New research has found that nearly two-thirds of HR directors and risk managers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) place stress and mental health conditions at the top of their concerns regarding employee health and wellbeing.">

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The survey by risk management and human resources specialist Aon which spanned 22 countries also found that 53% of respondents saw employees’ physical health as their biggest issue today and in the future.

Unhealthy employee lifestyles were also cited among key concerns with 94% of respondents also believing that employers are responsible for influencing employee health and changing behaviours.


Employee health and their performance at work

The research also revealed that a huge majority – 93% – saw a correlation between employee performance and their health.

Despite this, just 56% said they connected their organisation’s insurable employee benefits with their health strategy. In addition, only 40% thought they had a clear understanding of the health issues currently affecting their organisation. However, those lacking that insight appear to have recognised the importance of tackling that knowledge gap with 65% planning to take action to address it.

The emergence of mental health as a key concern among HR professional is perhaps unsurprising given it is already a major cause of sickness absence. In the UK the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development’s (CIPD) annual Absence Management survey found that two-fifths of organisations have witnessed increases in stress related absence and rises in reported mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.


What health conditions are causing employee absences?

The CIPD found that stress was the cause of 43% of short term absences among manual workers, rising to 52% for non-manual staff. For mental ill health the figures were 31% and 33% respectively. Both were also key triggers of long term absences, topped only by acute medical conditions such as strokes and cancer in the list of causes.


Invest in Employee Health Benefits to maximise performance

The Aon research further highlights the need for joined-up thinking in tackling the health and wellbeing of employees in order to maximise in-work performance. Currently it seems that whilst the health-productivity correlation is recognised, many HR professionals are constrained by budgets from implementing health strategies.

Such financial limitations could be counter-productive and, it might be argued, confuse cost with investment. The CIPD estimates the average (median) annual cost of absence per employee is now £554, a figure which may be mitigated through the provision of relatively low-cost company medical insurance or a wider employee benefits programme. These might also bring other rewards such as enhancing staff retention and giving a competitive edge in the recruitment market.

If you’d like to discuss how your company could benefit from private medical insurance or a bespoke employee benefits programme, please call our group risk specialists on 01254 504910, or contact us online.