Call for evidence: Job quality, other employment practices and wellbeing

Work &Learning

We are  conducting a review of job quality and wellbeing.

Job quality relates to the features of work often perceived to relate to satisfying or desirable work experiences – such as:

  • some involvement in decisions about how work is to done, when it is to be done or what is to be done
  • clarity of what is to be achieved at work
  • the chance to use a variety of skills at work
  • good working relationships with colleagues and/or customers
  • attainable goals and work demands or goals that do not conflict with one and other
  •  reasonable working hours

We are specifically interested in two research questions:

1) Do improvements in job quality lead to reliable effects on worker wellbeing and productivity?

2) Are more positive outcomes achieved by introducing other changes to employment  practices alongside improved job quality?

We are looking for high quality evidence on each of these questions to use as best practice examples. We are particularly seeking the following types of evidence:

  • Evaluation studies with assessments of wellbeing made before and after the introduction of the intervention – this is to allow us to determine whether the intervention produced any changes in wellbeing.
  • Evaluations including comparison groups that did not receive the intervention.
  • Studies showing the combined effects of improvements in job quality and other employment practices introduced at the same time.
  • Evidence of impacts on wellbeing that may include stress, mental health, anxiety, depression, life or job satisfaction, burnout, or engagement.
  • Evidence of changes in productivity and performance that may include factors such as safety, performance and absence.
  • Qualitative or quantitative evidence is welcome.
  • Evidence from studies conducted in the UK or with a UK component is preferred.

All examples must be written in English or have an English translation and include an author and date. We can only accept evidence which can be made publicly available.

→Please send your submissions to evidence@whatworkswellbeing.org  and include ‘Job Quality Evidence’ in the subject line.  

All submissions should be received by 13th of May 2016 .

Aligning Public Policy with the Way People Want to Live – The New Zealand Treasury’s Living Standards Framework

Wellbeing is being embraced by policy makers around the world and this week we welcome colleagues from New Zealand’s Treasury to discuss their Living Standards Framework.

New Zealand Treasury’s vision is to achieve higher living standards for its residents, using a much wider set of measures than just income to define wellbeing. Here, Joey Au and Girol Karacaoglu set out the Living Standards Framework:


 

GirolKGirol Karacaoglu, Chief Economist     Joey Au,Senior AdvisorJoey Au - NZ Treasury  

 New Zealand Treasury

The ultimate purpose of public policy is to improve people’s lives, now and into the future. 

We do not know how each and every individual wishes to live his/her life, nor do we wish to pass judgement on how they should be living their lives.OECDBLI

We can however rely on the robust findings of numerous studies, covering a large variety of countries and cultures, about the broader domains of individual wellbeing.

For example, OECD’s Better Life Initiative (BLI) [OECD (2013)] focuses on domains classified under quality of life and material conditions (Figure 1).

 

The Treasury’s Living Standards Framework (LSF) follows the lead of Atkinson (2015), Gough (2015), Phelps (2013), Sen (2009), and others, in emphasising that public policy can improve people’s lives now and into the future by enhancing the capabilities and opportunities, as well as incentives, of individuals to pursue the lives they have reason to value. It provides a guide for thinking about good economic, environmental and social policies in an integrated way and is illustrated in Figure 2.

NZTreasury LSF

Good public policy focuses on ensuring that the wellbeing-generating capacity of capital assets (human, social, natural and economic capital) is sustained or enhanced – that is: not eroded by current generations at the expense of future generations (sustainability);shared in a manner consistent with sustaining or enhancing the capital base (equity); no particular social group(s) impose their concepts of wellbeing on others, respecting others’ rights to live the kinds of lives they have reason to value (social cohesion); capital assets are protected against major systemic risks (resilience); and the material wellbeing generating potential of these assets (“comprehensive wealth”) is enhanced (raising potential economic growth).

These five dimensions of the LSF define the boundaries of society’s wellbeing frontier, and are therefore of legitimate interest for a public policy that aims to push out these boundaries, while also being cognisant of their interdependencies.

Treasury’s stylised LSF model, while drawing on the work of Arrow et al (2012), is intended to serve as a policy-guiding tool. It weaves together threads from the wellbeing, human needs, sustainable development, endogenous economic growth, and directed technical change (favouring “clean” technology) literatures [Karacaoglu (2015)].

