During the election period we’re not publishing any new evidence, but we’ll still have a great line up of blogs, case studies and some useful resources to make sure you get your wellbeing evidence into practice fix.
If you haven’t already downloaded it and posted it up on your office noticeboard (or whatever hi-tech equivalent you’re using), here’s our handy one-page factsheet on the latest evidence for wellbeing benefits at work.
And once that’s whetted your appetite, you can dip into our briefings on learning in the workplace and designing a good quality job.
Resilience in hospices and mental health in the media
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and we’re sharing two case studies that link with this year’s theme of surviving and thriving. Hospice UK give us an insight into a programme to improve staff wellbeing in an emotionally demanding environment. Meanwhile, Mind’s peer education for professionals is a look an an ambitious project that successfully challenged mental health stigma by training journalists.
Share your evaluations
We’ve currently got two calls for evidence live:
We will be putting out more calls throughout the year, and you can follow us on Twitter @whatworksWB for updates when these come out.
You can find all of our evidence, research and guidance on the following themes:
After 8 June, here’s just a taster of what you can expect:
- new evidence reviews on dance and sport and adult learning
- guidance for community organisations on measuring personal wellbeing
- a one-stop set of wellbeing indicators for local authorities
- a round up of the evidence on green space and wellbeing
- a discussion paper on community wellbeing.
Dan Corry, Chief Executive of NPC and What Works Wellbeing board member, reports from the Wellbeing over the Life Course one day conference run by our Cross Cutting Team led by Lord Layard at London School of Economics (LSE).
The Wellbeing juggernaut is well and truly ploughing on in the academic world as evidenced by a full day conference held recently at the LSE. Here, some of the best academics around presented draft chapters of a book due to come out soon, looking at wellbeing in many different ways. These included Richard Layard, Andrew Clark and Andrew Steptoe. Equally powerful academics, like Alan Manning, Jane Waldfogel and Tim Besley, discussed them and the audience – of which I and several of my What Works Centre for Wellbeing colleagues were part – chipped in.
The book, and the day, looked at wellbeing issues as they affect young people and are influenced by the early years; at those of working age; and at the wellbeing of older people too. They used a number of different data sets and were all focused around the causes and correlates with subjective wellbeing, a controversial issue in its own right but one that conference organiser Richard Layard still thinks is the best measure for us to use however imperfect it inevitably is.
There was a lot to take in, but here are some of the particular things that struck me. None are ground breaking, but all are of interest.
- This area is growing fast. The fact that questions about wellbeing (along the lines of the four ONS questions) are being added to many surveys makes this analysis much more possible. We are seeing economists and other disciplines getting into the area using cross section and panel data.
- Expectations matter. Subjective wellbeing is all about how you feel and so is bound to include how you feel you are faring relative to how you expected or want to feel. One finding for instance (from a recent DCLG survey) that shows that wellbeing is not diminished by living in a damp, over-occupied property seems to suggest that people living in such conditions are comparing themselves to those who have nothing, not those in fancy houses. The media also becomes important in this space, helping set norms – often very unrepresentative and misleading ones.
- Peer effects matter too. One of the bits of research suggested that while being unemployed is detrimental for wellbeing (indeed one of the worst things that can happen to you), being in an area where there are a lot of other people unemployed means it is less bad. On the other hand it makes those in employment feel a bit worse. One needs to be careful on policy prescriptions therefore – the fact that one could improve short term wellbeing by making all the unemployed live in the same area, would do nothing for longer term wellbeing.
- Some impacts of bad things are temporary – some go on and on. Research presented suggested that while a separation in a relationship is pretty bad for wellbeing, after a few years wellbeing moves back to the level it was before. The same happens with losing a spouse. Even the boost from deciding to have a child and becoming a parent appears not to last! But other things do have a lasting impact – being in a relationship or partnership is a good example.
- People adapt – sometimes with strange affects. Women used to do poorly paid, low status work. Many now have better jobs. But the wellbeing associated with the job appears to be no better – or sometimes worse. If we had been making decisions based on wellbeing we might have said this change is of no value and should be resisted – which feels completely wrong.
