A budget to increase wellbeing in the UK? #Budget2017

The purpose of our economic growth is to improve the quality of life and prosperity of people in the UK.  This budget has some potential wellbeing gains, but also misses some opportunities which we set out  yesterday. 

The Chancellor’s focus on opportunity through learning and training is backed by the research: evidence shows that continuing to learn throughout life is not only useful for developing skills and improving job prospects, it can improve and maintain our mental wellbeing. Unemployment has a bigger impact on our wellbeing than loss of earnings and it will be interesting to see what difference the support for returning to work makes to wellbeing of those out of the labour market in caring roles where evidence is currently missing. Likewise, the Living wage increase should see wellbeing impacts as the wellbeing impact of increased income is  greater for lower paid than better off, pound for pound.

What this budget does miss is mental health which has the biggest impact on our satisfaction with life – this is important enough that it deserves special mention.

Nancy Hey, Director, What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Work

Unemployment is always damaging to wellbeing. Men tend to suffer more from unemployment, however new evidence suggests women who are committed to their careers suffer more than men. Return to work is good for wellbeing but it has to be good work

Sara Connolly, Professor of Economics at the University of East Anglia. Work, Learning and Wellbeing Programme.

  • £5m for return to work schemes positive for wellbeing. Extended breaks in employment, especially when they are unplanned, have a significant and scarring effect on wellbeing.The support for working parents and return to work schemes could be particularly powerful for certain groups for whom wellbeing is lower. But there is no evidence yet about how the transition into and out of caring roles impacts wellbeing. Research in this area would fill an evidence gap.
  • Business rate changes help local employers. Support of small and medium local businesses through the Business Rates measures could have a positive impact on wellbeing – employees of smaller businesses tend to have higher life satisfaction than those from larger employers.
  • Self-employed are a diverse group.  Some evidence suggests that the self-employed in the UK have higher wellbeing, but one study suggest that the benefits of self-employment are limited to the better off [1] and those in temporary jobs have lower wellbeing. Flexible work is good, but lack of control in work is bad for wellbeing.

Tax changes for female self-employed might discourage women from re-entering or entering the workforce and lower wellbeing. The changes could also have negative wellbeing impacts for learners who are working self-employed to finance part time study.”

Kevin Daniels, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the University of East Anglia. Lead investigator of Work, Learning and Wellbeing Programme.

Learning and Training

  • The Department for Education will pilot different approaches to encouraging lifelong learning. Evidence shows that continuing to learn throughout life is not only useful for developing skills and improving job prospects; it can improve and maintain our mental wellbeing.  The investment of £40m to pilot different approaches to test what works for different approaches to lifelong learning is a sign that better evidence is key to making better decisions for our quality of life.  
  • Changes to training has the potential to re-balance wellbeing gains for different groups. Currently, lower level and technical qualifications result in lower financial and wellbeing returns than hIgher education qualifications.

Will Vocational Education and Training shakeup convince employers that qualifications have value? If not could be bad for wellbeing of learners. Government investing in VET training will only be good news if young workers can find good quality jobs to put skills to use”

Olga Tregaskis, Professor of International Human Resource Management at the University of East Anglia. Work, Learning and Wellbeing Programme.

  • Education for wellbeing is missing. The most recent Good Childhood Report shows us that girls aged 10-15 are less happy than they used to be. Last year’s report showed us that England ranked 14 out of 15 selected countries for wellbeing at school. This matters for the current lives of these children but also for their future – self-control, perseverance, the capacity to delay gratification, and the ability to cope with shocks are strong predictors of adult wellbeing. A wellbeing budget would focus as much attention on building social and emotional skills as on educational attainment. Which will help with productivity in the long run – we know that increasing wellbeing in children improves exam results, future wellbeing and future earnings.

Community Wellbeing

  • Community assets matter. Local pubs, key hubs for community activities, will benefit from tax breaks, and it would be good if more social spaces – libraries, cafes, and other bumping spaces – could also benefit. Children and people from some demographic groups are less likely to access pubs. There was also no formal valuation of common assets – green spaces, shared community resources, heritage buildings – despite evidence that these are important for community wellbeing.
  • Volunteering and giving. There were no announcements on related issues that could help develop community wellbeing – measures, for example, to encourage volunteering and community groups.
  • Quality of relationships. Good partner relationships are second most important factor in our adult wellbeing, so £20m investment in measures to help women escape violent partners and rebuild their lives are welcome. These programmes speak to early years and the stability of positive parenting – protecting women is protecting children (a shocking 200 children are bereaved each year in the UK by men killing their mothers).  The quality of a parental relationship affects the wellbeing of their children and its violent conflict that is the most harmful.

