Employers at SMEs feel mentally and physically healthier than their employees

Employers at Belgian SMEs feel mentally and physically healthier than their employees. This was established by a Mensura survey of SMEs with 20 to 250 employees. At the mental level, 68% of employers are satisfied, compared to 59% of employees. Physically, 65% of employers feel healthy, while only half of SME employees claim this. At the same time, employees attach great importance to workplace initiatives to live and work more healthily.

To ascertain how attention to lifestyle, vitality and resilience is evolving inside and outside the company walls of Belgian SMEs, Mensura organised a survey right before summer. Almost 1,200 business managers or HR directors and employees of SMEs participated.

The results show that employers rate themselves physically and mentally healthier than employees. While 59% of employers say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their physical health, the figure for employees is only 1 in 2. Asked about the physical discomforts or complaints they face, employees of SMEs mainly report neck and shoulder pain (almost 50%) and persistent fatigue (over 4 in 10). A clear difference also emerges on the mental level: 68% of the surveyed employers are satisfied, compared to 59% of employees.

Dorien Simons, vitality expert at Mensura: “The explanation lies mainly in the often advantageous socio-economic status of entrepreneurs and executives. Their knowledge and awareness of the importance of healthy living and working is stronger. At the same time, they have more opportunities to work on their health. This includes healthier - often more expensive - and varied meals, sports club memberships and hiring household help, which saves precious time that can be used to engage in self-care, among other things.”

Workplace health initiatives influence job choice

The survey shows that employees rely heavily on their employer to help them live and work more healthily. As many as 87% of employees say they expect initiative from their employer. However, only half (51%) say that this actually happens in their place of work.

“A large proportion of well-intentioned health initiatives reach only a fraction of employees because they are not institutionalised or poorly communicated. It’s also a sign that SMEs are passing up opportunities,” says Dorien Simons.

In the war for talent, which is in full swing, it is more important than ever to work on employees’ mental and physical well-being in a structural way. “Employees are placing more and more importance on factors other than the paycheck. 76% of surveyed employees said that attention to mental and physical well-being is an important element when choosing an employer. Moreover, working on corporate well-being pays off on many levels: decreased absenteeism, increased productivity and higher (job) satisfaction.”

Almost half of the employees want exercise initiatives at work

Employers can thus play an important role as motivators of their employees. Employees are also concrete in their desires: 40% say a medical health check-up would motivate them to pay more attention to their health. 71% want actions aimed at increasing resilience, coping with stress and preventing burnout, and 46% want employers to focus on exercise. “It’s clear that employees do not consider attention to healthy living a purely personal matter, and organisations of all sizes should focus on this.”

About the study

The figures come from a large-scale survey of SMEs with 20 to 250 employees. We gauged their vitality, resilience and lifestyle habits. The study zooms in on prevention and well-being policies in the workplace, on attention to health among employers (business managers and HR directors) and their employees outside working hours. The survey was completed by 1,190 respondents.