- There are externalities at play with profound implications for policy making based on wellbeing. The analysis suggests for instance that my income going up is good for my wellbeing, but may make you feel worse. Same if I get a job. So maximising society wellbeing is not at all the same as pushing up individual wellbeing.
- The wellbeing lens is putting a new emphasis on some issues – like mental health and early action, something emphasised by former Cabinet Secretary and wellbeing enthusiast Gus O’Donnell. There is a danger that we get into a tautology in some of this – naturally those who are depressed or have anxiety related conditions are likely to say they have low wellbeing; we surely did not need wellbeing data to tell us this! But nevertheless the focus this agenda has given to mental health has been very valuable and the same sort of thing applies to relationships, something I have written about elsewhere .
- A focus on the most unhappy is sometimes useful. Looking at the bottom 10% in terms of wellbeing for instance really helps us see who we should perhaps be looking to help most. Looking at the average can obscure the things we really want to get at and we want to also explore changes in wellbeing inequality alongside changes in average wellbeing.
- How you are considered matters to your wellbeing. Alan Manning alluded to the Brexit vote and the fact that while a job in a service industry might be as well paid as a job in the mines it is unlikely to carry the same sense of worth or status.
- Psycho-social factors in childhood matter more to wellbeing than academic ones. This raises issues about schools policy and parental behaviour, as well as putting a big focus on the mother’s mental health. We also need to get some data on genetics into the analysis to see how much, if any, this is driving.
- There are inevitably lots of interactions that will bedevil the search for key drivers of wellbeing. For instance separation is associated with lower wellbeing, but at least some of this is due to income dropping not separation per se.
- We need to dig harder on gender. The research presented to us rarely distinguished between men and women. That seemed to most a big gap – as there is no real reason to think the drivers of wellbeing will always be the same across genders.
- The old are not less happy than the young. As Andrew Steptoe noted, given all the things that happen to you health and relationship-wise as you get older, this is perhaps surprising. In addition physical health seemed to be less important for older people than emotional health and ‘social’ issues.
- We can’t use this version of wellbeing for deciding on things like climate change. Perhaps obviously, subjective wellbeing is not a good way to make decisions on things that are about the future and – implicitly – about assessments of future risks and discount rates.
As I hope this summary shows, this whole agenda is raising many fascinating issue. Many are familiar, a few are surprising, but all are making us think harder about the world and how to make it a better place. And that cannot be bad for the wellbeing of all of us.
→ Share your reflections on the forum
Evidence Call for Grey Literature for a systematic review of the wellbeing outcomes of music and singing in adults and the processes by which wellbeing outcomes are achieved.
By grey literature we mean “literature that is not formally published in sources such as books or journal articles” (Lefebvre, Manheimer, & Glanville, 2008, p. 106). This may be produced by charities, government departments, businesses, community groups and others; and may include reports, theses or dissertations, trials, and more.
In this instance we’re looking for evaluation reports.
We will accept for review and possible inclusion in our systematic review using the following criteria:
- submissions must be evaluation reports only
- reports submitted must be completed in the past 3 years (2013-2016) and include
- author details (individuals, groups or organisations)
- evaluation methods may be qualitative, quantitative methods or mixed methods
- the central report objective must be the evaluation of music or singing intervention
Please note the following condition for review of grey literature:
- Evidence can only be reviewed for inclusion in the work of the Culture and Sport programme if submitted through this call.
- Evidence submitted to individual researchers in the programme cannot be considered.
- If you have previously sent documents to the culture and sport team please re-submit through this call.
Please send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and include ‘Music and Singing Evidence’ in the subject line.
The deadline for submissions is the 10th June 2016
Please note additional invite for submission of primary data sets for review:
- Primary data sets used in submitted reports can also be submitted
- Primary data may be qualitative or quantitative and in excel or word formats.
- Please submit data sets directly to, or contact email@example.com for further information.
→discuss on our forum
We have spoken with over 4,000 people and organisations, including many of you, to develop our plans and the areas for our evidence reviews and analysis.
