The CIPD and Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at work survey is a useful annual benchmark for where employers are when it comes to their health and wellbeing practices. The data used in this year's survey was compiled prior to the current coronavirus outbreak.
The 2019 survey saw the lowest ever average absence rate and high levels of presenteeism (attending work while unwell) and leaveism (for example working outside contracted hours or while on holiday) and the 2020 version sees a continuation of those trends.
This year the absence rate has dropped again, albeit only marginally, from an average of 5.9 days per employee per year to an average of 5.8 days. While on the surface that seems like a positive, the increasing amount of presenteeism - something that was observed by 89% of respondents over the past 12 months, with 27% saying it was increasing - casts doubt on how accurately the low absence rate reflects the health of the workforce. The warnings regarding people working when ill not adding value to their organisation and instead exposing themselves and those around them to more serious health issues has an added weight to them given the current circumstances.
Leaveism was observed by 73% of respondents over the past 12 months, a factor that may be connected to the fact that nearly two fifths of respondents have also seen an increase in stress-related absence. Heavy workloads and management style are once again cited as the top two causes of stress at work. These are both issues that are within the control of employers which raises questions about why they aren't being effectively addressed. The inability of employees to switch off outwith of work hours - the main negative impact of technology on employee well-being - is also likely to be a contributory factor.
While mental ill-health remains the most common cause of long-term absence, minor illness remains the most common cause of short-term absence. Return to work interviews and trigger mechanisms are the most common methods used to manage both short and long-term absence.
The importance of the senior team within a business making a serious and visible commitment to the health and well-being of staff is emphasised as being an essential prerequisite to an effective well-being programme. This was a point that was made in 2019 and it seems that little progress has been made. Another key point that was identified last year was the need for line managers to buy into the importance of wellbeing and this year's survey reports that 58% of respondents believe this has happened, a 7% increase on last year. However, while more line managers are buying into the importance of wellbeing, the survey highlights that it remains the case that not enough organisations are equipping them with the knowledge and skills to support good mental health in the workplace. Improving the provision of appropriate training will be key moving forward.
The full report can be found here.