The budget has missed the major opportunities to increase wellbeing: no large roll-out of preventions of mental illness amongst children, no large initiatives in mental health treatment, where mental health problems are a major cause of low wellbeing; no push for flatter and more trusting organisations and ways of delivering services; no strong push against inequality; no moves to push for more pedestrian zones, jobs near homes, cheaper housing, forced parental leave, or increased mandatory holidays, all of which are moves towards more contented lives that put more value on relations.

Paul Frijters, Professor of Economics at LSE and lead investigator of the Cross-Cutting Wellbeing Programme.

Health and Social Care

Policy that values what matters people prioritises dignity and respect.

  • Potential to improve work conditions in the sector. There are not two cultures in the workplace: how you treat staff is how patients will be treated. The quality of care has often come under scrutiny and many working in care homes are unskilled and hold few formal qualifications. The investment of an additional £2bn for social care packages in England over the next three years opens a window of opportunity if directed toward upskilling in this area.  and thus has a positive impact on those who are currently low skilled working in this area. Forthcoming Centre evidence show the wellbeing and productivity gains possible in this sector, through well designed training.
  • Dedicated mental health provision missing. The Budget did not set out any dedicated investment in addressing the increasing demand for interventions that improve mental health. Early years investment in mental health is key to ensuring wellbeing across the life course, so preventative measures and treatments should be supported.

The Chancellor’s announcement of an extra two billion pounds for adult social care is welcome, obviously. All serious commentators realise that there is a crisis in social care and that this puts huge pressures on the already struggling NHS as well as causing massive personal distress. And investment in social care is probably a very wise priority. We need to welcome this investment, but remember that social care, health care and, perhaps particularly, mental health care, are all crucial elements of central government support for wellbeing.

Peter Kinderman, President of the British Psychological Society, and lead investigator on the Community Wellbeing programme.

Overall economy

The OBR have upgraded their growth forecast from 1.4% to 2% for next year. The level of national income has surprisingly little effect on wellbeing, as long as it does not go down.

Most importantly, the government is not announcing that it will seriously start to experiment with ways to increase wellbeing at all levels of government: no major experiments in teaching, health, the organisation of the civil service, housing, policing, etc. So we are not preparing to learn what works and what we can thus roll out in the future

Paul Frijters,  Professor of Economics at LSE and lead investigator of the Cross-Cutting Wellbeing Programme.

REFERENCES

[1] Blanchflower and Oswald (1998) find a robust positive effect of self-employment using UK data. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (1998). What makes an Entrepreneur? Journal of Labor Economics, 16(1), 26–60.

Alesina et al. (2004) find that the positive effect of self-employment is limited to the rich.

Alesina, A., Di Tella, R., & MacCulloch, R. (2004). Inequality and happiness: Are Europeans and Americans different? Journal of Public Economics, 88, 2009–2042.

Call for Evidence: submit your findings on wellbeing and work transitions

What is the relationship between wellbeing and transitions into – and out of – work? Are workers with lower wellbeing more likely to become unemployed, or move into long-term sick-leave, care or early retirement?

Similarly, if you have higher levels of wellbeing, are you more likely to move from worklessness into employment? By worklessness, we mean not being in regular employment or education/training, because of unemployment, retirement, disability and, family care.

Continue reading

Call for evidence: Learning and Wellbeing

We are conducting a review of how learning in the work Work &Learningenvironment influences wellbeing in terms of both learning processes and learning outcomes. While there is a significant body of research that looks at learning interventions in work, or for work, there is little understanding of their relationship to well-being.

Our main research question is as follows;

Within the context of work, to what extent are wellbeing outcomes influenced by learning outcomes and the characteristics of the learning process?

We are looking for high quality evidence that addresses this question to use as best practice examples.

