Study: Poor workplace health, stress detrimental to U.K. economy 

According to UK study, improving workplace health and dealing with stress is critical to the economy.

Most employers know that workers who are in poor health or are under stress can bring down the bottom line of a company. They're more likely to call in sick, and when they are in the office, they are less productive. According to a new study, business owners and executives are not the only people who should be concerned about the emotional health of workers, as policymakers have a stake in this issue as well. 

Researchers from the University of Salford, a British institution, and public health consultancy firm Cavill Associates, found that workplace health issues cost the British economy over £100 billion ($166 billion) annually. One reason for the high cost, say the investigators, is that many companies waste time and money on poorly executed workplace health policies. 

What's wrong with the health initiatives that are already in place at many companies? According to the study, most don't address the issues that employees are actually dealing with. They are not relevant and are not well-integrated into a company's overall improvement strategy, and often treated as add-ons. 

In response to the study, a group of public health officials held an open meeting to discuss what businesses could do to boost the morale of workers and improve the economy. Dame Carol Black, a University of Cambridge professor and special advisor to the U.K.'s Department of Health, said that business owners need to be more sensitive about the needs of their employees. 

"What any SME or large company needs to do is consult its workers, because you can't progress health related issues until you know what the workforce issues are," Black said during the meeting, as reported by Industry Today. "Managers must be able to communicate well and they have to listen, and empower employees by giving them some level of autonomy […] if you don't have much resource, start with leadership and managerial behavior."

Other leaders at the meeting proposed that key factors that contribute to workplace stress—work-life balance, fairness and job security—need to be addressed as well. 

The report also reiterated the benefits of using effective workplace health schemes. They cited previous studies that suggest wellness programs are linked to lower rates of absenteeism and increased levels of job satisfaction. 

When organizations need to reduce healthcare costs it is crucial for them to assess the impact of stress on their people. The costs associated with obesity, inactivity, smoking, and other expensive problems like depression and anxiety, are often outcomes of poor stress management, rather than root cause. And so are performance issues like lack of engagement, poor decision making and absenteeism to name a few.

As this study shows, when it comes to decreasing costs providing a generic health and wellness program does not get the job done. Only through assessment and behavior change solutions specifically targeted to manage stress and build resiliency will businesses get the much needed results they are looking for.The answer lies in finding programs that are relevant to the people. The first step is asking them. The next step is listening. And the answer probably has something to do with stress.