Workplace wellness named ‘primary objective’ among employers

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Working on a computer all day has long been blamed for a sedentary lifestyle, failing eyesight, repetitive strain injury and more besides. Now new research has revealed ‘wellness’ to be a prime focus of 82 per cent of employers, ahead of increasing staff productivity.

Respondents to MetLife UK’s annual UK Employee Benefits Trends Survey named staff health and wellness initiatives as top of their benefits objectives. They were far keener to find ways of improving employee health than identifying tools to increase productivity (cited by 72 per cent of respondents) or address the workforce’s diverse needs (69 per cent).

Of the wellness benefits available, the most popular among employees themselves was flexible working. Almost three-quarters said they wanted to make use of this perk if it was offered to them. Two-thirds expressed an interest in preventative care, 59 per cent would use an on-site gym and 42 per cent would take up any financial counselling.

The survey also found that just 14 per cent of employees considered themselves energetic at work, which is not surprising given the majority sit down all day.

A study by epidemiologist, Steven Blair, cited in a microsoft.com blog, found that men who endured a sedentary lifestyle were 64 per cent more likely to develop heart disease. Worse still was the revelation that even those who participated in regular exercise could not fully counter the effects of excessive inactivity.

Of course it’s vital that employers take wellness seriously; sickness costs the UK economy billions every year. However, there are lots of initiatives that businesses can introduce to promote good health, in addition to those cited in the MetLife UK survey. These include Cycle to Work schemes, subsidised fitness club memberships and the provision of healthier food options in the canteen, to name but a few. Free initiatives might include creating a lunch-time walking group or insisting on meetings where participants stand or ‘walk and talk’.

What’s more, fit and well employees are proven to be more productive!