NZ employees are performing poorly on a range of health behaviours 

Almost weekly, we see new research confirming the importance of engaging in a range of health habits, for protecting both our physical and mental wellbeing. We have also seen considerable resources allocated to public health initiatives to promote healthy living, for example to encourage people to exercise more, maintain a healthy weight and to reduce alcohol consumption. Many organisations have also prioritised physical health programmes in workplaces, to support employees to get fit, sleep well and eat well.

How well does this public health and organisational support translate into improved health habits? 

From the first set of data from the Umbrella Wellbeing Assessment, it unfortunately looks like many employees are struggling to maintain positive health behaviours. To date, Umbrella has surveyed about 1,500 employees about their wellbeing, including the extent to which they are living a healthy life. We asked them about a number of health behaviours, with people reporting if they were doing the behaviour/habit Most of the time;Sometimes, but room for improvement;or Not at all, need to do much better. The findings are summarised in Table 1.

Where are people struggling? 

  • There were 57% reporting good nutrition only sometimes or not at all.
  • Only just over a third were regularly engaging in moderate exercise or moving regularly, with over 60% reporting only sometimes or not at all.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight is clearly a challenge for many, with a quarter saying they were doing this not at all.
  • Getting good quality sleep and sufficient leisure/relaxation time is also difficult for many, with under a third achieving this most of the time and over half saying they only do this sometimes.


What is the key takeaway message from the Umbrella data? Clearly, many employees are struggling to maintain healthy habits, and this is despite organisations having wellbeing programmes in place. These results are a concern, as we know that poor physical health will negatively impact on performance at work as well as people’s quality of life.

We need to better understand the factors that explain this data pattern. What gets in the way and stops employees from taking better care of their health? How can organisations and people leaders be more successful at supporting their people to prioritise healthy habits?

From best-practice psychology research and behavioural nudging models, we do know that it is possible to shift people’s behaviour towards more consistently engaging in better health behaviour. Umbrella is committed to working with organisations to translate this knowledge into more skilled intervention programmes that will achieve more robust results in improving employee health habits.