We are particularly seeking evidence that meets the following criteria:

  1. Evaluation studies with assessments of wellbeing taken before and after the learning process – this is to allow us to determine whether the learning process produced any changes in wellbeing subsequent to its introduction.
  2. Evidence that includes comparison groups that did not participate in the course of learning are particularly welcome.
  3. Studies which look at how wellbeing is impacted by either the learning process or outcome and those which look at both.
  4. Evaluations of learning which does or does not have an explicit wellbeing aim.
  5. Evidence of impacts on wellbeing may include stress, mental health, anxiety, depression, life or job satisfaction, resilience or self-efficacy.
  6. Qualitative and quantitative evidence is welcome.

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

All submissions should be received by 8th of July 2016 .

Call for Evidence: Worklessness, exits from work and wellbeing

We are reviewing the evidence of how worklessness – not  being in paid work and exits from work affect wellbeing.

Work &Learning

 

By worklessness we mean not being in regular employment or education/training, because of unemployment, retirement, disability or family care.

We are specifically interested in evidence which relates to the following research questions:

  1. What are the potential effects of not being in paid work on wellbeing?
  2. How does the duration of not being in paid work affect wellbeing?
  3. What are the impacts of changes in wellbeing on worklessness, duration of worklessness and the subsequent transitions?

We are looking for high quality research on each of these questions to use as best available evidence. We aim to use this evidence to show the impact of different types of worklessness- not being in paid work on wellbeing and the impact of wellbeing on moving in and out of worklessness for different demographic groups.

We are particularly seeking the following types of evidence:

  • Evaluation of how not being in paid work linked to different life circumstances (e.g., retirement, disability, unemployment) impacts on wellbeing.
  • Evaluation of the impact of poor wellbeing on remaining in worklessness
  • Evaluation of the extent to which the wellbeing outcomes of worklessness, duration of worklessness and the transitions between worklessness states vary across groups (e.g., age, gender, family status).

We are particularly interested in the effects of worklessness on life satisfaction. However, evidence of impact on wellbeing that may include stress, mental health, anxiety, and depression are also welcomed.

We welcome evidence of a qualitative or quantitative nature, provided the evidence meets the criteria outlined above.  Studies that use longitudinal methods are preferable. However, we also seek evidence from high quality cross-sectional studies.

→Please send your submissions to: Evidence@WhatWorksWellbeing.org with Worklessness as the title

→All submissions should be received by 20th of June 2016.

 

Take part in a National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey from Business in the Community

Our emotional health, in both adult and childhood, is the biggest driver of our adult wellbeing, followed by our partner relationship and our employment.  Mental health is one of four areas recommended by the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy where action would improve wellbeing, with wellbeing at work another.  This is why we are supporting the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey from Business in the Community → Take part

This week is Mental Heath Awareness week #MHAW16Print

To coincide, Business in the Community have launched the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey  – the UK’s largest survey of mental wellbeing at work, taking place annually over 3 years. It includes the personal wellbeing questions used by the Office of National Statistics to measure national wellbeing. 

Are you aged 16-64+ and currently in employment in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

www.thewellbeingsurvey.org.uk

Why take part?

  • Mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK and is on the increase. 15.2 million days of sickness absence in 2013 were caused by everyday conditions such as stress anxiety or depression – a dramatic increase from 11.8 million days in 2010.
  • be part of an unprecedented collaboration to transform how the UK approaches mental wellbeing at work.
  •  National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey  wants to hear from all UK employees – line managers, senior leaders, direct reports – in order to give a complete picture of workers’ mental wellbeing now,what employers are doing about it, and what needs to change.  Every opinion counts.

We want to conduct the UK’s largest survey of mental wellbeing at work in the UK to gain a snapshot of the UK workforce’s mental wellbeing, and its capacity to support wellbeing.

– Business in the Community

Why businesses should take part in the survey?

BiTC believe we are nearing a crisis point for mental wellbeing in work and it is a business critical issue for all organisations:

  • Mental health costs the UK £70 billion per year, equivalent to 5% of GDP.
  • Mental ill health costs each employer £1,035 per employee, per year.
  • Failure to unlock the workforce’s full potential costs UK business £6 billion.
  • Only 2 in 5 employees are working at peak performance.
  • Studies suggest that presenteeism from mental ill health alone costs the UK economy £15.1 billion per annum, almost twice the business cost of employee absence from work.
  • More line managers are experiencing stress-related ill-health and symptoms of psychological ill-health.
  • 3 in 5 managers are concerned about the impact of longer working hours on their stress levels.

