Southern Cross Health Insurance has released the findings from its sixth edition of the BusinessNZ Workplace Wellness Survey.
The report represents 12 years of data to guide organisations and their health and wellbeing approach throughout New Zealand.
According to the survey, absences are at the highest rate ever – 5.5 days per employee. This compares with a range of 4.2 to 4.7 days for 2012–2020.
The average number of days off for manual workers (7.1 days) and non-manual workers (4.6 days) were the highest recorded for the survey. This difference (2.5 days) is the highest seen.
When projected across the New Zealand workforce, the increase in average days lost per employee and the ongoing lift in total number of employers combined meant the time lost due to absence in 2022 was close to 10 million working days. This was up from 7.3 million in 2020 and 7.4 million in 2018.
The financial impact of absence has increased too. The cost to an employer for a typical employee’s absence in annual terms now stands at NZ$1,235. The direct costs of absence amounted to $2.86 billion across the economy in 2022, up from $1.85 billion in 2020.
Non work-related illness – including Covid-19 – remains the most common cause of absence, followed by ‘caring for an unwell family member or dependent.’
Working from home
Working from home is now a standard feature of the working environment, with more than half of organisations allowing more people to do so since 2021.
One to two days per week continues to be the most common option for working from home, although three to four days is showing increased use. However, many small businesses are unable to offer working from home.
While businesses believe working from home has been a positive move, employee feelings of isolation and a reduction in collaborative activities are still evident.
Working remotely is also now a consideration for a large proportion of organisations, particularly larger companies.
The 2022 results saw organisations reporting greater stress or anxiety levels among their staff.
When asked about the change in direction of general stress levels, 49.7 per cent of businesses observed an increase in stress in 2022. Although down from 2020, it was still the second highest reading in the survey’s history.
Around one in five companies reported instances of quiet quitting – doing the absolute minimum requirements of the job – while a similar proportion of enterprises were unsure.
General workload remained the biggest work-related stress issue, while for non-work-related stress it was now financial concerns, with relationships outside work dropping to second place.
Relationships with staff
Larger enterprises focused on Employee Assistance Programmes and vaccinations as benefits to improve wellbeing, while smaller enterprises focused on education/training and flexible hours/working at home.
For the first time since 2016, respondents were asked whether they provided health insurance for their staff. Overall, 60.9 per cent answered in the negative, which was up on 58.7 per cent in 2016.
Employers who do not provide health insurance were asked what would prompt them to consider providing it. A decrease in the cost of health insurance was the main factor across enterprises (53.4 per cent). This was followed by the removal of fringe benefit tax (FBT) on employer-subsidised health insurance (38.8 per cent) and evidence that it assists in retaining staff (32 per cent).