Unhappy employees take nine more sickness days on average per year as opposed to their happier counterparts, according to new research by WPI Economics.
Commissioned by employee benefits provider Unum UK, the survey of more than 4,000 UK employees revealed that this is costing the economy £11 billion per year through lost productivity, and that the average unhappy, unproductive worker loses nine hours of productive time per week.
Almost half (48%) said they do not have good mental wellbeing and that this is having an impact on their productivity and wider health and happiness. Meanwhile, just 13% think they are very productive at work, three times lower than their happier peers, and 80% believe they are more productive when they are healthy and happy.
More than half (58%), equivalent to more than 16 million people, believe that improvements in the health and wellbeing services provided by their employer would lead to less time off and increase their productivity.
According to the report, if the number of employees unhappy at work reduced by half, this could lead to a reduction in lost output from sickness absence and presenteeism worth around £6.4 billion a year, and an increase from improved productivity of around £7.3 billion a year.
Mark Till, chief executive officer of Unum UK, said: “This research presents clear evidence that workplace health and happiness can reduce sickness absence and presenteeism, as well as boost productivity. Employers’ ability to offer such benefits depends on the size of their workforce, cost and, crucially, the needs of the business and its workers. Whatever support employers can offer, expanding health and wellbeing services would help more employees and give the working world a chance to thrive, all while boosting British businesses’ bottom lines.”
Ron Wheatcroft, technical manager at Swiss Re Europe, added: “We agree that a broader definition of occupational health (OH) would support this. It should include the wider breadth of specialists who deliver work-focused vocational rehabilitation services, in addition to more traditional OH services. That wider breadth of services available to employers could be clarified by a better definition used by all, including government, such as OH and rehabilitation services or return to work services.”