AnxietyWhile there is increased awareness among businesses of supporting employees’ health and wellbeing there remains an ‘implementation gap’ in UK workplace, which is threatening individuals’ health and long-term business sustainability, according to a new report.

The report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 'Growing the health and well-being agenda: From first steps to full potential', highlights that the average cost of absence now stands at £554 per employee per year. It also reveals that: 

Only 8% of UK organisations have a standalone wellbeing strategy that supports the wider organisational strategy

61% of employers are more reactive than proactive in their approach to wellbeing

38% of employees are under excessive pressure at work at least once a week

43% say that long hours working is the norm for their organisation, to a great or moderate extent

Wellbeing is taken into account in business decisions only to a little extent, or not at all, in 57% of cases

Less than two-fifths of organisations monitor the cost of employee absence.  

To date, many organisations’ wellbeing efforts have tended to consist of one-off initiatives that aren’t joined up, and therefore often fail to have a long-term impact in the workplace. To address this, the CIPD has recommended that a proactive employee wellbeing programme – based on the foundations of good people management, leadership and culture – should be at the core of how an organisation fulfils its mission and carries out its operations.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, CIPD president and wellbeing expert, said: “A workforce that is well works well, but we’re still seeing far too many people doing more work than they can cope with, working long or unsociable hours, suffering from technology overload and unable to switch off. Organisations need to take better care of their people and recognise how the demands of work can affect their physical and mental health, as well as their ability to perform well at work.

“In the fast changing world of work, wellbeing has never been more important. With the UK at the bottom of the G7 and near the bottom of the G20 countries on productivity per capita, the way we manage people and create cultures that enhance wellbeing are now bottom-line issues. Prevention is better than a cure; it’s high time that business leaders recognise this and create cultures in organisations in which wellbeing is centre stage and people are happy, healthy and committed to achieving organisational success.”

The CIPD is urging employers and policy-makers to recognise not just the potential cost of inaction on wellbeing, but also the growing body of evidence that links the introduction of wellbeing programmes with improved employee engagement and business performance.

Rachel Suff, policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “The cost of inaction is staggering, yet the gains that can be made from a proactive and holistic approach to wellbeing are equally impressive. To put wellbeing firmly on the business agenda, we need to change conversations around the business case for wellbeing programmes from ‘cost avoidance’ to ‘shared value creation’, and highlight what organisations stand to gain, rather than lose. By taking a proactive and holistic approach to wellbeing, organisations can help both their people and the business to reach their full potential.”

The CIPD is recommending that HR professionals monitor and regularly report on a range of health, employee satisfaction and organisational measures to build a body of evidence to demonstrate the need for ongoing financial commitment to health and wellbeing. They also could look to pilot wellbeing strategies to convince senior management to integrate polities throughout the business, or highlight examples of good wellbeing practice that already exist, including the tangible benefits it has, such as with absence levels and performance.

Meanwhile, the CIPD urges employers to implement a holistic approach to health and wellbeing that is preventative and proactive, and respond quickly to offer support when issues emerge. Their approach should promote good physical health, good mental health and ‘good work’.

Also line managers should have training to ensure they have a clear understanding of health and wellbeing responsibilities and the confidence and skills to implement policies and handle difficult conversations with staff in a sensitive and effective way.

Finally, the CIPD is calling for the government to consider wider financial/tax incentives for organisations to encourage greater employer investment in wellbeing. In addition, the CIPD wants the government to establish Human Capital Management (HCM) reporting standards for FTSE 350 organisations on core, agreed HCM metrics to help organisations measure, report and benchmark the health and well-being of their employees. Government should also lead by example by embedding this into the annual reporting of all public sector organisations. The CIPD also believes that freater investment is needed in anti-stigma campaigns on mental health, and more work is needed to improve the use of the ‘fit note’ and ‘fit for work’ service.