Take employee health seriously or productivity will suffer, charity warns employers
More than two-fifths of employees feel work pressures have damaged their health in the past five years by causing them to eat badly, put on weight, smoke and drink more, and exercise less, a survey has revealed.
Research with more than 1,000 workers, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), found that a third of workers thought they had put on weight because of their job. And almost half said their work has driven them to eat unhealthily.
Forty-three per cent said their job prevented them from exercising as much as they would like to, 22 per cent said it had led to them to drink more alcohol and 9 per cent it had prompted them to smoke more.
The suggestion that work is a major contributor to declining health is less surprising when you consider that 60 per cent of staff told the survey that they regularly do unpaid overtime. Nearly a fifth of staff said they work more than five hours overtime a week.
In addition, more than half of respondents said their stress levels had increased over the past five years as a result of their job.
Employees told the survey that the demands of work had prompted concerns over their own long-term health, with 29 per cent fearing it could lead to high blood pressure and 21 per cent that it could bring on a heart attack or heart condition.
And they are right to be worried as obesity, lack of physical activity and smoking all raise the odds of coronary heart disease, which remains the UK’s biggest killer.
The business case for promoting healthy behaviours at work is long established. Productivity lost as a result of employee heart and circulatory conditions is estimated to cost businesses £8 billion a year (European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics. Brussels: European Heart Foundation, 2008). While the vast majority of companies (82 per cent) with employee wellness programmes enjoy reduced sickness absence and a 15 per cent rise in output (PWC – Building the Case for Wellness, 2008).
Lisa Young, project manager for BHF’s Health at Work programme, said: “This survey is a stark reminder of just what happens when we don’t take our health at work seriously enough.
“From working with over with 9,500 organisations we know that the payoffs of making health at work a top businesses priority are too great to ignore.
“Small steps can make a big difference. This Heart Month (February) we’re working with organisations across the UK to encourage employees to take 10 minutes every day to make positive changes which could have a life-long benefit to their health.”