Why is the UK lagging behind on wellbeing?

We all know that stress has a major impact on our wellbeing and the latest 2018 Cigna 360° Well-Being Survey[i] has highlighted that unmanageable stress has resulted in the UK being ranked the lowest among developed Western countries in terms of wellbeing.

This survey of 15,000 people in 23 countries found that eight out of 10 people are experiencing stress, with one in five saying they have unmanageable stress. It was surprising to read that the UK ranks fifth worst for unmanageable stress in the world, behind only the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Korea.

It found that in the UK, more than a quarter of people suffering from stress blamed their work as the reason.

The UK is also falling behind other Western markets in its development of workplace wellbeing programmes, with just 9% of employees saying they have a workplace wellbeing programme and that they use it. This compares to 22% of employees globally.

It also seems that how a company approaches workplace wellbeing is becoming a key factor for job seekers choosing a potential employer. 44% said the availability of a workplace wellbeing programme would sway them towards a potential employer. For millennials, workplace wellbeing support ranks even higher, with 53% saying they would choose an employer offering a workplace wellbeing programme in favour of one that does not.

While the Cigna survey paints a worrying picture for the UK, I believe the tide is turning and more employers are waking up to the benefits of looking after their workforce’s health, especially their mental health.

Our own Employee Wellbeing Research 2018, undertaken in partnership with REBA earlier this year highlighted that wellbeing is becoming increasingly important for companies as they recognise that a happier and healthier workforce is more engaged.

Almost half of organisations told us they have a defined wellbeing strategy in place – up from less than a third in 2016. We also found that half of those who don’t currently have a wellbeing strategy plan to introduce one in 2018.

More employers are also addressing stress in the workplace and increasingly introducing wellbeing strategies to support mental health. Our research suggests that by the early 2020s more than three-quarters of UK companies will have a defined mental health strategy. Given the Cigna report highlights that work is the main cause of stress for a quarter of people in the UK this is a positive step.

There is still some way to go before most organisations in the UK have a dedicated wellbeing strategy, but our research indicates it’s now firmly established on many corporate agendas. As Millennials are increasingly selecting employers based on wellbeing strategies I expect the demand for talent will encourage more companies to rethink how they look after their employees’ health in the future.

The expectations of Millennials and those born after them, known as Generation Z – will have a major influence on the workplaces of the future and companies will need to adapt and evolve to survive. Wellbeing is one area I predict will see huge growth in the next few decades.

Companies keen to develop their wellbeing strategies, either from scratch or using existing programmes, and who need expert advice, should get in touch today.

Cheryl Brennan, Director of Corporate Consulting, Punter Southall Health and Protection

[i] https://www.healthinsurancedaily.com/health-insurance/product-area/occupational-health/article485853.ece

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