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Workplace well-being – is it working?

Health and well-being

New British Safety Council report suggests set of metrics for measuring well-being programmes and policies

EMPLOYEE well-being is being compromised by a lack of understanding of how to implement effective programmes, reveals the latest research from the British Safety Council.

It says only one in six organizations (17%) evaluate the impact of their health and well-being initiatives (source: CIPD), whilst in nearly two thirds of companies (63%) other priorities take precedence over employees’ well-being (source: Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey).

Moreover, 28% of SME leaders think their companies are too small to take employee health and well-being seriously, with a third of them (32%) regarding health and well-being as the domain of large businesses (source: Bupa 2015 survey).

According to the British Safety Council, the main reasons for this situation are the difficulties of defining well-being, selecting the best tools for assessing well-being programmes, and measuring the cost-effectiveness of these interventions.

The inadequate people skills of many line managers and the low priority given by them to employee well-being are also important factors.

Responding to these challenges, the British Safety Council has published a new report entitled ‘Not just free fruit: wellbeing at work’, which defines well-being in the workplace and suggests a set of metrics for effectively measuring well-being programmes and policies.

The report, which provides a comprehensive review of the existing literature and market intelligence, is a call to action for employers in Britain to place the well-being needs of their workers at the top of the executive agenda.

Lawrence Waterman, chairman of the British Safety Council, said: ‘Discussions about health and well-being permeate our daily lives, whether it’s the accessibility of good clinical care, the stresses of modern living or the importance of physical activity and good nutrition.

‘They are supported by common beliefs: work sometimes contributes to ill health; the workplace can provide an environment where good health can be promoted; and everyone should play a role in encouraging and protecting good health and well-being.

‘Too often, unlike the highly professional approach applied to risk assessment and risk control, well-being efforts have been marked by a combination of real enthusiasm and commitment married to a woeful ignorance of what will make a difference.’

Warning that this positivity could dissipate into incoherent programmes of free bananas and occasional ‘health weeks’ featuring Indian head massage and aromatherapy, Mr Waterman continued: ‘The well-being at work report represents the British Safety Council’s contribution to establishing rigorous, evidence-based workplace interventions which enhance the well-being of everyone involved.

‘It calls for commitment, clear thinking and effective action, not only to make workplaces healthy and safe, but also to make a tangible impact on improving the lives of all workers.’

The report makes several proposed recommendations to employers for creating and evaluating workplace well-being programmes, including:

  1. Employees must be given the opportunity to participate in the creation and development of initiatives designed to improve their own health and well-being.
  2. Line managers must be appropriately trained in mental-health awareness and the relevant support mechanisms, so that they have the confidence to communicate with employees in a caring and sensitive manner.
  3. Organizations should evaluate the impact and efficacy of their health and well-being interventions on a regular basis, to ensure that they adapt and respond to the changing needs of their workers.
  4. Workers’ well-being is linked to job quality, which is expressed through a healthy working environment, fair wages, strong relationships with managers and colleagues, job design, a degree of responsibility and authority, workload, working hours, and career-development prospects.

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