Carnegie UK Trust and partners consider workplace health and wellbeing at a House of Lords discussion on ‘What is Good Work?’

November 8, 2017

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On 7 November, the Carnegie UK Trust joined the Society of Occupational Medicine and the College of Medicine to ask how we can measure, safeguard and promote the health and wellbeing dimensions of ‘good’ work. Representatives from the policy, health, business, trade union and academic communities were invited to join in a luncheon discussion at the House of Lords hosted by the Right Honourable the Lord David Blunkett of Brightside and Hillsborough, Patron of the Society of Occupational Medicine.

The importance of work to our wellbeing is widely documented. But what is less understood is the impact of different types of work and workplace practices on employee health and wider wellbeing. As the Carnegie UK Trust embarks on its ‘Measuring Job Quality’ initiative with Matthew Taylor at the RSA – which aims to develop a framework for measuring success in improving work – this event enabled a deeper understanding of how the health and wellbeing dimensions of job quality can be captured and how better employee health and wellbeing outcomes might be achieved.

Contributions from Dr Michael Dixon, Chair of the College of Medicine, set out a vision for work as a force for good, which improves rather than undermines wellbeing, and Dr. Paul Williams, President of the Society of Medicine, explored how health professionals can support people at work. Paul Devoy, Chief Executive of Investors in People, outlined action employers can take to support improvements in the health and wellbeing of their workforce, including using the framework offered by Investors in People’s newly launched Health and Wellbeing Award. Professor Chris Warhurst, Director of the Warwick Institute for Employment Research and a member of the Trust’s ‘Measuring Job Quality’ group, led participants in a discussion of the key dimensions and indicators of quality work.

Douglas White, Head of Advocacy at the Carnegie UK Trust, said:

‘There is no simple formula for fulfilling work, but work that improves rather than undermines health and wellbeing is clearly a critical aspect of job quality. Action is needed to ensure that job quality, including health at work, remains a real focus for policy makers now and in the future. For that to happen, we need to be able to both measure and track progress.  We can also learn from those employers who have demonstrated successful approaches for building workplace cultures that value employee health and wellbeing.’

Nick Pahl, Chief Executive at the Society of Occupational Medicine, said:

‘Good data is essential in understanding what is good work – it can generate an iterative process of improvement in the quality of work. The Society of Occupational Medicine believes there is potential to significantly increase the use of information in UK workplaces to improve workplace health. Information can be used to understand more about what leads to work related disease, and develop and evaluate new occupational health services and policies.’

Lord Blunkett said:

‘Everybody benefits from healthy working practices. Safe and healthy workers enjoy a better quality of life. Employers and the whole UK economy benefit from a more productive workforce, with less time lost to stress and ill health and less pressure on our health services. We all have a part to play in promoting work that enhances wellbeing, and we need to practice what we preach. That means, for a start, understanding what works in workplace health, tracking impact and sharing best practice.  As the Industrial Strategy Commission recommended health and social care are as much about productivity as personal well-being – and the two go hand in hand.  I am very pleased to be involved in today’s discussion to keep good work high on the policy agenda.’

Read more about the Trust’s Measuring Job Quality initiative here.