Seven reasons SMEs should invest in workplace wellbeing

Louise Shipley is European business team manager of Fellowes, gives us seven tips for implementing a workplace wellbeing scheme.

The cost to business of poor health and wellbeing in the workplace has reached an all-time high. Rising sick leave is costing European businesses a mind-boggling €73 billion per year. With this in mind, more SMEs are turning to workplace wellness programmes to boost employee health. However, some sceptics argue that the return does not always justify their costs.

So, what’s the truth here? Can wellness programs help employers reduce the financial repercussions of bad health?

The answer, most emphatically, is yes. But it might involve challenging some norms first.

We’ll look at seven reasons why investing in your employees will give you greater returns, not just only to your bottom line.

On average, European workers spend a staggering 7 hours sitting in front of a computer each day which adds up to roughly 1800 hours of sitting a year. Part of the route to better health lies in encouraging employees to add more movement during their working day, by alternating between sitting and standing whilst working at their desk.

Some progressive European businesses have already discovered the health and associated wider benefits of this Sit-Stand concept for their workplaces.

SMEs makeup the majority of businesses in the UK, yet find it increasingly difficult to promote wellbeing in the office due to costs, confusion, and lack of access to certain resources.

A way around this obstacle is if SMEs take matters into their own hands by investing in employees through ideas such as a Sit-Stand solution. Since 44 per cent of the UK workforce believes that their employers are not doing enough to take care of their wellbeing, direct intervention by companies would prove that they truly value their workers’ health.

Looking around the world, one region in particular could teach us a thing or two about employee wellbeing. Scandinavia continues to lead in workplace wellbeing, according to the most recent Universum annual happiness index.

In Scandinavia, Sit-Stand solutions are already transforming the working lives of 80 per cent of Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Norwegian employees, helping them to be more productive, healthier and happier. In turn, this is bolstering the bottom-line of its businesses, which is one of the biggest challenges faced by senior management.

Yet if businesses can embrace the concept, they can deliver improved work quality. A huge 58 per cent of workers believe that their work would be of better quality if there was more emphasis on their wellbeing.

Beyond making the workplace more productive, happier and healthier employees also help create a more desirable and unique work environment.

A work culture that prioritises employees’ wellbeing not only makes them stay at their jobs longer, causing fewer turnovers, but also attracts better staff in the long run. When employees feel valued by their business, they put more effort into their jobs, thus creating better quality work.

This includes better personal relationships amongst employees, more innovative ideas to promote growth, and more adaptability in changing environments.

Here are seven sure-fire ways your small business will benefit from investing in Active Working for employee wellbeing:

Reduced absenteeism

Almost a third (32 per cent) of workers have taken an average of two weeks off work due to ailments caused by working at a computer. Standing and moving during the working day can significantly reduce the risk of such symptoms, eliminating the need to take time off sick.

Related: Absenteeism is hitting UK SMEs where it hurts

Higher productivity

Two thirds (60 per cent) of employees claim they are suffering daily ailments caused by being sat at a computer and that their productivity has been affected as a result. According to Stephen Bowden, chartered ergonomist for Morgan Maxwell, ‘Modest gains in staff wellbeing and productivity can deliver significant financial savings.’

Retention of talent

More than half (60 per cent) of HR managers say they have seen good people leave their company because of the work environment.

Attractive employer brand

Nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of European employees believe that companies with strong health and wellbeing ethics attract the best staff. A healthier working environment where talented people do good things for companies that care will help you attract new talent, particularly among younger generations.

Happier employees

Three quarters (72 per cent) of HR managers believe employees would feel happier in an office-based job if they had a sit to stand desk. And happy employees are 12 per cent more productive. They are also good brand ambassadors for your business.

Dynamic culture

Workplace movement can lead to more dynamic, and as a result profitable, teams. Bowden adds, ‘If the physical, social and psychological elements of the organisation are taken into account this will provide a positive culture which will help maintain wellbeing, productivity and competitiveness.’

Top quality work

Two thirds (63 per cent) of HR managers think employees’ work would be of better quality if they stood up to work sometimes. Since employees’ concentration can be boosted to focus more on their work, thus increasing innovation and creativity within the business.

All of these benefits are direct results of a greater focus on workplace wellbeing. And they’re easier to adopt in your business than you may think.

For proof that a workplace wellness programme will boost your bottom line, try the ROI calculator.

Louise Shipley is European business team manager of Fellowes

Further reading on workplace wellbeing

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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