Investing in staff health can influence productivity levels

Nearly two-thirds of workers say they would work harder for an employer that invested in their health, and more than three-quarters make a direct link between their health and their productivity at work.

Research by health insurer Aviva has also painted a picture of a working environment where four out of 10 workers feel over-worked or have too much to do, and where nearly one-third say they are working lon­ger hours than they used to.

More than a quarter also rated their working life as being “stressful”. Nearly a quarter of those polled admitted to always feeling tired.

More encouragingly, despite this, far fewer employees appeared to be adopting unhealthy behaviours in response to feeling under pressure.

Barely one-fifth (19%) said they ate unhealthily to help them deal with stress, compared with 34% in a similar poll carried out in 2009.

Just 11% said that they smoked more, a fall of seven percentage points from the previous study.

Nearly half exercised at least once a week on average, while 38% did not drink at all during the week, according to Aviva.

A further 17% said that they were making a concerted effort not to drink during weekdays.

When it came to employers, just under half of business leaders said the impact of the recession had made them realise the importance of staff health and wellbeing.

Three employers in five recognised that health had a direct effect on productivity, a rise of 10 percentage points from the previous study. This was a view shared by more than three-quarters of employees.

Nearly one-fifth of employers planned to increase spending on health-related benefits as a result, although more than half (54%) conceded they would invest more in these benefits if they could see a tangible return on investment.

Despite this, just 8% said that they would make changes to their benefits to help combat the key causes of sickness absence.

Dr Doug Wright, head of clinical development at Aviva UK Health, said: “Employers need to be sure that they are spending their money wisely by using invaluable insight – such as their sickness absence data – to help them understand which benefits best meet their companies’ needs. This will not only help benefit staff health, but could also have a positive effect on the bottom line.”

A separate study by the insurer, meanwhile, has argued that nearly two-thirds of patients live with medical problems longer than they would like, or avoid going to the doctor because they are unable to get a GP appointment at a suitable time.

More than a quarter of patients across the UK also waited more than a week for an appointment with their doctor, it found.

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