Identifying promising practices in health and wellbeing at work

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RAND Europe was commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) to review the current landscape of health and wellbeing interventions available to employers. Submissions provided an encouraging and diverse view of the landscape. A small group showed high levels of evidence, when graded against Nesta standards.

Case studies of the most promising practices that support policy and organisational decision making were highlighted in the research; five of them are featured below.

Background

Health and wellbeing at work can have a profound impact on individuals, organisations and societies. Emerging research indicates that a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, with fewer sick days taken and higher productivity when at work. As a result of this, more and more organisations are introducing initiatives to help protect and promote staff health and wellbeing.

With growing activity in workplace wellbeing, there is a crucial question that needs answering: how do interventions in workplace wellbeing support positive health outcomes for staff and employees?

Goals

RAND Europe worked with Public Health England (PHE) to review the current landscape of health and wellbeing interventions available to employers. This study identified different types of health and wellbeing initiatives, reviewed the evidence base and developed case studies of promising practices to support policy and organisational decision making. The research examined both commercial and non-profit providers as well as in-house wellbeing interventions developed by employers.

Methodology

Applying the Nesta standards of evidence, RAND Europe designed a case study data capture questionnaire. The submissions collected were categorised according to workplace health topic and graded against the five Nesta levels. The process was supported and moderated by an academic and expert review panel.

Findings

  • The submissions reflect an encouraging and diverse landscape across workplace wellbeing.
  • A small group of interventions were graded as Nesta level 2 or above. It suggests that academically rigorous methods of data collection are not widely in use.
  • The most promising practices identified were interventions related to mental health, sleep, menopause and musculoskeletal health.
  • The majority of case studies were submitted by providers of wellbeing interventions rather than employers.
  • No wellbeing interventions were reported for smoking or financial resilience.
  • Organisations collected a variety of data types to explore the impact of their interventions. Some collected data on direct changes to wellbeing while others focused more on confidence.

Case studies

Below are the top five Nesta Level case studies identified by the report:

1. Sleepio

Intervention area: Sleep
Nesta level: 4
Reach: 25,000+
Availability: Internationally to English-speaking countries

Sleepio is a digital training programme that aims to improve participants’ sleep and in turn their wider mental health, using cognitive behavioural therapy.

2. Mental Health First Aid England

Intervention area: Mental health
Nesta level: 3
Reach: 245,000+
Availability: Nationally

Mental Health First Aid England delivers training by instructors accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health which provides participants with the knowledge and skills to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues.

3. Be Mindful

Intervention area: Mental health
Nesta level: 3
Reach: 11,000
Availability: Nationally

Be Mindful is a digital training programme that guides users through all the elements of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

4. KCL Menopause at work

Intervention area: Menopause
Nesta level: 3
Availability: Trialled intervention

KCL Menopause at work is a brief self-help booklet involving information, exercises and homework tasks based on CBT principles aimed at helping women in the workplace manage problematic menopausal symptoms, as well as raising awareness.

5. ESCAPE-pain

Intervention area: Musculoskeletal health
Nesta level: 3
Reach: 500–999
Availability: Nationally

ESCAPE-pain is a rehabilitation programme that includes both an education component to learn about the causes of chronic pain and coping strategies, as well as a tailored exercise programme.

Recommendations

  • There is no ‘one size fits all’ and organisations should not put off using basic evaluation tools: what gets measured gets done.
  • Small and medium sized organisations can learn from their peers to find approaches that match their size and aspirations.
  • Designing and implementing evaluations of interventions should be considered from the outset.
  • Qualitative and subjective evaluation methods of feedback as well as quantitative and objective data sets may support a better understanding of employee experiences of workplace wellbeing.
  • The increasing focus on workplace wellbeing provision should not come at the expense of effective workplace management cultures.