Growing the health and well-being agenda

An overview of the main developments in the workplace health and well-being agenda over the past decade and focus on the future priorities for the HR profession

The CIPD is embarking on a long-term project on employee health and well-being. We think that HR has a vital role to play in creating healthier workplaces.

Workplace health and well-being has risen sharply up the public policy agenda over the past decade. This has been accompanied by growing recognition of the positive link between employee well-being and long-term organisational health. There also appears to be a much broader understanding and application of holistic health and well-being approaches on the part of many organisations. We welcome this progress but believe that there is still considerable scope for wider and more integrated implementation of employee well-being in the workplace.

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The world of work is changing fast.

People are living and working longer, increasingly caring for their children and parents. There's growing pressure to do more with less and technology is keeping us switched on, enabling us to work wherever and whenever we choose.

With the growing awareness of the importance of well-being and the impact of poor mental and physical health, organisations are facing greater responsibility for the well-being of their employees.

Sickness absence costs the UK economy over 14 billion pounds a year. That's 554 pounds per employee.

Organisations that ignore employee well-being risk absenteeism, poor performance, and higher costs.

But well-being isn't just about fixing problems, it's about creating opportunities and generating long-term value.

So what do we mean by well-being? What an effective health and well-being programme looks like will depend on the needs of the organisation and its people, but it's likely to include health promotion, a good working environment, flexible working, positive relationships, opportunities for career development and a healthy management style.

Well-being creates workplaces which support health and happiness so that people can flourish and reach their potential benefiting themselves and the organisation.

So why do so few companies recognise the importance of well-being?

For businesses, attracting the right talent is essential, but making sure people are happy, healthy and engaged is fundamental to sustainable business performance.

Investing in well-being leads to increased resilience, greater innovation and higher productivity.

It makes good business sense.

But well-being initiatives often fall short of their potential because they stand alone, isolated from the everyday business, when to gain real benefit well-being must be integrated throughout an organisation, embedded in its culture, its leadership and its people management.

The HR profession is in a unique position to drive this agenda, to understand the needs of both workforce and organisation, and to deliver the benefits of well-being throughout the business.

Find out how HR can develop organisations with well-being at their core for happier, healthier, sustainable business.

Growing the health and well-being agenda: from first steps to full potential

An effective employee well-being programme should be at the core of how an organisation fulfils its mission and carries out its operations and not consist of one-off initiatives. Our positioning report emphasises the role of HR in creating cultures where health and well-being are centre-stage in supporting efforts to improve workplace health, enhance productivity and have a more sustainable and motivated workforce. It builds on the research and guidance that the CIPD and others have already published and sets out key policy calls for employers and government.

This report reviews the extent to which well-being considerations are integrated into UK organisations and highlights future priorities for the HR profession. It looks at how the changing nature of work, the workforce and the workplace is making a focus on individual well-being even more critical to broader organisational health and well-being.

In our collection of 14 thought pieces experts reflect on the business case for well-being, turning theory into practice, measuring employee well-being and the need to focus on good mental health in the workplace.

Part 1: Well-being: good for employees, good for business?

  • Promoting well-being needs a different approach to human resource management by David Guest, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Human Resource Management, King’s College, London.
  • Building the business case for well-being by John Hamilton, Head of Safety, Health and Well-being.
  • Happier workers, higher profits by Alex Bryson, Professor of Quantitative Social Science, UCL, and a visiting research fellow at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. John Forth and Lucy Stokes are at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

Part 2: Turning the well-being theory into practice

  • Addressing the stubborn implementation gap by Jill Miller, PhD, Research Adviser, and Rachel Suff, Public Policy Adviser (Employment Relations), CIPD.
  • ‘Readiness’ – the secret to getting health and well-being right inside your business by Sir Cary Cooper CBE, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, Manchester Business School, and Founding Director of Robertson Cooper Ltd, and Ben Moss, Managing Director of Robertson Cooper and Good Day at Work.
  • Healthy organisations, healthy leadership and management, healthy employees … for healthy performance by Emma Donaldson-Feilder and Rachel Lewis, Directors of Affinity Health at Work.
  • Cafcass: a case study on building a culture of health and well-being by James Hyde, Head of HR, Cafcass.
  • Worker well-being – with a purpose by Paul Dolan, Professor of Behavioural Science, with Agnieszka Zbieranska, Research Assistant, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Part 3: Measuring employee well-being

  • Well-being reporting: is it time to truly recognise the value of well-being? by Edward Houghton, Research Adviser, CIPD.
  • Engagement and well-being: are they linked? by Katie Bailey, Professor of Management, University of Sussex.
  • Is working harder and smarter good for you? by Dr Chidiebere Ogbonnaya, Research Fellow in Quantitative Social Science for the Eastern Academic Research Consortium, and Karina Nielsen, Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology, University of East Anglia.

Part 4: Good mental health is everyone’s business

  • Walking the tightrope: why work should be more than just a safety net when our mental health is at risk by Adrian Wakeling, Policy Analyst, Acas.
  • Fostering a mentally healthy workplace culture by Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind.
  • The importance of the workplace in achieving one agenda for mental and physical health by Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk.

Have your say

As part of building on this aspirational agenda for the future of workplace health and well-being, CIPD Ireland plans to develop a collection of thought pieces to highlight the issues and practices in Ireland. For further information contact Mary Connaughton.