Mental and physical health is key to productivity levels and profitability

One year on from the Government lifting ‘work from home’ guidance, health insurer Vitality has released new research in partnership with CBI Economics, revealing that Britain’s bosses believe the robust mental and physical health of their employees is key to rising productivity levels – and, ultimately, profitability.

The research, which was conducted with 352 C-Suite executives, shows that seven in 10 (69%) cite productivity levels as a motivating factor to introduce enhanced health and wellbeing policies, with staff recruitment and attrition in second place (52%). But while executives are building a business case around employee welfare and understand the benefit of a hybrid environment, more than half (59%) are finding tailoring support to meet differing needs challenging; a third (32%) even find it complicated to introduce health and wellbeing support for a hybrid workforce.

The research reveals that firms lack the required time and resource, with over a third (36%) of business leaders citing this as a barrier to supporting employee health and wellbeing. A further 31% also lack expertise to introduce or evolve health and wellbeing policies, suggesting that business leaders still require guidance on this a year on from hybrid working coming into effect.

Additional research among 2,005 UK office workers, commissioned by Vitality and conducted by Censuswide over the same time-period, found the contract between employer and employee has fundamentally shifted. Eight in 10 employees (82%) believe their employer has a greater responsibility to offer support and more than two in five (44%) want their bosses to step up and do more to meet their health and wellbeing needs.

When looking at which health and wellbeing support is best, more than two thirds (66%) now consider flexible working to be the top health and wellbeing benefit an employer could offer. Despite this, employees are divided on which environment best suits their needs, with 46% believing hybrid working to be best for mental health, compared to 26% for remote working and 27% for office working – all of which, may be why businesses are finding it difficult to tailor their support accordingly.

Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality UK said: “One year on from when many businesses made hybrid working a reality for their teams, UK bosses are clearly recognizing the business case that having a healthy workforce brings. However, they are grappling with how to do this in a hybrid world, when we are also seeing increasing employee expectations and demand for more tailored and personalized health and wellbeing support – regardless of their location or working environment.

“What is clear is that there is no magic solution, no one size fits all approach. It requires the right technology and data to understand the make-up of your business and the individuals within it, so that you can formulate the optimal employee engagement strategy. It also needs to be prioritized at the very top of a business to foster a deep-rooted commitment to health and wellbeing at all levels. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for business leaders. Get it right – and businesses will unlock greater productivity and retention.

“This approach is firmly built on our shared value philosophy; a way of working that delivers for people, society and for the economy.”

Jordan Cummins, CBI Health Program Director, said: For many, the world of work looks markedly different in the wake of the pandemic, with firms and employees working together to hone their own hybrid futures. Yet flexible working is just one facet of a growing business focus on wellbeing, with employee health now increasingly regarded as a sensible investment rather than a cost to be managed.

“With employee expectations undergoing a similarly seismic shift, firms which fail to evolve their health provision risk being left behind by more proactive competitors. There are big prizes on offer for companies which develop the right package for their workers. It can be easier to recruit and retain staff, job satisfaction rises while sickness absences decrease – and there are productivity gains too. This makes good health both a critical pillar of business success and a key driver of economic growth and societal prosperity.”

For the last decade, Vitality has been supporting businesses to understand how the health and wellbeing of their employees is affecting productivity of their business through Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, the UK’s largest workplace wellbeing survey. This data-driven insight provides unique benchmarking on effective hybrid working and employee engagement, as well as the link between improved employee health and business success. This is regularly used by business leaders to develop effective and targeted strategies to suit specific needs of a business and its workforce.

Vitality provides support to businesses, developing strategies that enable employees to make meaningful and long-term behavior change, through the Vitality Programme; a science-based approach that incentivizes and rewards people to take steps to be healthier. Employees engaged with the Vitality Program report 28% less sickness episodes compared to unengaged employees[1]

In helping businesses to create ‘Healthy Hybrid’ working environments, there are three areas of focus for CEOs and their leadership teams:

  1. Establishing a ‘Healthy Hybrid’ culture with engagement from the top:
  • Put health and wellbeing onto your company risk register
  • Prioritize and put health and wellbeing on the board agenda
  • Senior leaders to practice, reinforce, and normalize healthy behaviours, both in the office and at home (hybrid)
  • Establish a benchmark and understanding of the health and wellbeing of your organisation, through data and employee feedback, updating it at least annually
  1. Drive ‘Healthy Hybrid’ behavior change through practical interventions
  • Use data and information on your employees and teams to target health and wellbeing interventions – ‘one size fits all’ does not work
  • Consider how you have adapted health and wellbeing programs since the introduction of hybrid working and how it may be working practically
  • Promote inclusive productivity gains by assessing performance based on outcomes, rather than hours or traditional work patterns
  • Reaffirm ‘right to disconnect’ policies and approaches, especially for the time when people who are working hybrid from home, protecting them from burnout
  • Ensure health and wellbeing policies are inclusive across all work environments and focus on workers rather than workplaces.
  1. Sustaining ‘Healthy Hybrid’ values ​​requires consistent reporting and accountability:
  • Effective and consistent wellbeing monitoring
  • Identify the best metrics for key performance outcomes, like productivity, and assess the relationship between those outcomes and employee metrics like engagement and wellbeing.
  • Clarify who is accountable for new health and wellbeing mandates and reflect this in management training
  • React quickly – we’re entering a different period in employer-employee relations, but one that will likely be defined by flexibility and a locus of responsibility that changes depending on the issue. Leaders should therefore monitor the metrics identified above, track progress with business strategy and employee sentiment, and be ready to shift course if necessary.

[1] Data is – Vitality People Study, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace and Vitality data (2018).

[1] Data is – Vitality People Study, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace and Vitality data (2018).

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