Businesses should take employee health more seriously, survey suggests

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has called for employers to take staff health more seriously, as research reveals that 81% of workers fail to exercise the recommended amount each week.

The survey, carried out by YouGov in association with the BHF, found that 55% of workers spend more than half their working day sitting or standing still and 48% eat lunch at their desks.

The BHF said there will be a significant return on investment for employers that improve the health of their workforce. A report by CBI earlier this year found that sickness absence costs UK businesses £17 billion a year.

Lisa Purcell, project manager for the BHF’s Health at Work programme, said: “Simple measures to improve the health of your workforce, like getting the team together for a lunchtime kick-around in the car park, can improve productivity, reduce staff turnover and mean fewer sick days.”

Karen Shotbolt, HR director at LA Fitness, said: “It is about getting a break from your desk, getting a break from work and coming back to your desk refreshed, and there are lots of opportunities to do that. It’s great if you have a gym nearby, but if you haven’t, just a walk and a bit of fresh air makes a massive amount of difference to how you feel about coming back to work for another couple of hours.

Shotbolt told Personnel Today that employers may want to start small pilot schemes so that they can measure any rise in productivity before investing in staff exercise schemes across the workforce.

Guidance from XpertHR on managing sickness absence recommends that, in order to support improvements in employees’ health, an organisation needs to adapt its culture to one that actively encourages regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and a sensible alcohol intake.

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