Research

One in four workers doubt their organisation takes wellbeing seriously

7 Jul 2017 By Hayley Kirton

HR ‘pivotal’ in workplace wellbeing, but experts say employees must also meet employers halfway

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of people think their employer is failing to take employee wellbeing seriously, research published today has found.

The survey by professional services firm PwC of 2,000 UK workers also discovered that more than a third (34 per cent) are struggling with a health and wellbeing issue, the most common being anxiety, depression and stress.

“It’s becoming increasingly important for organisations to provide employees with support for their emotional and physical health at work,” said Jo Salter, director in PwC’s people and organisations business. “Healthier and happier staff perform better, stay in their business longer and reduce costs and risks for organisations. Understanding and addressing the root causes of employee wellbeing is the first step to resolving the underlying issues.”

Although almost two in five (39 per cent) of those surveyed had either taken time off work or cut back on their responsibilities because of their health, the same proportion said they felt uncomfortable discussing their problems with their employer. Four out of five (83 per cent) workers also said their productivity levels were strongly linked to their wellbeing.

Rachel Suff, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, noted that HR had a “pivotal role to play” in employee health and wellbeing, from getting to grips with the link between wellbeing and engagement to guiding line managers and making them aware of what support the business could offer, should they have a staff member in need.

More than half (54 per cent) of those surveyed by PwC said their employer did not offer any health perks, such as subsidised gym membership, health screenings or counselling.

However, Charlotte Cross, director of the Better Health at Work Alliance, told People Management that the barriers to workplace wellbeing "do not stem from whether employers take the issue seriously, but rather how both organisations and individuals approach the relationship between health and work.

"Employees have to be willing to meet employers halfway and let themselves be helped. Take well-tech benefits for instance – it’s proven that data can help, and yet more than half of the employees surveyed said they would reject free wearable tech if their information is shared within their organisation. On the flip side, organisations equally have to address culture and process to achieve success."

In a survey published in May by insurer Aviva, two out of five (43 per cent) employees said their boss valued business performance more than their health. Research published in February by fellow insurer Legal & General revealed that fewer than one in 10 employees would feel comfortable discussing mental health problems with their manager, despite 78 per cent of employers thinking their staff would be happy to have these conversations.

And according to a study released in March by charity Mind, a quarter (26 per cent) of staff with mental health issues thought work was the main cause.

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