Providing Support to the 'Britain's Healthiest Workplace' Competition

Britain's Healthiest Company (logo)

Overview

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (previously Britain’s Healthiest Company) is the flagship UK competition for Vitality. Vitality gives awards to organisations in different size categories for the healthiest employees and work environment.

The competition's surveys, managed by RAND Europe, have provided numerous key findings, including:

  • The 2016 survey indicated that employee stress and obesity are both common problems, but workplace health programmes focus more on nutrition and exercise than mental wellbeing.
  • The 2015 survey indicated that there is a significant relationship between productivity loss and bullying, unrealistic time pressures and a lesser degree of job autonomy. The average productivity loss across all participating organisations — 8.45% — did not change from 2014.
  • The 2014 survey indicated nearly two thirds of respondents had at least two bad lifestyle habits that put them at serious risk of future ill health.

Background

There is increasing acceptance and evidence that health and well-being at work can have profound impacts on individuals, organisations and societies. Vitality is concerned to increase awareness of this, given their position as one of the main providers of evidence-based diagnostics of employee wellness in the UK. A central component of this strategy is ‘Britain’s Healthiest Workplace’ (BHW).

BHW is Vitality’s flagship competition in the UK, in partnership with the Financial Times and Mercer. It gives awards to organisations in different size categories for the healthiest employees and work environment. The competition is run on the basis of organisation and employee surveys. The 2015 employee survey included more than 32,000 employees from 112 eligible organisations, up from over 25,000 employees from 82 eligible organisations in 2014.

The winners of the BHW competition are announced in annual awards ceremonies.

For information about the competition, and to register your workplace, visit healthiestworkplace.co.uk.

Goals

RAND Europe’s work on BHW includes designing and running the surveys, analysing results, and providing customised reports to participating organisations. The central aims of BHW are to raise awareness and gain a better understanding of how organisations can engage with the wellness of their employees. More specifically, BHW’s aims are:

  • To better understand how the workplace can be used to change employee lifestyle behaviour.
  • To grow the number of organisations that engage with the wellness of their employees.
  • To assess the impact of lifestyles and chronic diseases on productivity.

Findings

2014

  • Sick leave and working while unwell costs organisations, on average, 7.78% of their yearly wage bill. Using ONS statistics, this translates into an estimated total cost of lost productivity to the UK economy of over £58 billion per year.
  • Nearly two thirds (62%) of respondents reported at least two bad lifestyle habits that put them at serious risk of future ill health.
  • 87% of British workers have a Vitality Age older than their actual age, with an average difference of nearly four years older. (Vitality Age is a health-risk-adjusted age calculated using Vitality's unique algorithm.) Nearly one in seven people (13%) have a Vitality Age more than eight years older than their actual age.
  • Employees tend to be overly-optimistic about their current state of health; one third (33%) of employees have three or more risk factors but, of these employees, over half (58%) believe they are in “good” or “very good” health—meaning they are less likely to have the motivation to change bad habits.
  • About one in five employees (19%) suffer from at least one lifestyle-related chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • 52% of respondents don’t eat healthily enough or don’t have a balanced diet; 67% of these respondents have no motivation to change their eating habits.
  • Nearly two in five (39%) are impacting or have impacted their health through smoking; three in five smokers (60%) have no intention of stopping any time soon.
  • Over a third (36%) are not exercising enough; 33% of these do not want to exercise more.
  • One in five (20%) are overweight or obese with an unhealthy body composition based on BMI (body mass index); 16% of these respondents do not want to lose weight.
  • Nearly one in five (19%) drink too much alcohol; 93% of these have no motivation to change their drinking habits.

