Eight out of ten of Britain’s small and medium sized businesses don’t have a health and wellbeing strategy in place, a study has found.
Despite attitudes towards wellbeing in the workplace generally improving a whopping 82 per cent of SME business leaders confessed they don’t have a process in place – but half said they would like to have one.
The results show half reckon they set a good example for health and wellbeing within their organisation.
But little is being done about this as the same research polling 1,500 employees at SMEs found 67 per cent experience stress or anxiety related to their job.
And nearly half said they continue to ‘power through’ even when feeling under the weather.
The study, also involving 200 business leaders, was commissioned by AXA PPP healthcare to highlight why health and wellbeing can no longer be ignored or treated as a ‘nice to have’.
It also emerged just shy of a quarter of professionals don’t see a GP because they’re worried about taking time off work.
Speaking at the second instalment of The AXA Growth Leaders Series, hosted by The Supper Club, wellbeing expert and entrepreneur, Liz Earle MBE said not prioritising the health and wellbeing of employees is a real business risk.
“Whether you’re leading a multi-national organisation or a small start-up, your employees are the most valuable asset.
“Leaders who support and enable a wellbeing-focused workplace can enjoy a more productive and profitable business.
“It’s often been said that if you look after your people, they will look after your customers, which drives your bottom line. But it’s also important for business leaders to note that you can’t look after your employees – or your business – if you don’t look after yourself.
“Leading by example and embedding good wellbeing habits in the workplace is incredibly important.
“In small businesses leaders are often more visible among their team and can create the positive environment that helps their people thrive.”
Nearly half of SME employees don’t feel like they have the time to look after their wellbeing, and a quarter are still reluctant to take a rest and recovery break for fear of letting the team down.
But it’s not just coughs and colds keeping hard-working adults from leaving their workload behind, as one fifth felt guilty for taking time away from their desk for lunch.
And more than a quarter send and receive emails outside of work hours, suggesting an ‘always on’ mentality could be contributing to the mounting health issues experienced in small businesses.
AXA PPP healthcare CEO Tracy Garrad said: “Burnout is now recognised by the World Health Organisation as an occupational phenomenon. It’s becoming a workplace epidemic that poses significant risks for small businesses.
“While it’s encouraging that 41 per cent of small business leaders polled said they’d like to have a health and wellbeing strategy, more needs to be done to move the dial and change perceptions about health and wellbeing measures being the sole preserve of larger organisations.
“The reality is small businesses make up more than half the UK’s total workforce and their employees are crying out for greater support.”
The study, conducted via OnePoll, also found just 15 per cent felt their company provide a culture which supports their mental health.
Despite 46 per cent agreeing they feel well informed of the health and wellbeing offering from their employer, just 22 per cent make the most use of these benefits.
And just 13 per cent feel the organisation they work for provides good benefits as part of a health and wellbeing strategy in the first instance.
Positively, nearly two-thirds of SME professionals working for an organisation with a health and wellbeing strategy in place agreed it’s showing significant improvement.
Half of employees reckon they would feel less stressed, and two-fifths would see an improvement in productivity, if a wellbeing strategy was introduced.
A further 35 per cent said it would boost their job satisfaction, with 22 per cent even saying it would make them more likely to stay at their job for longer.
The research also found additional holiday for length of service, flexible hours and private medical insurance were among the top priorities for staff at SMEs if they had the choice among other health and wellbeing benefits.
EJ Flynn, MD of The Supper Club added: “We have found the founders who take the time to ask their teams what would make the greatest improvement to their health and wellbeing see better levels of engagement from their team, less absenteeism, greater retention of staff and greater productivity.
“The initiatives do not have to be really complicated, but they must be bespoke to your business. For instance, yoga and meditation may be right for one group, but flexible or remote working may be better suited to others.”