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Stress and inactivity: 27 days lost per employee per year

The national average is 23.5 days of productive time per employee lost

Workers' high stress levels and lack of physical activity are causing some UK industries to lose almost 27 days of productive time per employee each year, according to research from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW).

The survey of more than 32,538 workers across all UK industries was conducted by VitalityHealth, Mercer, the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe. It discovered a national average of 23.5 days of productive time per employee is lost this way. Healthcare and financial services lost the most days (26.6 and 24.9 days per employee a year respectively), while high tech lost just 18.9 days per employee per year.

Work-related stress was found to play a significant role, with 73% of employees nationally suffering from at least one kind of work-related stress. The industries with higher productivity losses typically had higher levels of work-related stress.

The financial implications of this productivity loss could be huge, with the ONS calculating that the UK could lose out on £57 billion a year on average in lost productivity.

Chris Bailey, partner at Mercer, explained that modern working practices and the make-up of roles within the UK workforce has affected the health of individuals. “Technology has allowed a more sedentary working life to become the norm, while the rise of the UK’s service economy has reduced the number of manual workers and [roles with] physical activity,” he said.

He added that entrenched ways of working were also to blame. “Individual employers can, and do, act to buck these trends and create competitive advantage within their peer group by doing so," he said. “It’s no surprise that new tech firms without legacy working practices have lower levels of stress, and lower lost productivity, while more established industries sometimes struggle to implement change and create a healthy working environment."

Shaun Subel, strategy director at VitalityHealth, said he was encouraged that employers are working to decrease stress and improve wellbeing levels in their workplaces. “Encouragingly we note that on an individual company basis, where there is an increased investment in health promotion, the proportion of employees in good or excellent health grows while the costs to productivity associated with absenteeism and presenteeism reduce,” he said.

“We would urge all companies, and especially those in sectors suffering from acute productivity loss, to invest in the health and wellbeing of their staff. Reducing workplace stress and encouraging employees to stay physically active should help increase productivity levels and protect the bottom line.”