The model suggests that a time-consistent policy package needs to be strongly grounded in the history, cultures and values of the society it is intended for. Universal access to basic income, and to health services, housing and education, provides the necessary platform. A set of economic, social and environmental infrastructures (including strong institutions) act as enablers, but also provide the incentives to participate productively in economic and social life.

In practice, to design effective and efficient public policies, we need to know which aspects of living standards are most important to people, and be able to assess the trade-offs they are willing to accept. Au et al (2015) demonstrate an application of the survey-based methodology we are increasingly using to make these assessments. Au and Karacaoglu (2015) provide a summary of the applications of the LSF in the Treasury’s policy advice.

→ NZ Treasury Living Standards Framework

 

Have your say on Sustainable Development Goals

In the UK  the Office of National Statistics takes a snapshot of how we are doing as a nation, communities and individuals and how sustainable that is for the future in the Life in the UK reports, across the 10 domains and 41 measures of national wellbeing.

At a global level the UN has the Sustainable Development Goals , or ‘Global Goals’ which are a set of 17 goals, 169 targets and 241 supporting indicators.

The ONS are seeking views on what the UK report on these global goals  by 27th May.

SDGs_poster_new1

ONS are responsible for reporting UK progress towards the goals. They are currently running a consultation (with UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development) where you can inform decisions about which global targets and indicators are relevant for the UK,  and what potential new, UK-focussed indicators there could be.

→Have your say

→ More information about the goals

There is no target or indicator about personal wellbeing. Should we be taking account of how people assess the quality of their own lives? Should there be indicators of this included as part of the UK’s monitoring of specific goals (like health and wellbeing?)

The connection between wellbeing, sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals was considered in the this year’s World Happiness Report:

Measuring self-reported happiness and achieving well-being should be on every nation’s agenda as they begin to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals….Indeed the Goals themselves embody the very idea that human well-being should be nurtured through a holistic approach that combines economic, social and environmental objectives. Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous, just, and environmentally sustainable. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Out of the shadows – World Bank & World Health Organisation on Mental Health

Guest blog from our Chairman Dr Paul LitchfieldDr Paul Litchfield

I have just attended a joint meeting of the World Bank and the World Health Organisation in Washington – the topic was mental health and the pressing need to make it a global development priority. It was good to see that mental illness is now, at last, being seen as part of the non-communicable disease crisis that is afflicting every part of the planet.

Margaret Chan, WHO Director General, flagged up recent research showing the global cost of anxiety and depression as being $1 trillion per year and  Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President, framed the issue as one of development and not just public health.

WHO & World Bank

The meeting, titled Out of the Shadows, sought to shine a light on a subject still characterised in many parts of the world by fear, stigma and neglect. Even in the “developed” world the imbalance of resources devoted to mental health compared to physical health is stark. Innovative models of service delivery were showcased from around the world and ranged from individual placement and support in the most deprived communities to high tech psychological therapies.

Workplace interventions are of particular interest to me but progress in that area seems remarkably slow. There appears to be a widespread reluctance by many health professionals to engage with the private sector, even in relation to companies’ own employees. Perhaps that is a reflection of a lack of shared experience and language but some of it also appears to be driven by political dogma which has no place in responding to human distress and misery.

It is heartening to see the progress that has been made in addressing mental illness over the past 30 years. There remains much to do but the profile the issues now have and the range of key players that see the need for action gives cause for hope. The downside is that the positive aspects of good mental health and wellbeing are only mentioned briefly in any discussion before the focus shifts entirely to illness and healthcare systems. The medical model of health that has dominated the past 100 years is not sustainable. Spending 17.5% of GDP on healthcare (as the USA did in 2014) diverts resources from other essential areas and untold harm will be caused to emerging economies that try to emulate the model.

We need to not only accept and address the social determinants of disease but also to reframe political thinking to consider citizens’ wellbeing as the priority. Having a positive – wellbeing – as the end point aspired to is much more motivational than the simple avoidance of harm – illness. Promoting the elements that have been shown to improve wellbeing will reduce ill health while at the same time advancing human happiness and societal progress. That has to be a better framework than one based on the fear of pestilence – whether that is physical or mental.

