Another day, another research report – this time highlighting the difference in absence rates between young employees and their older colleagues.

The good news is if you’re over 55 you can march into the office today holding your head high. According to the survey (commissioned by vitamin manufacturer Multiobionta), under 30s have a much higher absence rate and are much more likely to throw a sickie than their more mature workmates.

The slightest sign of a cough or sniffle and your average 18-29 year old puts their head straight back under the duvet. Feeling run-down and a bit tired also, it seems, gives them the perfect excuse to put on the fluffy slippers and veg out in front of daytime TV.

Older workers, however, were much more likely to soldier on through minor ailments, with 85 per cent of them saying they would only miss work if they were bedridden.

Differing levels of commitment, responsibility and stoicism no doubt play their part in this generational divide. But the survey suggests that unhealthy lifestyles may also be partly to blame for employee absence rates.

Under 30s are much more likely to exist on junk food, ready meals and take-aways and were half as likely to partake of the recommended ‘five a day’. This poor nutrition, coupled with smoking and drinking, weakens the immune system and makes people more prone to picking up every passing germ – and more likely to pick up the phone and report in sick.

There’s an interesting debate to be had about whether this is a personal issue or a corporate one. Should employers be trying to improve their sickness absence rates by taking a more active role in promoting healthy lifestyles among their employees?

It would certainly seem to make sense from a financial perspective. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, latest figures suggest absenteeism costs business £32 billion a year.

If the number of wellbeing-related exhibitors taking stands at this week’s Employee Benefits Live show is anything to go by, it’s certainly an area that is attracting corporate attention. Cycle to work schemes, corporate gym membership and health screening programmes were much in evidence, as you would expect.

But I was particularly taken by Fruitdrop – who offer to make regular deliveries of fruit baskets to your office door – and by the Feel Good company, who provide stress-busting on site massages, but also take their ‘nutrition table’ round to companies to show employees how they can snack healthily.

So, does your organisation feel it has a role to play in promoting employee wellbeing when looking to reduce absence rates? Let us know what initiatives have worked well for you.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.