Study raises Millennial wellbeing and productivity concerns

Millennials are dogged by financial worries and report low levels of physical activity, according to 'Britain’s Healthiest Workplace' data, leading to concerns for the demographic's wellbeing and productivity.

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The findings from the study of 34,000 UK employees paint of a vivid picture of the impact of low wages, job insecurity and poorer social mobility prospects for the first generation to join the labour force after the global financial crisis.According to the consortium research for the Britain’s Healthiest Workforce report, which is backed by insurers VitalityHealth, global HR consultancy Mercer, the University of Cambridge and research body RAND Europe, there is a "lost generation" that has the greatest financial concerns and is the least physically active.This is leading to employees aged 35 and under to lose the highest average amount of productive time due to absenteeism and presenteeism, say the authors. The data ties into another recent study that suggests older workers are more productive, not least due to healthier lifestyles.

Physical activity in Millennials

BHW data shows employees under 35 years old are the least physically active in the workforce, have a high proportion of smokers and eat the least fruit and vegetables each day.It also indicates 35 per cent of 26–30 year old employees are physically inactive, completing less than 150 minutes of exercise a week (the World Health Organisation recommendation). Nearly 14 per cent of this age group also smokes.Comparatively, the same data suggests older employees have healthier habits. Just over a fifth (22.5%) of 56–60 year olds are physically inactive and only a small proportion (6.1%) smokes.

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Stress and financial concerns in Millennials

High stress levels can have major impacts on employee productivity at work, which in turn has cost implications for the employer. The study found on average employees aged 35 or under report the highest levels of financial concerns.This same age group also loses up to 30 days at work due to absence and underperformance due to ill-health, also known as ‘presenteeism’. Workers in this age bracket lose more than an entire working month of productive time annually.In comparison, employees aged 56–60 reported up to 13 per cent less financial concerns and lose on average just 19.6 days annually due to absence or presenteeism.

A ‘lost generation’?

“Ill-health, unhealthy lifestyles and financial stress are all factors associated with employees losing productive time at work,” said Chris Bailey, partner at Mercer. “Employees 35 years old and under have become part of a ‘lost generation’, suffering both health-wise and financially as a result of the recession. It is important to keep this ‘lost generation’ healthy and active as we know that they will be working longer than generations before them.“These employees are the future of work and companies should invest in them through holistic wellbeing programmes which include physical and mental health, financial wellbeing and other associated areas such as social interaction and personal development. It’s important to take a view of what makes a person truly ‘well’ and able to be as productive as possible over a sustained period.”

Raising the game on productivity

Shaun Subel, director of strategy at VitalityHealth, adds: “When examining the UK’s productivity challenge we have seen that demographic factors such as age and income play a key role, with the younger generation and lower earners being particularly susceptible to high levels of absence and presenteeism.“While young people are naturally less affected by clinical and chronic health conditions, our results show that in terms of lifestyle health they are in fact worse off than their older counterparts – they get less exercise, are less likely to eat healthily and are more likely to smoke, suggesting that people become more health-conscious in their behaviour as they age.‘In parallel, the younger generation suffers more from financial concerns, and is shown to be significantly less engaged in work, pointing to the effect of the financial crisis in damaging job prospects and wage progression for this ‘lost generation’ of workers.”

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