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26 Jan 2023

Why you can't separate employee health from workplace wellbeing

The mind and body are intrinsically linked, so it’s vital for organisations to support both when it comes to looking after employees

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The correlation between mental and physical health is well known, but is often overlooked when it comes to employee health and wellbeing.

Stress can lead to serious health complications such as heart attacks and strokes. People with anxiety and depression are at a greater risk of developing weakened immune systems and cognitive disorders.

Employees recognise the link between good mental and physical health, but only 58% agree that their employers do too. This gap in care tells us that many workers are not receiving the support they need.

Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand

Physical and mental health have a symbiotic relationship, meaning mental health conditions can have affect physical wellbeing and vice-versa.

For example, 17.8 million of the UK workforce suffer from musculoskeletal disorders, a worryingly high number. However, it is worsened by the fact that those affected are twice as likely to experience anxiety or a mood disorder than non-suffers.

More than three quarters of employees agree that their mental health is as important as their physical health. But what happens when an employer’s wellbeing strategy fails to support both?

Presenteeism challenges

The average worker took nearly four sick days in 2020 according to ONS statistics — and this was at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, just because your employees are present doesn’t mean they’re working at their best. In fact, 89% of organisations noticed a rise in presenteeism over a 12-month period. Yet continuing to work despite suffering from a medical condition results in less productivity and an increase in human error.

A growing number of companies are facing presenteeism challenges from employees who work remotely and on hybrid schedules, where it is easier to conceal illness.

It is also important for people to be honest about their mental and physical health. In fact, in 2021, 51% of UK employees admitted to putting on a brave face about their mental health. When you consider that only 16% said their mental health was well supported at work, it’s sadly not surprising.


It’s obvious that a good work-life balance is crucial to employee health and wellbeing, but when 73% of organisations have observed leaveism it’s clear that achieving this balance takes work.

Leavism, enabled by the availability of technology and remote working opportunities, is a relatively recent phenomenon. It refers to employees using annual leave to either catch up on work or manage a medical condition (rather than take sick leave).

In fact, one in five workers reported feeling unable to deal with workplace stress, while over half of UK employees work longer than their contracted hours to complete tasks. Now that hybrid and remote working are the norm, it’s almost impossible for organisations to get an accurate representation of how much their employees are actually working. As such, burnout becomes even more likely, which in turn can have affect employees’ physical health.

Although the issue of presenteeism costs UK businesses as much as £29bn a year, only one-third of organisations plan to do something about it. But employers who are invested in their employees’ health and wellbeing face challenges when trying to address both.

Health and wellbeing for the individual

Employees want different things from their healthcare benefits, depending on their conditions and needs. Yet 63% of employees say they only get generic healthcare benefits.

Also, some employees prefer face-to-face appointments with doctors, while others want to communicate remotely. And what of preventative care? Fitness programmeds and mental health helplines might seem wildly different, but they each help keep employees in good shape.

After all, our physical and mental health are intrinsically linked. So doesn’t it make sense that employees should have one platform to take care of both?

Where mind and body meet

There are many employee health and wellbeing platforms available, but this can be part of the problem. One might support mental health, for example, while another focuses on physical health. One might provide helpful articles and information, while another operates as a support line.

Symbio is the first truly holistic employee wellbeing platform for physical and mental health. It’s built for the hybrid world providing a seamless experience for all of your employees’ health needs, no matter where they are.

In partnership with HealthHero

HealthHero's a digital health provider that brings together human expertise and digital convenience.

Contact us today