by Alex Palmer | January 03, 2013
Employers are placing a growing emphasis on boosting their workforce’s health and wellness, but worker stress remains a top challenge, according to Aviva’s latest Health of the Workplace report. The annual study from the U.K.-based health insurance company found a growing number of employers working to encourage healthy behavior from their employees.

About two thirds (65 percent) of employers say it’s more important than ever to protect the heath of their employees, with 43 percent offering programs to encourage work-life balance, 21 percent promoting healthy eating, and the same amount offering cycle-to-work program. These efforts have had an impact on employees: 57 percent said that if they feel healthy, they are more productive at work, while 52 percent believe that they are more loyal to an employer if they helped them look after their health.

“Over the years we’ve seen an increased appetite for workplace wellbeing,” said Mark Noble, health director for UK Life for Aviva, in the report. “Moreover, we’ve seen a gradual recognition of the importance of putting proactive solutions into place to help keep employees healthy and aid early intervention.”

Part of this growing emphasis on employee motivation may be rooted in the growing expectations for many jobs. The report found that two thirds (66 percent) of employers said they need their employees to work harder than ever before, and 28 percent said their staff appears to be working longer hours. And employers may underestimate the requirements of the job, as 55 percent of employees report that a high-pressure work environment has become the norm, compared to just 26 percent of employers who said the same. 

Indeed, stress-related illness was reported as the top health issue at companies, with more than half of employee respondents (53 percent) stating that it is a problem in their workplace. Employers seemed to be taking the concerns seriously, with 31 percent reporting that they introduced new initiatives to help workers manage stress, such as training managers to recognize signs of stress, or offering employee helplines.

“Employees are weathering the storm well — with many reporting they’re now leading a healthier lifestyle than they were a year ago,” says Noble. “Employers also recognize the importance of offering the right support to keep their workforce healthy and productive.”

The full report can be downloaded on Aviva's website