2015

  • In 2015 the average productivity loss (absenteeism and presenteeism) was found to be 8.45% of overall working hours.
  • Productivity loss was largely the same between 2014 and 2015. However, companies that participated year on year show an increase in work initiatives.
  • There is a significant relationship between productivity loss and bullying, unrealistic time pressures and a lesser degree of job autonomy.
  • The team found no statistically significant relationship between productivity and smoking or alcohol consumption. However, this does not necessarily mean these have no effect and it is expected that these lifestyle factors will hit productivity in the long-run as they are related to serious long-term health conditions.
  • Financial concerns are more prevalent among men, more likely among young and middle aged individuals, more likely among employees on non-permanent contracts and positively correlated with number of children.
  • An employee with financial concerns has on average a 2.5% point higher work impairment share compared to an employee with no self-reported financial concerns.
  • An employee with less than 5 hours sleep has on average a 7.4% higher work impairment share compared to an employee with at least 8 hours of sleep.
  • Compared to 2013, 79% of repeat employees saw an improvement in their Healthiest Company score.
  • Since 2013, there was a 240% increase in participants responding.
  • Healthy employees have an equivalent of 30 additional days of productive time each year.
  • 76% of those surveyed reported that they engaged in at least two physical exercise sessions per week.
  • Approximately 32% of those surveyed had 3 or more health risk factors.
  • Almost half of respondents reported not eating five fruit and veg per day.
  • 87% of those surveyed reported worrying about work-related stress.
  • 77% of companies surveyed reported using work initiatives, such as distributing cards and letters, to encourage healthy lifestyles among staff.

2016

  • 169 employers of varying sizes and sectors across the UK took part in the 2016 survey, with 34,000 of their employees providing responses.
  • Health conditions among respondents mirror wider trends across the UK, with a clear north-south divide: Yorkshire and the Humber has the highest workplace stress levels, while the North East reports the largest proportion of obese employees.
  • The public sector has the biggest percentage of employees suffering signs of stress, depression and financial worries. It also has the highest estimated loss of productivity from absences and presenteeism.
  • Health programmes that focus on nutrition are the most widely offered by employers, principally through the provision of fresh drinking water and facilities to store and prepare healthy food.
  • Efforts to encourage physical activity, including providing space for bicycle storage and showers so that staff can cycle to work, are also widespread.
  • Initiatives such as stress management to support mental wellbeing, and measures designed to tackle the heavy toll of smoking and alcohol, are less common.
  • For all health programmes, there is a significant gap between their provision and the awareness, uptake and belief by staff that the initiatives are useful.
  • Employees with flexible hours and the ability to work from home report lower absences and greater job satisfaction, and consider themselves to be in better physical and mental health.
  • Those with inflexible hours, who are office-based and who face long commutes, are less productive and in poorer health.
  • There is a strong correlation between participation in workplace programmes and improved health and productivity.
  • Less presenteeism is reported among staff involved in initiatives to lose weight, exercise more and sleep an optimal seven to eight hours a night.
  • Participation increases when employers allow staff to take part in health promotion programmes during working hours. Organisations whose senior management invest in workplace health and measure the returns see better results.
  • 73 per cent of employees surveyed have at least one form of work-related stress; 41 per cent have two or more; 21 per cent have three or more.
  • Half of employees surveyed said stress was due to unrealistic time pressure and demands; some 30 per cent said not being consulted about change in the workplace increased stress, while 28 per cent said it was a lack of control over the work that they do.
  • In addition, 5 per cent of employees said they were bullied on a frequent basis and 18 per cent that they had been bullied at some point in the previous 6 months.
  • Only 30.5 per cent of staff at large companies offering discounted gym membership were aware of the offer. Of those, 31.4 per cent took it up.
  • In large companies, healthy options in staff canteens, bicycle purchase schemes and clinical screening services all had awareness rates of less than 50 per cent.

Project Team

Christian van Stolk
Martin Roland
Dmitry Khodyakov
Alexandra Pollitt
Marco Hafner
Barbara Janta
Joachim Krapels
Sunil Patil
Ben Baruch
Catherine Saunders
Bryn Garrod