This is part of our quick reads series; helping you stay informed without hogging your precious time. This post covers a wellbeing at work case study (in manufacturing) written up in Occupational Health in 2015.
I’m sure you know when you are experiencing wellbeing and when you are not. However, this does not mean there is a clear, agreed definition of what wellbeing is; there isn’t. Wellbeing has often been coupled with health, having been first mention in the World Health Organisations 1947 constitution.
Wellbeing has two parts or types, the pure (hedonic) pleasure stuff and the more meaning based, purpose and values stuff (called eudaimonic). Wellbeing at work is influenced by organisational factors as well as personal ones. As such corporate wellbeing interventions increasingly focus on employee engagement and providing “good work” as well as a strong psychosocial environment. Psychosocial being the interaction between social factors and personal thoughts and behaviours.
A ‘weak’ psychosocial environment has been shown to:
- influence the perception of (poor) health
- increase the experience of pain
- delay recovery from musculoskeletal conditions
- trigger negative coping strategies (e.g. drinking or over-eating)
- reduce work performance
The Case Study
A manufacturing plant in Kent, UK wanted to take employee wellbeing seriously. Initial attempts to engage employees in talks about their wellbeing met with suspicion and cynicisms. No surprises there.
Next they created an anonymous survey for all staff (in a range of languages). Although response rate was low at 14%, this was seen as a success as it was higher than previous initiatives. Hence the company took seriously the information provided.
The work force was diverse and included many migrants, some of whom did not speak English. Many of their wellbeing needs where as simple as good footwear, a comfortable break room and the opportunity to learn English and maths.
A three year wellbeing plan had a different focus each year: year one was mental health, year two was musculoskeletal issues; and year three health and lifestyle.
The project included a wide range of initiatives:
- Launching with a wellbeing day, that included a hot long lunch and a range of health based activities and seminars.
- A site translator role was designated and translation services were sought from staff (offering extra payment and time off to deal with urgent translation needs onsite).
- An employee assistance programme was introduced.
- A local charity was commissioned to provide migrant specific support.
- Acquiring government funding for maths and English lessons (that resulted in a number of staff obtaining formal qualifications). They also had a quarterly celebrate success teas – where staff where formally recognised for their studying successes.
- Accredited Mental health first-aid training for managers. This was voluntary, however 75% of managers completed the entire programme and most did at least two modules.
- Creating relationships with the local mental health services, GPs and nurses.
- Updated sick leave policies.
- A formal academic review half way trough the three years (which highlighted a need for improved communication about the programme, so the right people could access the right support).
The project was a success by several measures e.g. wining several awards as well as the local job centre providing feedback that job seekers were actively pursuing jobs with the employer.
Critical success factors for this project were: deeply engaging employees from the outset and taking the time (and resources) to assess the project midway.
How are your wellbeing at work initiatives going (or not going).
I’d love to hear from you.
Yours as ever,
The Wellbeing at Work Dr
Brownett, T. (2015). Improving wellbeing at work. Occupational Health, 67(4), 24-26.