Wellbeing strategies on the rise

45% of UK companies currently have a wellbeing strategy in place, compared with less than a third in 2016

The number of firms with a wellbeing strategy has increased by 50% in just one year, according to a report from the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) in association with Punter Southall Health & Protection.

The report, Employee Wellbeing Research 2017: The evolution of workplace wellbeing in the UK, found that 45% of UK companies currently have a clearly-defined wellbeing strategy in place, compared with less than a third (30%) in 2016. Of those that do not, virtually all plan or wish to implement one, with 46% planning on implementing one this year, 24% in the next few years and a quarter (25%) some time in the future.

The most common wellbeing initiatives are employee assistance programmes (89%), followed by discounted or free gym membership (78%), then health screenings (63%).

Employers claimed that their employee assistance programmes (71%) were the most effective for their business, followed by onsite medical support (66%) and mental health support (56%). Employees, however, favoured free fruit (60%), discounted or free gym membership (42%) and onsite medical support (41%).

Beate O’Neil, head of wellbeing consulting at Punter Southall Health & Protection, said: “The jump in companies promoting employee health and wellbeing to improve their culture and engage employees demonstrates that wellbeing is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but an area of growing strategic importance.

“Whereas in the past many employers struggled to obtain budgets for wellbeing initiatives, almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents with a wellbeing strategy now have a dedicated budget. The median annual spend per employee on wellbeing is between £51 and £75, which is encouraging.”

The report coincides with research from Canada Life Group which found that staff who work in open plan offices are most likely to have poor health habits linked to an increased cancer risk.

The research found that while two in five (42%) UK employees overeat or eat unhealthily due to workplace stress, this rises to 48% of open plan office workers. The majority (87%) of office workers said they spent most of their working day sitting down, compared with an average of 64%. And a third (33%) of office workers smoke, while 14% drink alcohol with colleagues three to four times a week or more.

Lisa White, head of HR at Lendlease Europe, told HR magazine that her company has undertaken extensive research into the impact workplace design has on health and productivity. It is now rolling out changes in response to this.

“For example, International Quarter London, in Stratford, will feature 100% filtered fresh air, increased natural daylight, visible staircases to encourage walking between floors and access to outdoor space to prompt people to leave their desks for breaks or to work outside,” she said.

She added: “The workplace can act as a strong catalyst for culture change. However, good office design doesn’t maximise employee wellbeing on its own – there is a strong business case for us to take health and wellbeing seriously.”