The BHF polled over 1,300 UK workers and found more than two thirds of workers (71%) had gone to work despite being too unwell to do their job. Two fifths (40%) had put off going to the doctors because of their job while almost two in ten (19%) had postponed a scheduled hospital appointment.
The findings showed two fifths (41%) of workers felt their job has had a negative impact on their health with a fifth (21%) of employees fearing their stress levels could lead to a heart attack.
One of the main reasons workers put their job first was they felt they had too much work to do to take time off (40%), whilst some felt employee health and wellbeing was not a high priority for their employer.
The BHF is calling on all UK employers to reverse this trend by making health in the workplace a top business priority. The charity says the businesses that do this reap the benefits of improved employee health and morale as well as increased productivity and a healthier bottom line.
Sickness absence costs UK businesses an estimated £29bn a year. However research shows 82% of companies with employee wellness programmes saw reduced sickness absence and 33% saw reduced staff turnover.
Through its Health at Work programme the BHF works with more than 9,500 organisations to set up schemes that help workers be more active, eat a better diet, quit smoking and reduce their stress.
Lisa Young, Project Manager for the BHF’s Health at Work programme, said: “This research is another reminder that health and wellbeing at work isn’t taken seriously enough, with millions of people putting their health at risk because of the stresses of their job.
“Delaying medical attention no matter what your ailment can come at a terrible cost, not only to people’s long-term health but also to businesses.
“From working with more than 9,500 organisations across the UK, we’ve seen the businesses that invest in health at work reap the rewards of improved productivity, less sickness absence, higher retention and a healthier bottom line. Making this a higher priority should be a simple business decision.”
Maureen Hennis, 66, from Argyll, underwent heart surgery twice after suffering a heart attack in 2004 and 2011 due to work-related stress.
Maureen said: “I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t even know if it was safe to sneeze. I used to work really long hours. I could be at my desk at 7am and not leave until 10pm.
“The trouble is if you love what you do it can be really difficult to switch off. Even after my heart attack I was still responding to emails and was back at work part-time within two months.
“After my second cardiac event I still went back to work for six months. It was then I realised enough was enough. I needed to put my health first.”
Transport company Arriva is partnering with the BHF to launch their pedometer challenge, encouraging employees to get more active and collectively walk over 100million steps to raise money for the charity.
Malcolm Cotterell, Head of Employee Engagement and Benefits at Arriva – UK, said: “We want to help our employees see that, despite working shifts around the clock, and having to sit down a lot at work, being more active is possible and vital to reducing their risk of future health problems.
“We want our people to be fighting fit. By taking part in the BHF’s pedometer challenge, and joining their Health at Work programme, we have a great opportunity to get the message out to our workforce that every step counts towards a healthier lifestyle.
“Last year was a huge success with many people walking part of their way to work, and we’ve already been inundated with people wanting to take part this year. It just goes to show the benefits a bit of healthy competition can bring.”
To sign up to the BHF’s free Health at Work programme visit www.bhf.org.uk/health-at-work
1) All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,096 adults, of whom 1,384 were UK workers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd – 3rd December 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
2) PWC Research, 2014
3) PricewaterhouseCoopers – Building the Case for Wellness, 2008
Source: British Heart Foundation (BHF)