Industry investing in workforce wellbeing with 50% of companies increasing spend since start of pandemic – Make UK survey

Over the last two years, manufacturers have increasingly realised that to keep their skilled workforce in place, they must look after the ‘whole person’ – nice working facilities are no longer enough.

The emphasis a company places on mental health and wellbeing is now a key part of staff satisfaction. But our latest survey found that those businesses which have increased their wellbeing spend have been rewarded with increased productivity, better staff retention and fewer days lost to sickness absence.

In a year where most businesses have struggled financially due to the disruption caused by the global pandemic, just 5% of manufacturers cut their staff wellbeing budgets, perhaps the strongest indication of the importance a happy and healthy staff is to Britain’s manufacturing sector. And some 50% of companies revealed they had actually increased this spend since the start of the pandemic, recognising the immense strain their staff were under. 

Manufacturing as a sector was asked to remain open by Government throughout the Covid crisis, but many staff had to switch to homeworking almost overnight, with office workers most often handed a hastily purchased laptop, leaving little time for instruction. Remote monitoring of equipment for engineers also became commonplace, placing a new and very isolating burden on a large number of staff who had never worked away from their colleagues before.

To keep up morale, 27% of companies surveyed said it was a priority for them to put on regular events for their people throughout last year to maintain a sense of togetherness and keep up team spirit. Nearly half (46%) of manufacturers also said they staged regular calls with all their employees to promote wellbeing and look out for anyone struggling under the new working environment. Of those, 41% said they made sure the catch ups were video calls so face-to-face contact was maintained and the personal touch not entirely removed.

Verity Davidge, Make UK’s Director of Policy said: “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.”

The growing emphasis on mental health issues was also highlighted in the report by the fact that more than a quarter (29%) of companies now have a board director responsible for wellbeing and 22%% a senior manager dedicated to the role. Some 57% of companies offered staff bespoke mental health support, while 35% had in-house specialist mental health services on offer. Engagement with staff is also on the up, with 31% of companies putting on regular wellbeing support calls for staff.

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