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Putting employee well-being on the business agenda?

Published: 12/04/2016

The CIPD is a not-for-profit organisation that champions better work and working lives; setting the benchmark for excellence in people and organisation development for more than 100 years.

With 140,000 members across the world, the CIPD provides thought leadership through independent research on the world of work, with professional training and accreditation for those working in HR and learning development.

Well-being research

Their recent report entitled Growing the health and well-being agenda: From first steps to full potential tells us that workplace health and well-being has risen sharply up the public policy agenda over the past decade. There is growing recognition of the positive link between employee well-being and long-term organisational health. They aim to set an aspirational agenda for the future direction of workplace health and well-being. It is stated that 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. However, perhaps more crucially the report highlights a 'well-being vacuum' in UK workplaces, with fewer than one in ten organisations implementing a standalone, well-being strategy that supports the wider business goals.

Long hours as standard

It found the average cost of absence now stands at £554 per employee per year – a cost that less than two-fifths of organisations regularly monitor – while well-being was taken into account in business decisions only to a little extent, or not at all, in 57 per cent of cases.

The CIPD suggests that the majority of employers are more reactive than proactive in their approach to well-being (61 per cent), responding to persistent problems rather than predicting what health and well-being factors might impact the workforce in future.

Of the employees surveyed, 38 per cent reported feeling under excessive pressure at work at least once a week, with 43 per cent stating that long working hours are normal for their organisation.

Professor Cary Cooper, CIPD president, said: “A workforce that is well works well, but we’re still seeing far too many people doing more work than they can cope with, working long or unsociable hours, suffering from technology overload and unable to switch off. Organisations need to take better care of their people and recognise how the demands of work can affect their physical and mental health as well as their ability to perform well at work.”

He added: “The way we manage people and create cultures that enhance well-being are now bottom line issues. It’s high time business leaders recognise this and create cultures where well-being is centre stage and people are happy, healthy and committed to achieving organisational success.”

The CIPD report said HR professionals were in a unique position to steer the health and well-being agenda and ensure it is integrated into an organisation’s day-to-day operations.

It recommended HR managers convince senior management to integrate well-being throughout the business. This may need to start with a pilot area, or by highlighting pockets of good well-being practice that already exist and demonstrating the impact on employee engagement, customer service, absence levels and performance, the report said.

Furthermore, HR professionals should monitor and regularly report on a range of health, employee satisfaction and organisational measures to demonstrate the need for ongoing financial commitment to health and well-being.

Line managers should also receive training to ensure they have a clear understanding of health and well-being responsibilities, the confidence and skills to implement policies and handle difficult conversations with staff in a sensitive and effective way, the CIPD said.

Rachel Suff, policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “To put well-being firmly on the business agenda, we need to change conversations around the business case for well-being programmes from ‘cost avoidance’ to ‘shared value creation’ and highlight what organisations stand to gain, rather than lose.”

The CIPD sites their five domains of well-being as:

  • health
  • work
  • values/principles
  • collective/social
  • personal growth

For further explanation, including what elements come under each heading, with examples of well-being initiatives/activities see the full report, plus executive summary and case study.


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