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June 2020

What works for health and wellbeing in the workplace?

What works for health and wellbeing in the workplace?
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Key findings

You can also read the full review article in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

There are lots of different activities and programmes that can be used in workplaces to improve wellbeing. This study reviewed the evidence on what matters when it came to how any given intervention is implemented, in order to help it achieve the intended wellbeing outcomes.

It finds that:

  • A positive workplace context can be an enabler of success. This is where employees and management are supportive of wellbeing initiatives and delivery teams are competent. But at the same time, a negative context need not be a barrier. Negativity and cynicism can be overcome by shifting attitudes and improving the capabilities of
    those delivering wellbeing initiatives.
    Appropriate and good quality systems can be combined with the capacity for the programmes to learn and adapt as they go. These systems govern and deliver wellbeing programmes, according to a planned sequence of activities.
    Beyond just good intentions and rhetoric, activities and programmes need to make tangible changes to workplaces and to how people work. This means people can see visible progress and the associated impacts of wellbeing.

These findings were used to derive five principles for practitioners to consider when implementing wellbeing programmes: communication, coherence, commitment, consistency and creativity.

This briefing summarises the report Factors Influencing the Implementation of Workplace Health and Wellbeing Interventions,[1] a systematic review which included 74 studies, looking at 86 different workplace initiatives.

Workplace health and wellbeing is one of the main drivers of personal wellbeing and workforce productivity. Paying attention to employee’s wellbeing can uphold an employer’s duty to cause no harm, be consistent with a corporate social responsibility strategy as well as benefiting wider society.

There are many things that employers can do to improve wellbeing in the workplace, from redesigning jobs to training managers.

As employers increasingly introduce policies and programmes that seek to protect and improve the wellbeing of their employees, this research asked the question of what matters when it comes to how wellbeing initiatives are introduced. Looking at different initiatives whether they have worked in different contexts helps us to understand what matters when it comes to increasing the chances that any initiative that an employer invests in will be successful.

[1] The review is part of the Work and Learning Programme commissioned by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing and funded by the ESRC. It was led by Prof Kevin Daniels and colleagues at the Employment Systems and Institutions Group, Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia (Martin Hogg, David Watson, Rachel Nayani, Olga Tregaskis, Abasiama Etuknwa and Antonina Semkina). The full systematic review will be made available following scientific publication.

Close Key findings

You may also wish to read the blog article on this document.


You may also wish to read the blog article on this document.

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