There is still a stigma associated with mental health, through a lack of understanding.  People might feel very happy to tell a colleague about a physical injury they’ve sustained, but when it comes to mental health, people can keep this to themselves through fear of being treated differently or judged.

  • Only a third of employees received any support to manage workplace stress.
  • Less than half of those that are affected by mental ill health feel confident to disclose their condition in the workplace, which can mean issues become more severe.

→ Information for employers

→ Information for individuals

→ Take the survey www.thewellbeingsurvey.org.uk

New Systematic Review of Resilience Training in the Workplace

You may well have undergone resilience training at work which could take many forms. But how do we know which interventions are effective? How do we know what works?

A new systematic review – reviewing the review literature – sets out to start and answer these questions.

Here, one of the authors of the review Mustafa Sarkar @mussarkar sets out the findings:


resilience 1

Resilience refers to the capacity of individuals to withstand – and even thrive on – the pressure and stress they experience in their lives (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013) and resilience training programmes aim to equip individuals with resources and skills to prevent the potential negative effects of pressure and stress. The emphasis on building resilience in the workplace has been at least partially due to the period of global recession and subsequent austerity (Robertson & Cooper, 2013). People in the workplace have heavier workloads now and are working under enormous pressure as we enter the ‘getting more from less era’ (CIPD, 2009). The need for personal resilience in the workplace, therefore, has never been greater.

With a view to determining the effectiveness of resilience training in this context, we (Robertson, Cooper, Sarkar, & Curran, 2015) recently conducted a systematic review of work-based resilience training interventions. After applying rigorous criteria,  14 studies were considered robust enough to draw conclusions from. The 14 studies included programmes varying in length from single 90 minute sessions to workshops run over 12 weeks, and from online programmes to 2½ day retreats and group workshops supported with 1:1 coaching. Moreover, they included approaches based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), coaching-related principles, mindfulness- and compassion-based practices, and interestingly,  two programmes used technology in the form of emWave biofeedback machines to help individuals self-manage their own stress.

resilience 6

In order to determine the effectiveness of these resilience training programmes, we evaluated their effects on various outcomes including  personal resilience, mental health and wellbeing, physical health, psychosocial functioning, and performance.

The findings provided some indication that resilience training for employees may have beneficial effects with 12 out of the 14 studies showing positive and significant changes as a result of resilience training. This was especially the case for mental health and wellbeing outcomes such as stress, depression, anxiety, and negative mood/affect/emotion, which appeared particularly sensitive to resilience intervention. There was also an indication, across the studies, that personal resilience may be improved following resilience training (as would be expected) and it was also found that resilience training had a number of wider benefits that included enhanced psychosocial functioning (e.g., increased self-efficacy, work satisfaction, social skills) and improved performance (e.g., goal attainment, productivity, observed behavioural performance). However, due to the limited evidence (i.e., shortage of studies) and small sample sizes, it is worth noting that the results available permit only tentative conclusions. Similarly, the evidence is too limited to determine the most effective type of intervention. Indeed, at this stage, there is no definitive evidence for the most effective training content or format, but the results do suggest that it may be wise to include an element of one-to-one support based on individual needs in any resilience training programme.

In conclusion, this systematic review is the first step in identifying the impact of resilience training in the workplace and provides initial evidence of the impact of resilience training on personal resilience, mental health and wellbeing, and performance. However, more work-based studies in this area are required to better enable us to determine which particular aspects of resilience training are most effective.

Reference

Robertson, I., Cooper, C. L., Sarkar, M., & Curran, T. (2015). Resilience training in the workplace from 2003-2014: A systematic review. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 88, 533-562.


 

→ The World Economic Forum: Global Agenda Council has launched:                                             Seven Steps Guide towards a Mentally Healthy Organisation as part of World Bank/WHO Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority 

→Our Chair’s blog: Out of the shadows – World Bank & World Health Organisation on Mental Health

→We are currently running a Work & Learning Call for Evidence on job quality

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 .