Stress and lack of physical activity for employees are top workplace issues, says survey

Author: PM editorial | Date: 27 Apr 2016

To design an effective health and productivity strategy, organisations must understand the concerns of their workforce recommends Willis Towers Watson

The top concerns for employers are the levels of stress experienced by their employees and a lack of physical exercise, according to new research by Willis Towers Watson.
 
This is despite the fact that nine out of 10 Asia Pacific employers say that an ‘unwavering commitment to health and productivity’ is a core component of their organisation’s overall health strategy.
 
The report said that, around the world “businesses are facing the reality of a productivity slowdown.” To combat this, they recommend that organisations implement an effective health and productivity strategy that will reduce absence rates, boost engagement and improve productivity. But first, said the report, employers must understand underlying workforce issues.
 
Of the organisations surveyed in Southeast Asia, 56 per cent believed that stress was an issue for their workforces. Lack of physical activity was identified as a problem for 52 per cent; obesity, 40 per cent; smoking, 33 per cent; and lack of sleep by another third of organisations. The only global region in the survey where lack of sleep was more problematic was in China.
 
These problems are combining to “create an increase in preventable chronic disease, [which] poses a significant problem for employers,” said the report.
 
The survey asked both employers and employees were asked what they believed to be the source of most stress, and there was a big difference in the results. Out of 14 issues that could contribute to stress, employees said that ‘’low pay’ was the number one issue. Employers ranked it tenth, believing ‘lack of work-life balance’ to be the top cause of stress among the workforce.
 
Another big discrepancy was ‘company culture’, which ranked highly among the employees’ causes of stress – but was not believed to be a big contributing factor by organisations.
 
Willis Towers Watson said: “Employer and employee perspectives often diverge, and this divergence is most apparent when it comes to sources of stress. Employers highlight work/life balance issues, but employees are focused on adequate pay, the right resources to do their work, and a work environment that allows them to be effective.”
 
Professor Remus Ilies, an expert on employee stress at the University of Singapore’s Business School says empowering employees is the way forward: “When employees have control over their job, their blood pressure remains stable even when there is high workload.”