After enduring a difficult year where many businesses were obliged to reduce headcount, the survey of 500 employers with 5-1000 employees from the trade body for the group risk industry, found maintaining a good work/life balance for staff remaining in the business ranked as the top health issue for more than one in five employers (21%). This is ahead of stress and mental health issues (19%) – currently cited as the most common cause for workplace absence.
The results suggest employers appreciate a long hours culture can be beneficial in the first instance but can lead to problems with morale and could further increase stress related absence in the longer term.
Just under a third (32%) of employers suggest their absence rate has improved over the last 12 months with 50% believing their absence rate is lower than the industry average.
Survey respondents seem poised to take action to improve the situation in 2012. More than one in three (38%) said taking steps to improve work/life balance was top priority. By comparison, 27% said actively managing workplace stress was their key goal.
Katharine Moxham, spokeswoman for GRiD, said: “A strong work/life balance is often overlooked as a major health issue to businesses, compared to more direct factors such as dealing with chronic conditions. But, the economic situation seems to have provided a timely reminder for businesses to take action to rectify unsustainable working practice.
“In times of increased economic pressure it is particularly important for employers to consider the impact a long hours culture can have on the wellbeing of their employees and to develop strategies for dealing with the fall out such as, for example, increased stress related absence.
“As welfare reform moves forward, any business that has already embraced the value of integrated health, wellbeing and absence programmes will feel vindicated while businesses that have not already understood how crucial this is will come to do so.”