While smart CEOs realise that their employees are their biggest asset, still too many UK businesses are failing to put the health of their workforce first. A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) noted a “wellbeing vacuum” in which British employers are failing to act on worker wellbeing.

Fewer than one in ten (8%) have a wellbeing strategy that forms part of the wider organisational strategy. In other words, most companies are tackling staff health half-heartedly, simply implementing one-off initiatives that fail to make a long-term impact.

Yet it’s never been more important for businesses to put health at the very core of businesses, the organisation said.

What is ill health costing British businesses?

If evidence were needed about the urgency of prioritising staff health, another study by the Financial Times and insurance firm VitalityHealth found that ill health is costing the UK on average £57bn a year in lost productivity.

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW), a survey of 34,000 workers from across all the UK’s industries, revealed that British employers are losing up to 27.5 days of productive time per employee each year due to sickness absences and underperformance brought on by high stress and lack of physical activity.

The healthiest employees came from the hi-tech industry, where businesses lost a comparatively low 19 days per employee per year.

So what’s making the hi-tech industry more productive than others? Exercise. Staff in this industry were more physically active, and also less stressed.

All the research suggests that it pays to push employee health to the top of the agenda. After all, even the best, most talented employees can eventually buckle under the strain of modern life and work – and since their productivity and your profits are inextricably linked, it makes sense for businesses to put their health first.

Wellbeing is a win-win for staff and businesses

Wellbeing is a win-win – for staff and businesses. Shaun Subel, strategy director at VitalityHealth, was unequivocal in his support of health initiatives over other measures to boost business productivity, such as chasing efficiencies through process re-engineering.

While these measures certainly have a place, focussing on staff health not only delivers “tangible improvements in employee engagement and productivity”, it is also met with a positive reception by employees.

What’s more, wellbeing is often the lowest cost option among other productivity boosting measures. Put these benefits together and it’s easy to see how wellbeing can be a critical part of improving a business’s bottom line.

The facts speak for themselves: there was a strong link between staff involvement in workplace programmes and improved health and productivity, plus less presenteeism when workers participate in weight-loss initiatives, exercise more and sleep an optimal seven to eight hours a night.

What’s the key to workplace wellbeing?

Simply implementing health initiatives isn’t enough. Promoting wellness among staff requires commitment from the top, with policies that support good health and line managers trained to support employee wellbeing in a holistic way. That is working to prevent illness in the long-term while proactively supporting the overall health of staff.

Aim to build health into the workplace culture and encourage staff to work out during working hours, it’ll pay off in the long run.

According to the BHW report, when employers allow staff to take part in health programmes during work, participation increases. And you can expect better results when senior management are also invested in workplace health and take steps to measure the returns.

Finally, support workplace wellbeing with a programme of sustained communications to ensure that staff are fully engaged with your efforts.

When communication around wellbeing is poor, the results will also be disappointing. Only 30.5% of staff at large companies offering discounted gym membership were aware of the offer. So, if take-up is low among your employees, it’s probably because there’s low awareness around your initiatives.

Businesses that invest in employee wellbeing are rewarded with improved productivity – and higher profits. Take your first steps to staff fitness through a low-cost gym membership scheme with Gympass.

Gympass is the convenient way to help your staff get healthy, offer them access to our network of local gyms across the UK. Find out more now.