The vast majority of businesses that have introduced health and fitness benefits this year have seen improved productivity, motivation and sickness absence rates.

According to the survey by Aviva, nine in ten firms adding these benefits saw workforce productivity (89%) and motivation (88%) increase.

Similar numbers (83%) also recorded reduced sickness absence and improved staff wellbeing (86%).

Despite on-going financial pressures, the report said, around one in ten employers (13%) have introduced new health related benefits in the last year.

The most popular initiatives were counselling services (26%), discount gym memberships (26%), cycle to work schemes (25%) and private medical insurance (24%).

The Health of the Workplace report also revealed that employees were taking control of their own health and wellbeing to help combat the stresses of modern working life.

Over half (51%) take exercise at least once a week and over a quarter (28%) of employees say that they drink less now than a year ago and one in five (18%) say they don’t drink at all.

The results are likely to be a support to business leaders who admitted that they need staff to work harder than ever before (66%) while a quarter (26%) added that a pressurised work environment had become the norm.

Aviva UK Health medical director Dr Doug Wright said: “We’re already seeing the scale and impact that today’s ‘normal’ pressurised work environment has on sickness and absence levels amongst UK workers.

“However, there is now growing evidence that employers who offer initiatives to keep their staff healthy are seeing the benefits of doing so, with improved productivity, lower sickness absence and a happier more motivated workforce.

“Stress and related illnesses will continue to be the number one concern for UK employers for the foreseeable future and it’s in the interest of companies to review their employee health offer to help them achieve the business priorities they have set themselves for 2013,” he added.