Employers struggle to balance health and wellbeing with financial priorities

Employers are facing the same workplace health challenges as they were a year ago, in trying to balance the cost of investment in health and wellbeing with financial priorities of the business.

Aviva UK Health’s fourth annual Health of the Workplace Report found that while business leaders recognise the importance of a healthy workforce, they are still prioritising productivity and profit over staff motivation and work-life balance.

Nearly a third (31%) want maximum profitability for headcount, and two in five (39%) demand a highly productive team that is flexible and can respond to change.

However, over a quarter (27%) cited their main priority as creating a motivated team who enjoy working together, and a quarter (25%) said their main priority was achieving a friendly company with a good work-life balance.

Dr Doug Wright, principal clinical consultant at Aviva UK Health, said: “While employers are making some very positive moves towards fostering a healthier workplace environment, the overwhelming priority is still on chasing profitability.

“In the short-term, this strategy can sustain a business through a difficult trading period, but it will undermine business performance in the longer term by damaging staff morale and allowing conditions like stress to flourish.”

The report also found over half (51%) of employers offer one or more key health and group risk benefits; Nearly a third (31%) offer private health insurance, 29% offer group life, and 14% offer group income protection.

Over a quarter (29%) of business leaders stated the single action that could make the biggest difference to employee health and wellbeing would be to instigate a better work-life balance, while 13% would encourage company-wide health and fitness initiatives.

Wright added: “With budgets being tight, it may be better for employers to consider allocating this money to initiatives that benefit both their employees and their company.

“Supporting the holistic and physical wellbeing of their team through workplace wellness programmes for example, can be equally as effective in engaging staff and building morale and team spirit.

What is more, as employees become healthier and happier their productivity should rise as sickness absence falls.”

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