More than four-fifths (82%) of small to medium enterprise (SME) employers do not have a health and wellbeing strategy, according to research by Axa PPP Healthcare.
Its survey of 200 organisations with up to 250 staff, and of 1,500 employees working at businesses of the same size, also found that 39% of employee respondents felt they would see an improvement in their productivity if their employer introduced a wellbeing strategy. A further 35% stated that the implementation of a wellbeing strategy would boost their job satisfaction, while 22% said they would be more likely to stay in their current job.
Comparatively, 65% of employees working at SME organisations that do have a strategy believe it improves their health and wellbeing.
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Liz Earle MBE, wellbeing expert and entrepreneur, said: “Whether [employers are] leading a multinational organisation or a small start-up, [their] employees are the most valuable asset. Leaders who support and enable a wellbeing-focused workplace can enjoy a more productive and profitable business. It’s often been said that if [employers] look after [their] people, they will look after [the] customers, which drives [the] bottom line.
“Leading by example and embedding good wellbeing habits in the workplace is incredibly important. In small businesses, leaders are often more visible among their team and can create the positive environment that helps people thrive.”
A quarter (24%) of SME employees stated that they have experienced job-related stress or anxiety, but only 15% agreed that their organisation provides a culture that supports mental health. Almost half (46%) admitted that they will continue working when they feel unwell and 24% would see a GP because they worry about taking time off work.
Linked to this, 18% of employee respondents said they feel guilty taking time away from their desk for lunch and 27% confirmed that they send and receive emails outside of their working hours.
Tracy Garrad, chief executive officer at Axa PPP Healthcare, said: “Burnout is now recognised by the World Health Organisation as an occupational phenomenon. It’s becoming a workplace epidemic that poses significant risks for small businesses.
“While it’s encouraging that 41% of small business leaders polled said they’d like to have a health and wellbeing strategy, more needs to be done to move the dial and change perceptions about health and wellbeing measures being the sole preserve of larger organisations.
“The reality is small businesses make up more than half the UK’s total workforce and their employees are crying out for greater support.”