Employee health damaged by bad work habits, warns report

An alarming number of workers are not taking sufficient breaks, working in the same position for extended periods, going to work when ill or stressed, and not taking enough exercise, research has revealed.

A survey of 2,600 employees by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), found that one in four work all day without taking a break and are thereby risking their health – leading to potentially huge costs for employers.

The quarter of workers who didn’t stop for lunch blamed either too much work (50%) or having too few staff to cover workloads (31%).

The poll also showed that more than a third (36%) of staff regularly work through their lunch break.

The CSP says UK workers are increasing their risk of chronic musculoskeletal disorders, such as on-going back pain, obesity, cancer, depression, heart disease, diabetes type 2 and stroke through poor working practices.

While the costs for sickness absence alone already top £16bn, this figure does not take into account presenteeism, and the report found that 54% of workers said they “always or usually” go to work when they feel stressed or physically unwell.

Ann Green, chair of the CSP, said: “Physiotherapists are concerned that overworking and not taking breaks is actually costing employers and their staff. Employees pay the price with their health, and there is a cost to employers in reduced productivity and performance.”

Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said the report findings should “ring alarm bells” for employers.

“When the pressure people face regularly exceeds their ability to cope – in other words, stress – it is likely to lead to time off work and is linked to conditions such as depression, anxiety and heart disease,” he said.

“Employers should ensure their line managers have the people management skills to prevent pressure becoming stress, and to identify the early warning signs if people are struggling to cope at work.”

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