At Bupa UK, we’ve always encouraged employers to invest in workplace health to boost the wellbeing of employees, but we wanted to find out more.
To find out how habits differ across the UK, we recently carried out a national survey of 630 people. We wanted to see how respondents felt they could be better supported, and wanted to help employers improve their strategy to ensure a happier, healthier workforce and more productive teams.
Sick days in the UK
Results from the survey differed across the country. The North East of England claimed the most absence days over a year, with each person taking off an average of 7.9 days. Northern Ireland took just 1.6 sick days per year, being the lowest region in the country.
A defining feature of these results was age, with 24 to 34 year olds taking more sick days than any other group. There was a distinction between roles too, with graduates taking the most time off.
The importance of stress management
Feeling stressed at work can start to feel like part of normal life. Because of this changing normality, half the battle of coping with stress is identifying that you’re suffering from it in the first place. 68% of people said that they find it easy to recognise stress in themselves, and many employees fail to identify the signs.
17% of 18 to 24 year olds felt like they wanted to leave their job due to stress and a lack of support, whereas older employees don’t always realise that they’re stressed at all. Understanding is the key, and we urge employers to embed processes to help identify stress in the workplace and take action where needed.
We also found that there was a clear difference between sectors. Over 50% of retail workers have wanted to leave a job as a result of stress - 25% more than in construction and 19% more than in banking and finance. Wales came in as the UK’s unhappiest working region, and Northern Ireland is the happiest.
Recognising and managing stress levels can not only make for a more productive workplace, but also happier and more satisfied employees. We’d encourage communicating with your team on a regular, individual basis, as frequent chats and one-to-ones are an essential part of spotting symptoms of anxiety and stress. With guidance, businesses can then put better stress management strategies in place.
Managing the work-life balance
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the people surveyed felt they have a good work/life balance. However, it's possible some of these employees simply don't recognise that they’re actually feeling stressed or anxious.
Some workers also take their work home with them, never really ‘switching off’ from the pressures of the nine to five. Others, such as those who are self-employed, are poised to take on work whenever possible. This could mean they never truly relax, or end up working long hours during the week.
This point was proven when we found out that construction workers are 52% less likely to have a good work/life balance than retail assistants. However, retail workers were 20% more likely to say they have a poor work/life balance compared to those in the banking/financial sector. This could be linked to working weekends.
The biggest causes of absence
Mental health and musculoskeletal disorders (MSK), such as back and neck pain, are two of the biggest causes of absence in corporate industries. Illnesses like these aren’t necessarily caused by work, but without the right guidance and support, their symptoms can be made worse by some working environments.1
When it comes to musculoskeletal disorders, risk assessments are vital to determine what the correct working conditions are. For example, even something as simple as a new desk or a foot rest can transform posture and ease bone, joint and back problems.
Mental health can also be put to the test at work, and issues with stress, depression and anxiety can be linked back to workload demands, worries over job security, relationships with colleagues and maintaining a suitable work-life balance.
Maintaining staff health and happiness
Employees are the beating heart of any workplace, and as such, the way they feel day to day should be taken seriously. Putting occupational workplace health schemes in place can make a world of difference to all employees.
For more information about our occupational health service, please get in touch.