wellbeingThe link between health and employee productivity is becoming increasingly clear; however, only a minority of employers make this connection within their health and wellbeing programmes, according to Towers Watson, a leading global professional services company.

Towers Watson’s latest Health, Wellbeing and Productivity survey shows that 66 per cent of employers see linking health to employee performance as a relatively limited part of their health and wellbeing programme. Looking at the next two years, some 69 per cent of companies are planning to develop their health and wellbeing strategies but only 11 per cent see productivity as a priority for this development.

For many organisations the main drivers for employers to develop their health and wellbeing programmes are the desire to be seen as a responsible employer along with the need to focus on more preventative health measures to manage rising healthcare and disability costs.

Rebekah Haymes, senior health and wellbeing consultant at Towers Watson, said: “It is encouraging to see more companies planning to increase their support for health and wellbeing plans in the future, but it is disappointing that not many think about how these programmes can help increase productivity.

“Improved health can help to manage absence, stress and employee performance. These all have a commercial payback. Without the link between employee behaviour and payback to the employer, it raises the question as to why companies are promoting a health and wellbeing agenda.”

Previous Towers Watson research has shown that, for 46 per cent of employees, health problems had affected their productivity in the past. Only 17 per cent of those with health problems reported themselves as highly engaged, compared with 32 per cent of those who described their health as very good.

Despite employers not giving priority to productivity when setting their health and wellbeing programme, employee engagement is rated as important. Almost half of employers (47 per cent) said raising employee engagement is a priority to a great extent. Other popular initiatives are creating a workplace culture of health (24 per cent), improving the mental health of employees (22 per cent) and improving employee awareness of their health (20 per cent).

Rebekah Haymes said: “Employers are starting to understand that the impact of health and wellbeing goes far beyond private medical and disability costs; there are also the costs of absence and the indirect costs associated with reduced employee productivity.

“To get more value from their health and wellbeing plans, employers should concentrate on enabling employees to be effective in their jobs. This implies focusing on programmes that target not only prevention of known potential illnesses within the workplace and supporting employee health, but also facilitating return to work in cases of ill-health or disability. It is therefore beneficial for both employer and employee to create a culture of health in the workplace.”