How an effective wellbeing strategy can reduce absence and turnover

Written by Camille Brouard

Absence and turnover can be two of the biggest costs to an organisation, as well as two of the most difficult issues to manage.

Staff absence and turnover can also indicate the effectiveness of an organisation when it comes to wellbeing – if employee wellbeing is low, absence from work and staff leaving their jobs commonly result. On the other hand, if employees are health and happy in their jobs, they’ll be less likely to take time off work or leave their job due to stress, mental ill health, or burnout.

Mandy Bisson from Sorrel Consulting, who develops and manages the implementation of, wellbeing strategies says “Nothing is more valuable to a business than having a healthy, happy and inspired workforce.  This can be achieved through a robust and measurable wellbeing strategy that is properly integrated to the business, but so often such strategies fail to have the desired impact as they are quickly put together in a one size fits all, sticky plaster or reactive way”

Here we’ll take a look at how having an effective wellbeing strategy can help reduce absence and turnover, for the benefit of both employees and the business.

Wellbeing and absence

According to the CIPD annual health and well-being at work survey for people professionals, in 2020 the most common reasons for long-term absence from work were mental ill health (59%), musculoskeletal injuries (53%), stress (46%), and acute medical conditions (46%).

Organisations have also reported a rise in stress-related absence, with heavy workloads and management style being cited as the top reasons for stress. 60% reported an increase in common mental health conditions among employees.

This should certainly be a cause for alarm for employers, as Deloitte reported in 2020 that poor mental health costs UK employers £45 billion each year, rising 16% since 2016.

A note on presenteeism

It’s not only absence that organisations need to look out for – presenteeism (working while sick or otherwise disengaged) is also a huge issue, costing employees in terms of their health and businesses in terms of productivity levels. The same Deloitte study mentioned above showed that poor mental health costs mostly stemmed from presenteeism and an ‘always-on’ culture.

So, a low level of absence doesn’t necessarily mean employees are doing and feeling well; in fact, presenteeism means employees often aren’t resting when they need to and this leads to further risk of burnout and long-term absence.

How an effective wellbeing strategy reduces absenteeism

Having an effective wellbeing strategy in place means you’re being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to the issues that are big causes of absence (or presenteeism), such as stress and mental ill health.

By having resources employees can access if they are struggling, as well initiatives to help prevent or ease stress and burnout, you can address issues before they get to the point of absence, particularly the costly long-term absences that can stem from unhealthy levels of stress or mental health issues.

Wellbeing and turnover

It’s no secret that poor staff wellbeing has an impact on turnover. Some of the most prominent reasons for staff turnover are the very same as those the CIPD attributes to stress-related absence, including overwhelming workloads and poor management. Kronos and Future Workplace reported in 2017 that 95% of the HR leaders they asked said that burnout was negatively affecting retention and turnover in their organisations.

In a nutshell, employees will tend to leave businesses that are not prioritising their wellbeing, so a high staff turnover rate can be indicative that something isn’t right on a cultural or managerial level. It’s also definitely in an employer’s interest to tackle and reduce a high staff turnover rate – as replacing an employee costs an average of £30,614 per employee, according to an Oxford Economics study. Turnover can also impact productivity and morale in remaining employees.

How an effective wellbeing strategy reduces turnover

Health and wellbeing initiatives, from exercise programs to offering more generous compassionate leave, are shown to reduce turnover levels in organisations. Moreso than this, it’s important to have an overarching wellbeing strategy that reflects and helps transforms your workplace culture into one where employees are managed well, supported, and feel heard if they do have an issue or a suggestion on how to improve their role.

By making sure staff wellbeing is a core tenet of your culture, you will have happier and healthier staff who are less likely to want to leave, even if an attractive offer from a competitor comes along. This can have a huge positive impact on your retention levels and turnover rate.

Creating an effective wellbeing strategy for your organisation

Many employers struggle to know where to start when it comes to adopting a wellbeing strategy, even though they understand that this will help their employees and the business. This is understandable, as there are so many aspects to wellbeing!

At Your Employee Wellbeing, we work with businesses to help support their employees’ health and wellbeing, thereby supporting the organisation in its own goals. We have a variety of wellbeing programmes suited to businesses of all sizes that can be tailored to your requirements and number of employees.



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