Employees lose 30 productive working days a year through sickness and presenteeism

By Katie Scott

Jul 25, 2018
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Employees lose an average of 30.4 working days a year due to sickness or underperforming at work because of ill health, according to research by VitalityHealth.

Its 2017 Britain’s healthiest workplace report, which surveyed 31,950 employees, found that productive working days lost due to physical and mental health issues cost the UK economy approximately £77.5 billion a year.

Productivity losses associated with ill health and presenteeism have increased from 2016, with the number of productive days lost increasing from 27.5 days to 30.4 days, and the cost to the UK economy rising from £73 billion in 2016. Employees who take time off work due to sickness or underperform at work because of ill health lose six weeks of productive time annually.

The average employee missed 2.7 days due to absence in 2017, down from 3.3 in 2016. However this is parallel to a rise in presenteeism, which increased from 24.2 days in 2016 to 27.7 days in 2017.

Shaun Subel, director of corporate wellbeing strategy at VitalityHealth, said: “The Britain’s healthiest workplace results illustrate the significance of the productivity challenge facing the UK, but importantly also point to an exciting alternative in how employers can approach this problem.

“For too long, the link between employee lifestyle choices, their physical and mental health, and their work performance has been ignored. Our data demonstrates a clear relationship; employees who make healthier lifestyle choices benefit from an additional 25 days of productive time each year compared to the least healthy employees, and also exhibit higher levels of work engagement and lower levels of stress. As a result, effective workplace health and wellbeing solutions can deliver tangible improvements in employee engagement and productivity, and make a significant impact on an organisation’s bottom line.”

Chris Bailey, partner at Mercer Marsh Benefits, added: “Some employers still doubt the impact of presenteeism, dismiss the data, and fail to take action. It’s key to understand that people are not machines; we are not 100% task focused and performing at our best all of the time.

“It is not a case of having a presenteeism problem or not. All organisations will see a reduction in how productive their people are when they are experiencing physical or mental health issues. The data shows that those organisations which understand this and take steps to maximise their employees’ productive time at work, for example through supporting an active workforce, promoting good nutrition and enabling positive mental health, enjoy a competitive advantage.”

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