No health and wellbeing strategy in most British businesses, survey finds

'Burnout is becoming a workplace epidemic that poses significant risks for small businesses'

Astrid Hall
Tuesday 18 June 2019 07:10 BST
Over 60 per cent of the employees surveyed said they had experienced stress or anxiety related to their job
Over 60 per cent of the employees surveyed said they had experienced stress or anxiety related to their job (Getty)

Eight out of ten of Britain's small and medium-sized (SME) businesses do not have a health and wellbeing strategy in place, a study claims.

The same study found that among 1,500 SME employees polled, 67 per cent had experienced stress or anxiety related to their job.

Commissioned by private medical insurance provider AXA PPP healthcare, the survey also found that nearly half of these employees continued to "power through" even when their mental health was suffering.

And around a quarter of workers polled said they were worried about taking time off work to see a GP.

But of the 200 business leaders polled as part of the study, half said they set a good example for health and wellbeing within their organisation.

Speaking at the second instalment of The AXA Growth Leaders Series hosted by The Supper Club, wellbeing expert and entrepreneur, Liz Earle MBE said not prioritising the health and wellbeing of employees is a real business risk.

“Whether you’re leading a multi-national organisation or a small start-up, your employees are the most valuable asset," she said.

“Leaders who support and enable a wellbeing-focused workplace can enjoy a more productive and profitable business.

“It’s often been said that if you look after your people, they will look after your customers, which drives your bottom line."

Ms Earle added: "But it’s also important for business leaders to note that you can’t look after your employees – or your business – if you don’t look after yourself.

“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 their people thrive.”

Nearly half of SME employees polled said they did not have the time to look after their wellbeing, and a quarter said they were reluctant to take a rest and recovery break for fear of letting their team down.

One fifth said they felt guilty for taking time away from their desk for lunch. And more than a quarter send and receive emails outside of work hours.

AXA PPP healthcare CEO Tracy Garrad 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 per cent 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.”

The study found just 15 per cent of SME employees felt their company provided a culture which supports their mental health.

Despite 46 per cent agreeing they felt well informed of the health and wellbeing offering from their employer, just 22 per cent said they made the most use of these benefits.

And just 13 per cent felt the organisation they work for provided good benefits as part of a health and wellbeing strategy.

But nearly two-thirds of SME employees working for an organisation with a health and wellbeing strategy in place agreed it was showing significant improvement.

Half of the employees surveyed said they would feel less stressed, and two-fifths would see an improvement in productivity, if a wellbeing strategy was introduced.

A further 35 per cent said such a strategy would boost their job satisfaction, while 22 per cent agreed it would make them more likely to stay at their job for longer.

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The research also found additional holiday for length of service, flexible hours and private medical insurance were among the top priorities for staff at SMEs if they had the choice among other health and wellbeing benefits.

EJ Flynn, MD of The Supper Club added: “We have found the founders who take the time to ask their teams what would make the greatest improvement to their health and wellbeing see better levels of engagement from their team, less absenteeism, greater retention of staff and greater productivity.

“The initiatives do not have to be really complicated, but they must be bespoke to your business. For instance, yoga and meditation may be right for one group, but flexible or remote working may be better suited to others.“


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