In 2006, the UK’S Department for Work and Pensions published an independent review Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing?
The reviewers Gordon Waddell and A. Kim Burton set the main focus in whether the evidence suggests that work is directly beneficial for well-being, physical and mental health.
The review showed there are economic, social and moral arguments that demonstrate work is the most effective way to improve the well-being of individuals, their families and their communities. As well as showing long-term worklessness is harmful to physical and mental health.
The conclusion was ‘Yes, work is beneficial for physical and mental health and well-being of healthy people, many disabled people and most people with common health problems’.
Work, activity, and life itself involves physical and mental effort, essential for maintaining health and capability.
Work also involves the application of skills, knowledge or other personal resources, usually involves commitment over time. Work is not only ‘a job’ or paid employment, but includes unpaid or voluntary work, education and training, family responsibilities, and caring.
Work might be good for you, but what makes work good?
The ability to participate in the working world opens the individual possibilities to carry out economically independent life, develop their working skills, and social contacts. One third of adult life is spent at work where the economic and material values of society are generated. (World Health Organisation Strategy 1995).
When asking different people what makes work good, they’ll probably differ from the other factors such as salary, location, work-life balance, working environment, opportunities of career progression, training… but at the end there are some minimum requirements everyone needs, called ‘Management Standards’.
It was in 2004, when the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) established these 6 requirements needed for a person’s job. Suggesting if they are well managed, employees will experience a good level of health and well-being.
- Demands: employees are able to cope with the demands of their jobs, this includes issues such as workload, work patterns, and the work environment.
- Control: employees have a say in the way they do their work.
- Support: employees receive the encouragement, sponsorship, and resources provided by the organisation, line management, and colleagues.
- Relationships: the main focus is on promoting positive working relationships to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour, such as bullying at work
- Role: employees understand their role and the organisation ensures they don’t have conflicting roles.
- Change: how organisational change is managed and communicated, engaging the employees.
The mismanagement of these can lead to employees dealing with stress, poor mental health, and low productivity, as well as increased accident and sickness rates at work.
Other factors such as long hours, lack of work-life balance, high risks roles, poor working environment, and financial worries can also increase the risk of experiencing poor mental health or stress at work.
Most of the employers understand the importance of mental health and promote how to prevent putting it at risk. But overall, there’s a lack of promotion of mental health and well-being at work and in investing in mental health professionals, who can support and educate employees and employers.
How can employees feel good and supported at work?
As employers support staff when feeling physically unwell, they should do so when feeling mentally unwell also.
‘There is no health without mental health’.
There are different cores employers can apply, including public or private sector and small or larger employers.
- Implement a mental health at work plan.
- Provide a safe space and mental health support for employees as an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)
- Ensure employees have a good work-life balance and working conditions.
- Raise mental health and well-being awareness in the workplace.
- Provide mental health awareness training.
- Promote effective people management through managers and supervisors.
- Monitor staff well-being.
Investing and promoting well-being and a mentally healthy workplace for your employees is the right decision. Valued and supported staff don’t just have better levels of well-being, they will be able to increase their levels of productivity by 12% as well as deliver the best outcomes possible to the company.