Investment in worker wellbeing paying off for manufacturing industry

Updated: Aug 17


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Image credit: Guillaume Bolduc

Manufacturing businesses across the country are reaping the rewards of supporting staff wellbeing, including increased productivity and staff retention, and fewer days of worker absence


Currently in the UK, the state pension age is 66. That means that if you were to start working as soon as legally possible, you would spend 50 years of your life in a job. Taking into account the current average UK life expectancy of 81 years, that means that around 60% of our lives will feature work in some form.


These figures are often cited as a key reason for making jobs and workplaces into far more wellbeing-friendly aspects of life. And there's no doubt that employers have (in part) listened. A typical UK city office will feature a break room, common room or cafe, as well as a 'chill out' area complete with TVs and maybe even a table tennis table or two. Many companies even offer meditation and yoga classes for free.


It's not just the white collar industry where changes can be seen though. In recent years, manufacturing businesses have adopted a greater focus on wellbeing, particularly at times when social restrictions have been at their strictest due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And it looks like their focus has paid off for themselves and their workers.


In a new poll by Make UK, half of all manufacturing businesses that took part in the research said they have increased their spend on wellbeing support since the beginning of the pandemic. Only 5% had reduced their wellbeing budgets.


Specific changes businesses have made include the appointment of a board director dedicated to wellbeing, which was an action taken by 29% of respondents. A further 22% have assigned this responsibility to a senior manager. Almost 6 in 10 (57%) of businesses have provided support for their workers, with 35% providing in-house specialist services. One third (31%) of companies now have regular wellbeing calls with their staff.


Regular wellbeing events to boost team morale have also been a common adjustment (27%), as well as regular check in calls with employees (46%).

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The result of this focus on employee wellbeing? Increased productivity, better staff retention, and fewer days lost to sickness.


Considering the financial implications of the pandemic on businesses, the findings indicate true intent from manufacturing businesses to support their staff, says Verity Davidge, Make UK’s director of policy.


“There is a clear message from manufacturers that they realise a healthy and happy workforce is an effective one. Employers have recognised that the last year has been very difficult for employees and managers have gone that extra mile to help their staff cope.


“Wellbeing is clearly becoming properly embedded as a working priority for UK manufacturers and those who are doing this well are seeing the benefits to their companies too – keeping their staff for longer, higher productivity and fewer days lost of absence.”


Potential to undermine


Although Make UK's poll highlights the positive effects that a focus on employee wellbeing can have, other recent data has uncovered the pitfalls of not coupling these measures with a sense of trust.


In a worldwide survey of more than 32,000 workers from 17 countries, human resources software and services company ADP found that 40% of workers felt more scrutinised than ever with regards to their timekeeping and attendance.


Jeff Phipps, managing director of ADP in UK and Ireland, said that is was important that companies weren't too 'heavy-handed' in their monitoring of employees, for fear of undermining the company's efforts.


"Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all policy, and businesses must be careful to avoid superficial responses," he commented. "At the moment, organisations and individuals alike are experiencing change on an almost continual basis, so it is also important to acknowledge that what works today in terms of mental health approaches may not work exactly the same tomorrow.


“Mental health in the workplace is by no means a new concern, but the huge changes of Covid-19 have cast a spotlight on the support employees need from their organisations. It is encouraging to see so many businesses recognise this need – some responding proactively to mitigate the emotional and psychological toll of a global pandemic."


Download and read the full ADPRI report here.


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health