WPI Economics report with Unum, Health, Happiness and Productivity

Unhappy employees take nine more sick days a year than their happier counterparts

A new report from WPI Economics, commissioned by leading employee benefits provider Unum UK, reveals that unhappy employees take almost two working weeks’ more sickness absence on average per year compared to their happy counterparts, costing the UK economy £11 billion per year through lost productivity.

The survey of more than 4,000 employees across the UK revealed that almost half (48%) said they do not have good mental wellbeing and that this is having an impact on their productivity and wider health and happiness. 

Key findings suggest:

  • Just 13% of unhappy staff think they are very productive at work — three times lower than their happy peers
  • The average unhappy, unproductive worker loses nine hours of productive time per week — more than a typical day’s work
  • 80% of workers said that they are more productive when they are healthy and happy.

The report modelled the scenario that if the number of people unhappy at work reduced by half, this could lead to a reduction in lost output from sickness absence and presenteeism worth around £6.4 billion a year and an increase from improved productivity of around £7.3 billion a year.

Mark Till, CEO of Unum UK, comments:

“Our research has found that workplace health and happiness are closely linked to productivity. Well over half (58%) of employees — equivalent to more than 16 million people — believe that improvements in the health and wellbeing services their employer provides would lead to less time off and/or increase their productivity.

“Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to health and wellbeing benefits. Employers’ ability to offer such benefits depends on the size of their workforce, cost and, crucially, the needs of the business and its workers. However, this research presents clear evidence that workplace health and happiness can reduce sickness absence and presenteeism, as well as boost productivity. Whatever support companies can offer, expanding health and wellbeing services would help more employees and give the working world a chance to thrive, all whilst boosting British businesses’ bottom lines.”

Original quantitative research of UK employees was conducted by global research company Censuswide and was undertaken between 20th and 21st September 2023. In total, 4,035 UK employees (aged 16-69) were surveyed online, and results have been weighted to be nationally representative.