

  • More than one third of UK workers suffer from a chronic condition
  • Developing a culture of workplace wellness crucial to protecting bottom line

British companies are losing on average 23.5 days of productive time per employee each year[1] as staff take time off sick and underperform in the office as a result of ill-health. This is equivalent to each worker losing more than an entire working month of productive time annually. When translated into monetary terms, unhealthy lifestyles and poor health are costing British firms £57 billion a year[2] in lost productivity.

Research from Britain’s Healthiest Company (BHC)*, surveying more than 32,538 workers across all UK industries, highlights the extent of the problem. For example, the survey revealed that 36% of UK employees have a chronic condition, such as heart disease or diabetes, which are strongly associated with their lifestyle choices.

The study, which was conducted by VitalityHealth, Mercer, the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe, also shows that many employees mistakenly believe they are healthy. 61% of all respondents have at least two risk factors, while a third are suffering from three or more.  Around 60% of those with three or more risk factors believe their health to be good or very good, which makes them less likely to change their behaviour. Risk factors occur when people register as outside the ‘healthy’ range for a lifestyle or clinical health factor, for example due to lack of exercise or poor diet.  

Encouragingly, however, BHC data shows that workplace wellness programmes can support employees to improve their health. Average time lost per employee due to absenteeism and presenteeism at the top five ranked companies in BHC was over a week less than the average firm. As companies increase their investment in health promotion, the proportion of employees in good or excellent health grows, while the costs to productivity associated with absenteeism and presenteeism decrease. The 25% of companies with the largest health promotion budgets saw an 8% year-on-year improvement in the proportion of employees in good or excellent health, and a 16% year-on-year reduction in productivity loss.

Shaun Subel, Director at VitalityHealth, said: “The findings of the Britain’s Healthiest Company research should serve as a wake-up call for UK firms to do more to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff. The data shows that organisations with an authentic and positive culture of wellness see increased productivity from their employees. We would therefore urge all companies, big or small, to protect their bottom line by taking an active role in improving employee wellbeing.”

“Employers have a unique role to play in influencing employee behaviours around health and wellbeing”, said Chris Bailey, Partner at Mercer. “Too many employees are unaware of, or in denial over their risk factors, which risks us sleep-walking into a chronic condition epidemic. Considering most employees spend the majority of their week at work or commuting, how they behave at work significantly impacts their overall wellbeing. By creating an environment of making the right health-based decisions and supporting sustained lifestyle changes, employers can reduce their lost productivity and help create a virtuous circle of healthy, engaged, productive employees."

Notes to editors:
* The Britain's Healthiest Company research study took place between January and August 2015. It looked at a number of lifestyle, mental wellbeing, clinical risk and productivity factors amongst 32,538 employees, together with a broad view of leadership and cultural dimensions, and corporate policies, practices and facilities that could directly impact on employee health, across 112 companies.

Vitality – changing health and life insurance for good
Vitality is the insurance business that helps people understand how they can improve their own personal health. Vitality makes it cheaper and easier for its members to get healthy and gives them rewards to keep them motivated, through a range of discounts and incentives.

Vitality has partnered with a number of Vitality Ambassadors, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sebastian Coe and Jonny Wilkinson, who are role models who embody the values of Vitality. They are all using their passion for living a healthy lifestyle to motivate others to make positive changes. Taking small steps today can dramatically improve wellbeing over the long-term, regardless of your current state of health.

VitalityHealth is one of the UK’s leading private medical insurers and has pioneered the ‘shared-value’ insurance model. This is a unique approach to insurance that uses incentives to motivate better lifestyle choices amongst members, which translates into lower mortality and morbidity risk over time. The effect is positive for all stakeholders – members benefit through the financial and intrinsic value of rewards, as well as better health; employers benefit from healthier, more productive, and more engaged employees; and Vitality benefits from a healthier membership base. For more information www.vitality.co.uk

About Mercer
Mercer is a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investments. Mercer helps clients around the world advance the health, wealth and performance of their most vital asset—their people. Mercer’s more than 20,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in over 140 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), a global professional services firm offering clients advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With 57,000 employees worldwide and annual revenue exceeding $13 billion, Marsh & McLennan Companies is also the parent company of Marsh, a leader in insurance broking and risk management; Guy Carpenter, a leader in providing risk and reinsurance intermediary services; and Oliver Wyman, a leader in management consulting. For more information, visit www.mercer.com. Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer.

[1] Figure calculated using an average work impairment of 9.3% and an average working year of 252 days. Work impairment is calculated using the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment (WPAI) scale across the 32,538 employee participants in Britain’s Healthiest Company 2015.  

[2] Figure calculated using ONS statistics for the period Jun-Aug 2015, and making adjustments for part-time workers. £27,000 average wage; 31.112M people in work; 7.85% cost of lost productivity (calculated from Britain’s Healthiest Company 2015).