Dr Paul Litchfield

World Economic ForumAlso launched at the conference is the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Mental Health and their new guide for improving wellbeing at work.

Seven Steps Guide towards a Mentally Healthy Organisation

 

You may also like 

→ E-course on wellbeing in policy & practice

→ Case Studies wellbeing at work 

→ Wellbeing in the UK data

So what works in getting research used in decision-making?

We all want our work to be useful, and there have been many studies asking policy makers and other stakeholders what the barriers and facilitators are to using research.

But how confident are we that our favourite approaches actually work?  What is the science of using science knowledge? And do we know what works in getting research used in making policy ?  

We have partnered with the Wellcome Trust,  the Alliance for Useful Evidence and the EPPI-Centre at UCL to understand how research evidence can be best used in decision-making.

The study focuses on better development and use of a sound evidence base in government policy, and other decision making. It is intended to develop the evidence base for what we at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing can do to support evidence informed decision making to improve wellbeing.

→ Summary

→Full report

The study identified six types of activity used to support evidence informed decision making and looked at the evidence based that underpins them.  The study team then looked at what other social science research suggests could be promising for supporting evidence informed decision making.

reserach uptake diagram

We are reviewing our plans and theory of change as a result of this study working with the wider What Works Network some of whom are doing trials in this area.  We hope that these insights prove useful more widely and add to the evidence base in the field. 

This project included:

  • a systematic review (a review of reviews) of the field of research use by the EPPI-Centre
  • A scoping review of what the wider social science literature tells us about the mechanisms for the use of research evidence in decision-making by the EPPI-Centre
  • a summary policy report summarising the key findings with discussion and case studies by the Alliance for Useful Evidence
  • a conference to explore what approaches work in enabling the use of research by policy makers, practitioners and members of the public at Wellcome Trust on 12th April 2016

 

New Report: Promoting Emotional Health, Wellbeing and Resilience in Primary Schools from Public Policy Institute for Wales

The Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) was asked by the Minister for Education and Skills what works in building the emotional resilience of children in primary schools in Wales? and what the Welsh Government might do to support this?

Here, Nancy Hey, our Director at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing on why this report is important:

pro-picWellbeing research is finding that our social and emotional state is a powerful predictor of our wellbeing over many years and it is an area that we know comparatively little about how to improve.  This is not to say that our wellbeing is entirely down to how well we have learnt ‘wellbeing skills’ and nothing to do with external objective circumstances that we can act to improve.  It’s more that this is an area we haven’t looked at as much yet and looks promising.  It has been one of those areas we are sort of expected to learn by osmosis and this report does a great job of highlighting that there are a good range of evidence based programmes now available for schools.

Early research suggests that there are some skills, that can be learnt that are useful in both treatment and prevention. These include resilience, emotional intelligence, CBT and mindfulness for example. They will not be a panacea for social ills but look like they could help many people and need to be tested with matching rigour.  This can be seen from the wide range of organisations also looking at how to help people develop these skill sets including in the workplace, in schools and further education, in supporting later life transitions, in the criminal justice system and through our cultural and sporting activities for all ages.

This report is really helpful in adding to our collective learning across the UK as we start to make sense of the role of social and emotional skills in our wellbeing and the role of our wellbeing in a range of other outcomes that we care about as a country, including academic achievement.   The report included consideration for how social and emotional skills can be reinforced outside of schools and it’s in that context that we welcome the call for a more systematic exploration of what schools can do but it is important that this is done in a way that the learning can be taken from, and shared with, other sectors looking to improve social and emotional skills.


The PPIW worked with Professor Robin Banerjee and Professor Colleen McLaughlin from the University of Sussex to produce:

  • a synthesis of research and policy evaluations relating to school-based strategies to promote emotional health among primary school pupils
  • evidence-based recommendations for Welsh Government policy regarding a national strategy in this area.

The rePPIWrptport makes 16 recommendations on how to develop a carefully planned and well-supported approach to social and emotional learning that is integrated with core educational principles and situated within a connected school.

→ summary report

→ full report