UK productivity is on a steady decline, with slow growth since the 2008 economic crash. What is causing this?

Productivity is essential for the workplace to function. Nevertheless, many employers fail to see how health and safety increases productivity.

How Health and Safety Increases Productivity

During the 2017-2018 period, more than a million UK workers suffered from work-related illnesses. Almost half were anxiety, depression or stress while more than a third involved musculoskeletal disorders.

There's no doubt that employee health costs are expensive, US businesses paying out more than a trillion dollars in lost productivity. Furthermore, people with serious health problems are prone to accidents and poor judgement in the workplace.

However, work-related illness and lost productivity are avoidable. For example, implementing a health programme helps employees:

  • Prevent the onset of a disease
  • Stop the worsening of a present illness
  • Adopt a healthier lifestyle

Health care costs continue to rise — and productivity continues to fall — every year. Initiating health programmes will encourage engagement and participation amongst staff. Of course, changing workplace behaviour does not happen overnight.

The company's role in employee health care

Let's face it: companies have the responsibility of helping employees adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Now, the company, with your help, can set up a supportive workplace culture. Wellness and incentive programmes can emphasise healthy behaviours. As a result, the company, staff and the community benefit tremendously.

You may further implement various health care initiatives such as:

  • Smoking cessation programmes
  • Health fairs
  • Gym memberships
  • Newsletters

How Companies Should Treat Their Employees' Health

Besides productivity, there are numerous reasons for keeping employees healthy:

  • The right thing to do
  • Improves profit margin
  • Lower spending on health care and disability benefits

Instead of seeing health care as a cost, companies should see it as an essential investment. While top management may be reluctant, those with foresight will reap the rewards: health and safety increases productivity.

Investing in employee well-being is part of a company’s social responsibility. If there are doubters, engage them by clarifying that health and safety increases productivity.

How to engage your employees

For starters, read the Pro-Sapien employee engagement cheat sheet.

Engaging employees should not distract you from ensuring the current working environment breeds productivity. For instance, employees may be working long hours with insufficient breaks or holidays — both negatively affecting their well-being and productivity.

A health and safety expert offers one solution: letting workers enjoy an extended lunch break once a week, giving them the chance to exercise or relax. If this is not an option, there are many others.

Importance of education and training

Promoting workplace health requires education and training. For example, managers and employees can receive mental health awareness training.

However, education alone doesn't change behaviour. You need to to institute a long-term commitment that can promote healthy, habit forming actions. Of course, such engagement will only succeed if the employee is willing.

Why Employee Happiness Matters

We are often taught that workplace success will lead to happiness. However, excessive hours spent at work leads to a downturn in happiness and productivity.

In today’s business organisation, every member must be fit, healthy and happy. Companies can achieve such a goal. However, they will need to create a work culture that promotes well-being in every aspect of employees’ lives. Most people spend most of their time at work and so they must be happy there.

When employees are healthy and happy, they will be less likely to leave. High turnover of staff is not viewed positively by most organisations. The results of employees’ departure can result in:

  • Lower productivity: this will lead to clients having to wait longer for their order or product
  • Additional costs for hiring replacements: hiring new people is expensive, especially if there's a shortage of available talent or skilled people.


Many business organisations now realise the importance of their employees’ well-being, and how health and safety increases productivity.

It’s also critical that employers stop viewing workers as an expense. Instead, by providing the means to help employees become more fit, they can improve their profitability. Also, by implementing a sustainable programme, the benefits to employees and employers will result in increased productivity and lower health care spending. However, you will have to find and implement specific courses of action to achieve such goals.

Health & Safety vs. Productivity What's the evidence? Get the facts in this article →


  • Simon Bliss

    Simon Bliss is the Managing Director of Principal People, the 1st specialist recruitment consultancy in health and safety.

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