According to a new Aviva report less than half  of UK businesses (46%) believe the measures they currently have in place to reduce absence have clear benefits and over a third (35%) feel they could be doing more as a business to reduce absence, but say it would cost too much, despite the fact that  a third of businesses say they have seen an increase in short (30%) or long (29%) term absence this year.

However – employees report that their health needs are quite simple. Could there be a disparity between what businesses think they need and what employees actually want?

Duvet days reign supreme

The top three health benefits which employees would value, but which are not currently offered by their employers are income protection (23%), critical illness cover (23%) and private medical insurance (22%).
Among wellbeing benefits not currently offered to employees, a duvet day – an unscheduled extra
day off from work – is the most desired with one in five (20%) admitting they would value this.

Mindfulness and Meditation ‘would be valuable’ 

The option of being able to work from home is also high on the list (17%). And reflecting the widespread impact of workplace stress, one in seven (15%) would value sessions such as yoga, meditation or mindfulness to teach them techniques to manage this, but are not currently being offered this benefit.

Moreover, close to half (45%) of employees state that they would use a digital GP service if offered it, with one in five (20%) highlighting it would be helpful as they often cannot get a GP appointment. However, just 17% of businesses currently offer the service.

Health matters

As recent figures from the Institute of Directors (IoD) indicate approximately 127 million hours of work are lost in the UK in a year due to absence from mental health related issues alone, costing the UK approximately 4.5 per cent of its GDP, it’s a key issue.

We’re not talking about the sniffles either. It’s a deep-rooted cultural issue where more than two in five employees (43%) believe their employer prioritises business results over their health and wellbeing and 42% of employees feel stress and anxiety at work.
This lack of awareness regarding the cost of absenteeism could be damaging employers more than
they think – yet only half of employers (54%) say they have a clear understanding of how much employee absence costs them

What’s the solution?

A benefits package

A whopping three quarters of businesses (77%) say the health and wellbeing benefits they currently offer have had a positive impact on employees and 39% of employees say they are more likely to choose an employer if they offer a broad range of health benefits.

Stress relief 
More than two in five employees (42%) admit to often feeling stressed or anxious at work, rising
to more than half (52%) of those aged 18-24. This compares to just 30% of those aged 55-64,
highlighting added pressures being felt among young employees. With their technical capabilities – could your business look at education, apps or software to help?

Ban presenteeism 
Aviva’s research also sheds light on the idea of “presenteeism”– where employees feel a responsibility to work more hours than required, or to go to work when feeling ill. More than two in three (69%) employees admit to having gone into work in the past when they should have been off sick, rising to 75% among 50-54 year olds. In addition, two in five (41%) feel that if they
take time off when ill the work just piles up; a notion felt most by those aged 30-34 (47%) and
falling to 34% among 18-24 year olds.
Businesses approaches to absence management

You need to ensure you have an effective process in place to manage absence and that you take adequate measures to alleviate the impact of employee absence. This could be collecting robust management information, so you can track absence.
Wellbeing benefits 

Gym membership/ discounts, working from home, encouragement to maintain a good work/life
balance, help with healthy eating/offering fresh fruit and healthy food in the office, flexible work hours and stress helplines could all be an option.