November 28, 2014
The UK Government is very big on evidence based design these days and it is applying this approach in a number of new areas of policy, including wellbeing. Invariably the outcomes of its research and analysis are first refracted through a political prism on their way to becoming legislation, but the approach is very welcome and we should greet it without cynicism. At the end of October of this year The Cabinet Office announced the launch of The What Works Centre for Wellbeing including a dedicated website. The centre has the support of 17 founding partners including Public Health England, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Office for National Statistics, a number of other central government departments, the Local Government Association and the BIG Lottery Fund which means it enjoys wide ranging buy-in from the people best able to shape policy making and is chaired by Lord Gus O’Donnell.
The Centre claims that it ‘will develop a strong and credible evidence base which will support them to be able to focus their efforts towards those interventions that will have the biggest impact’. No doubt this means, that when it comes to workplace wellbeing, it will be set to spend a lot of time looking at the twin issues of stress and musculoskeletal disorders. As recent data from the Health and Safety Executive shows, these are easily the biggest contributors to workplace ill health and absenteeism, both overall and in terms of the number of new cases.
The new evidential approach of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing will no doubt highlight these as the two main issues to address and so what will then become interesting is the acquisition and application of evidence about what can be done about them. Fortunately, much of this evidence exists, based on both established research and practical examples.
We should all do our best to engage with this debate as it develops, not least to encourage a legislative approach that takes full account of the complexities of modern working life and how we use technology. We’ll also be making sure that we get across the message that the idea of wellbeing is about far more than merely trying to cut down on the incidences of musculoskeletal disorders, stress, depression and other work related illnesses. It is also about fostering productivity, health and happiness. The evidence exists for this positive approach and government policy needs to recognise how important this is for the individual, their employer and the nation as a whole.
Justin Miller is the sales director of office furniture and ergonomics specialist Wellworking.