Productivity varies massively between industries, says study

High stress and lack of physical activity are causing industries to lose up to 27 days of productive time per employee each year, research finds.

While poor diet, alcohol and cigarettes have a severe effect on long-term health, it is stress and physical activity which have the biggest impact on day-to-day productivity, according to a study by VitalityHealth, Mercer, the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe.

Productivity varies enormously between industries, with some industries losing almost 27 days of productive time per employee per year, compared to a national average of 23.5 days. Healthcare and financial services lose 26.6 and 24.9 days per employee a year respectively, while high-tech loses just 18.9 days per employee per year.

The financial implications of this productivity loss are huge, with the UK losing £57 billion a year on average in lost productivity.

Work-related stress plays a significant role in the productivity losses incurred, with 73 per cent of employees nationally suffering from at least one dimension of work-related stress. Those industries with higher productivity losses typically have higher levels of work-related stress.

Physical activity levels in financial services are in line with the national average, but in healthcare fall below the average of 64.4 per cent, with just 62.2 per cent of workers falling into the healthy range.

The high-tech industry, on the other hand, scores highest in the productivity stakes, losing just 19 days per employee per year. High-tech industry employees are the most physically active, with 71.5 per cent of employees in the healthy range, and are also the least stressed.

Shaun Subel, strategy director at VitalityHealth says that, although alcohol consumption, poor diet and smoking have a significant impact on long-term health, it is clear to see that day-to-day productivity loss centres on physical activity and stress levels.

‘Within the significant industry fluctuations, it is quite worrying to see that even in high-tech, the best-performing sector in terms of productivity, 19 days of productive time is still lost by each employee each year,’ he adds.

On an individual company basis, where there is an increased investment in health promotion, the proportion of employees in good or excellent health grows, while the costs to productivity associated with absenteeism and presenteeism reduce.

‘We would urge all companies, and especially those in sectors suffering from acute productivity loss, to invest in the health and wellbeing of their staff. Reducing workplace stress and encouraging employees to stay physically active should help increase productivity levels and protect the business bottom line,’ adds Subel. 

Chris Bailey, partner at Mercer says, ‘Modern working practices and the make-up of roles within the UK’s workforce has impacted on the health of individuals significantly. Technology has allowed a more sedentary working life to become the norm whilst the rise of the UK’s service economy has reduced the number of manual workers and physical activity.

‘But individual employers can, and do, act to buck these trends and create competitive advantage within their peer group by doing so. It’s no surprise that new tech firms without legacy working practices have lower levels of stress, and lower lost productivity, while more established industries sometimes struggle to implement change and create a healthy working environment.’

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