Is UK Plc losing the stress battle?

Jan 19 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

New research accuses UK employers of only paying lip service to health and fitness in the workplace, with fewer than three out of ten firms offering on-site facilities such as a gym, aerobic sessions, yoga or other forms of relaxation to help staff let off steam.

With government figures revealing that stress costs the UK economy around £3.7 billion a year with half a million people currently suffering levels that make them ill, research by corporate wellbeing experts, research by Catalyst Health & Fitness suggests that stress alleviation needs to be much higher up the business agenda.

Despite a raft of legislation making it increasingly risky for companies to ignore the stress levels of their employees, Catalyst found that eight out of ten are doing little address the issue. This is despite the fact that more than nine out of ten HR professionals agree that regular health and fitness programmes for employees would increase innovation and productivity and reduce sickness and absenteeism rates.

Yet, almost three-quarters of companies do not even incentivise employees with free or discounted off-site gym membership as part of their benefits packages.

Catalyst also found that HR professionals - the very people who would be expected to champion and implement work/life balance and fitness within organisations - are failing to take care of their own health. Fewer than one in seven of those questioned said that they always take a full lunch break and almost eight out of ten said that they only occasionally take a full lunch break.

The situation is similar amongst senior management. Fewer than one in three of the organisations surveyed include health and fitness incentives as part of their rewards package for top executives.

However on a more positive note, more than six out of ten of organisations have made some headway by installing healthy vending machines, introducing no smoking policies or generally encouraging stress management.

"Enlightened companies can use health and fitness as a tool to improve motivation and reduce stress levels," said Jon Denoris, of Catalyst Health & Fitness

"Naturally, employers will expect that such an investment will also help to boost productivity and performance. However, only health and fitness initiatives that are also driven by a genuine desire to improve workplace satisfaction will succeed in the long-term."