According to the newest Wellness in the Workplace Survey from Southern Cross Health Society and BusinessNZ, New Zealand lost approximately 6.6 million working days last year to employee illness, at a cost of $1.51 billion
This is the third iteration of the survey, and those behind it have said that they can now use it to observe trends about workplace wellness and absences in New Zealand, and their causes.
“In 2016, New Zealand lost an average of 6.6 million working days to absence and, reflecting over the life of the survey, we can now see the country loses an average of 6.1 million to 6.7 million days annually,” said BusinessNZ’s chief executive Kirk Hope. “For employers, the direct cost of an absent employee is typically between $600 and $1,000 annually.”
The survey took in 109 businesses in the private and public sectors, representing more than 93,000 employees, or five per cent of the total workforce in New Zealand. According to the results, the primary causes of absence from work are non-work related injuries or illnesses, followed by sick or injured family members or dependents requiring that workers take time off to care for them. The average rate of absence, per employee, was between 4.5 and five days.
Additionally, the survey found that stress levels are on the rise, with anxieties on the part of workers driven by growing workloads.
“Last year, we surveyed more than 500 of our corporate customers and for those that have a wellbeing initiative in place, their top motivator for doing so is to reduce stress,” said Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick. “But New Zealand is by no means unique in this area. It’s estimated around 38 per cent of the world’s workers are suffering from excessive pressure on the job.”
Happily, the survey found that businesses both large and small are increasingly likely to have employee assistance programmes in place in order to help their workforce better manage stress – although three out of four businesses unfortunately do not have policy procedures in place specifically catering to older employees.
“There’s recognition now that wellness programmes can boost factors like staff engagement, productivity and retention,” said Astwick. “During our lifetimes, most of us will spend about 90,000 hours at work, so it makes sense for employers to support the health and wellbeing of their staff while they’re on the job – it’s a win-win.”