Employers should create happier and healthier workplaces

Research undertaken by Lancaster University’s The Work Foundation has informed guidelines from England’s health watchdog.

Lancaster’s think tank contributed to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) latest public health guidance, which calls for employers and managers to do more to foster healthy workplaces.

Professor Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre of Workplace Effectiveness at Lancaster University’s The Work Foundation, as well as researchers Dr Zofia Bajorek and Dr Tyna Taskila, were commissioned to undertake a systematic review of the evidence – both qualitative and quantitative – that underpinned the recommendations.

Dr Zofia Bajorek said: "In conjunction with colleagues at the Institute for Employment Studies our scrutiny of the literature on workplace health found that line manager behaviour can be crucial.

"If we are to ensure that the physical and psychological wellbeing of employees is improved then we need employers to recognise that supportive line managers and a culture where employees feel engaged and empowered can make a big difference."

Workplace health is a major public health issue – it is estimated that each year more than a million working people in the UK experience a work-related illness, costing the economy around £13.4 billion.

The reasons for poor workplace health are widespread and include long irregular hours, lack of control over work and discriminatory practices.

NICE’s new guidance addresses this issue, and calls for reform in a range of areas, from organisational commitment to the way bosses manage their staff.

The recommendations include:

  • Ensuring employees’ work-life balance is respected.
  • Line managers encouraging workers to be creative and explore new opportunities that may arise.
  • Line managers receiving training to improve their awareness of health and wellbeing issues.