This included six public dialogues across the UK – in Cardiff, South Tyneside, London, Belfast, Bristol and Falkirk – in each of our initial evidence themes of Community, Work & Learning and Culture & Sport. Public dialogues bring together members of the public and policy makers to discuss wellbeing and understand what matters to people.
Today we published our public dialogue findings alongside feedback from people working on wellbeing and set out our first delivery plan until June 2018.
→ See today’s findings
Key to wellbeing are:
- feeling safe, financially comfortable, good physical and mental health, good food, job, housing, natural environment and transport
- feeling loved, respected and appreciated, belonging, positive connections, time alone, appreciation of difference and feeling part of something bigger
- feeling fulfilled, achievement, inspiration, recognition, fun, learning, opportunity, control, agency and choice
→ Public dialogue reports and technical appendices
We are also publishing our delivery plan, along with the Community Voice of the User report and a short course on Wellbeing in Policy and Practice :
→Community Voice of the user report
→Wellbeing in Policy and Practice course
Like our resolutions, wellbeing is often dominated by health and fitness. There’s more to it than that.
→ look after your wellbeing in your resolutions with the evidence based 5 ways to Wellbeing and 10 steps to Happier Living.
It is also a time to look forward to what we want to achieve in the new year. In the next few weeks we will be
Looking forward to working with you to improve wellbeing in the UK.
The What Works Wellbeing team
All of us here at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing would like to wish you a merry Christmas with health, happiness and wellbeing for the new year!
We’ve had a great year and really value the continued support from our partners, stakeholders and followers.
We’re looking forward to an exciting 2016 when we’ll be announcing our evidence workplans and sharing the findings from both our continued consultation and public dialogue project.
→ What you can do to improve your wellbeing over the festive period.
The Mindful Nation UK report was launched in Parliament on 20th October as the result of a 12-month inquiry by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group into how mindfulness might be incorporated into UK services and institutions
The workplace has been one of the four policy areas examined by the inquiry that has particularly led to debate. The report makes a specific recommendation to the What Works Centre for Wellbeing in this area.
Our Director, Nancy Hey spoke at the Mindfulness in the workplace event last night to celebrate the launch of the report and look at next steps. The report looks at how we can ensure mindfulness fulfills its potential to help create a more healthy, productive and creative 21st century working culture across the UK.
Why does this matter?
There is good evidence to support mindfulness and mindfulness-based therapy. Being mindful is part of taking notice, one of the 5 ways to wellbeing. We know that, in general, our personal wellbeing dips, probably naturally from age 20, down to a low in the mid to late 40s and then back up to 60 and mostly continues upwards.
How can we cushion the impact of the wellbeing dip?
We know quite a few protective factors including good mental and physical health, good work, and social relationships. Early analysis, as part of the ESRC wellbeing counts project, suggests that this age span is the time where ‘take notice’ also dips, particularly in the UK. As this is the part of our lives where we spend much of our time engaged in work, this suggests that mindfulness in the workplace could have a significant positive impact on our wellbeing.
I welcome the call in the Mindful Nation report to continue exploring the potential of mindfulness in an evidence based way. To support employers in their investment decisions, there is a need to understand, in more nuanced ways, about what, how and when and for whom mindfulness practice at work can make a difference to both our wellbeing and our work.
This means evaluation – moving towards large scale trials with controls – of
- Who its useful for and when, including monitoring over time
- How – duration and format of training? combined with values or physical awareness? can train the trainer approaches work?
- When – what is useful before and after e.g. do some people need physical approach first? better when combined into management training or volunteers only?
- How often – Can it be delivered in ways to fit into the workplace and still be effective?
- What is core and what can be adapted to context?
- What impact does it have on other things e.g. staff wellbeing, performance or customer satisfaction?
Whilst the shift in attention to internal changes is welcome, this and similar approaches, can not be a sticking plaster for other issues that need attention. This means comparing mindfulness interventions with other things organisations can invest in for both impact and cost. Our early guide to evaluating wellbeing impact, alongside other outcomes, is here.
Want to partner or fund trials? email firstname.lastname@example.org