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Productivity drives increased wellbeing support, employers say

Over a third of businesses reported issues such as quiet quitting (35%) and presenteeism (30%)

Employers cited increased productivity as the main reason for their wellbeing strategy, research published yesterday (4 June) by the law firm Winckworth Sherwood has revealed.

Increased wellbeing support could improve productivity, said David Williams, head of group risk at health adviser Towergate Health and Protection.

He told HR magazine: "Wellbeing support can definitely improve productivity if they are the right offerings and are well used. For example, quick access to physio for a musculoskeletal problem may prevent a one-week sick note from becoming a one-month sick note."

Separate research by Towergate (also published on 4 June) showed that 74% of employers offered more health and wellbeing support now than they did two years ago. Around half (42%) of employers stated that they now offer much more support.

Meanwhile, Winckworth Sherwood found that 68% of employers and 67% of employees agreed that too much responsibility remained on employees to improve health and wellbeing, as opposed to organisations improving work environments and culture.

The Towergate research also showed that businesses continued to face issues such as quiet quitting (35%), high staff turnover (34%), presenteeism (30%) and increased absence rates (27%), despite increased wellbeing support. 

Debra Clark, head of wellbeing at Towergate, told HR magazine that employers will continue to experience issues if wellbeing support was treated as a tick-box exercise.

She said: “The driver for investing in wellbeing isn’t as important as ensuring that it lands well and is impactful and effective. The business culture must be right, from top down, to help with wellbeing; it should not just viewed as a tick-box exercise but as something that is integral to all aspects of the company. 

"It therefore needs to also overlap into other policies and approaches including ED&I, CSR and ESG. It should be something that everyone just lives and breathes, including the senior leadership.”

Read more: No evidence mindfulness and wellbeing apps improve employee wellbeing

Emma Christian, people adviser at HR and law consultancy AfterAthena, suggested that HR could set targets for successful wellbeing support.

She told HR magazine: "It goes without saying that there is a direct correlation in having an engaged workforce and achieving the business objectives.

"Defining the objectives and goals is essential. Collecting a combination of data, such as absence figures and employee feedback surveys, then analysing and reviewing them, will really help assess improvements and overall wellbeing.

"Success should be shown through a positive impact in HR metrics which are reflected in a happier and more engaged workforce."

Employers should also understand their employees' wellbeing risks, to provide targeted wellbeing support, said Pamela Gellatly, strategic development director at healthcare provider HCML.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "The first step is to identify what is needed for both psychological and physical wellbeing. Don't just think that an EAP or mental health first aid programme will make a difference. Then prioritise the areas of greatest risk, and ensure that the support put in place addresses those risks and ideally can be measured.

"Understand what your people risks really are, and address the underlying causes of physical and mental health. Ensure that the benefits and actions you take address work and personal risks if you really want to help your people."

Read more: Does your organisation need dedicated health and wellbeing roles?

David Williams, head of group risk at Towergate Health & Protection, noted the importance of signposting wellbeing support to employees.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "Employers have a responsibility to do more than just introduce wellbeing services and declare their job done. That suggests employees simply need to sort their own health or their private issues out.

"It’s crucial that the wellbeing services are communicated correctly and used by employers and employees. Employers need to continually hammer home these benefits and how you access them."

Winckworth Sherwood commissioned Censuswide to survey 250 senior HR leaders between 30 April and 7 May 2024 and 1,002 employees between 30 April and 3 May 2024. Towergate Health and Protection commissioned Opinium to survey 500 HR professionals in January 2024.