It’s been proven time and again that a healthy workplace is a productive workplace. Both physical and mental illness can have a significant effect on an employee’s productivity, whether it be in the form of absenteeism – sick days that take the employee away from the workplace – or presenteeism – when employees feel pressure to turn up to work, even though ill health dramatically lowers their productivity.

With this in mind, businesses would be wise to stop looking at supporting employee health and wellbeing as a perk for workers and approach it as a smart investment that could have a huge impact on the company’s bottom line.

According to Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, a study by Vitality in partnership with RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge, British businesses lose £81billion a year due to employee ill-health. On average, 35.6 working days per employee are lost due to a combination of ill health-related absenteeism and presenteeism.

The study goes on to predict that British businesses could save £61billion a year by prioritising health and wellbeing and that three-quarters of productivity lost to ill health is due to factors that could be improved through health and productivity management strategies.

The top-performing companies in the study – with the highest levels of productivity – showed a number of common characteristics. They actively embedded a culture of health, had high awareness and participation in their health and wellbeing programmes and had line managers in place who offered support to employees.

It is becoming more and more difficult to ignore the link between employee health and wellbeing and a company’s overall productivity, but there are a number of ways your business can better support employee health – such as implementing health and wellbeing programmes at work, making support readily available, and offering comprehensive private medical insurance (PMI).

Workplace environment

Creating a supportive workplace environment is key to improving employee health and wellness. The Vitality study found that mental health was a significant driver of productivity loss, accounting for £38billion last year. Of this figure, £17.2billion was specifically caused by workplace stress.

It is important for businesses to build and maintain a space where employees feel safe and supported to reach out and seek help for both mental and physical health issues, so that the best support can be provided, and the employee’s productivity can be maintained.

A clear line of reporting issues and well-trained line managers are a solid start. In addition, various interventions, programmes and initiatives can be put in place to help improve the working environment, from cognitive behavioural therapy and one-on-one coaching to relaxation classes and group social activities.

Encouraging general wellbeing, including taking regular breaks, allowing enough time away from the workplace when employees are not expected to check-in on work, encouraging hobbies, and providing fruit or other healthy foods to promote healthy eating over-processed snacks are all small steps that can make a big difference.

Encourage exercise

Exercise, in particular, can make a strong impact on workplace productivity. In fact, another study from Vitality found that if adults aged 18-64 walked 15 minutes a day, it could boost economic growth by £80billion a year until 2050.

It went on to suggest that if the physically inactive were to meet the World Health Organisation’s recommended physical activity guidelines, it could lower mortality rates and reduce both absenteeism and presenteeism to make employees up to five days more productive each year and grow the world economy by $220 billion a year.

Businesses can make a number of changes to encourage employees to take more exercise and generally become more physically active. Such initiatives as setting a target for the number of steps achieved during office hours, offering discounted memberships to local gyms, forming company sports teams or running clubs, and entering into local charity runs can all potentially make small improvements to an unproductive workplace.

Offer comprehensive PMI

Providing employees with benefits such as private medical insurance can help to ease stress when illness or injury does occur, and ensure that issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently – ultimately saving money on sick days and low office productivity.

Private medical insurance is designed to cover the costs of treatment for short-term illnesses and injuries, commonly known as “acute” conditions. It can help put a framework in place where employees feel that their medical issues are taken seriously and acted upon effectively.

There are a number of options that can be included in the policy and levels at which certain options are covered. For instance: annual limits on outpatient cover, the selection of hospitals available for treatment, the level of cancer cover, and the inclusion of psychiatric cover, travel cover and dental cover.

Whether you’re a small family-run business or a multinational company, there is a level of cover available that will offer the maximum benefits to your staff within your individual financial framework. This ranges from international medical insurance for multinational companies, to weekly funded cash plans that provide dental and optical cash benefits.

It’s important to ensure you fully understand how your scheme works and are able to communicate to employees the extent of their cover. At Vintage Health our advisers will explain underwriting options, hospital lists, the claims procedure and optional benefits to create a framework for obtaining quotes from insurers.

Our advisors review the market and negotiate the best prices for the most comprehensive level of cover to help you choose the best option for your business. An assigned client relationship manager then provides assistance throughout the year to help with adding and removing members from the policy and clarifying any invoicing enquiries, so that you can make sure your policy is working for you.

Make the Change

Mental and physical wellbeing is the cornerstone of a productive working environment. Investing in encouraging employees to live healthy lifestyles, providing workplace support and offering comprehensive PMI can both save money in the long term and make a significant impact on a company’s economic growth.

Offering interventions, initiatives and cover is the first step, but fully communicating these to employees and actively driving engagement will help to cement a happy and healthy workplace where employees are happier, healthier and ultimately more productive.

For more information contact one of our advisors today.