Litchfield: The key to measuring wellbeing

Four ONS questions can form the cornerstone of any employer’s workplace wellbeing assessment, a leading wellbeing expert told a conference this week.

Speaking at Bupa’s launch of policy paper The Wellbeing Edit on Wednesday, wellbeing expert Dr Paul Litchfield, chief medical officer at What Works Wellbeing and director of wellbeing, inclusion, safety & health at BT Group said four key questions from the ONS survey can form the basis of benchmark research to demonstrate the impact of wellbeing interventions on workers.

Litchfield said that as well as the impact on employees’ own lives, wellbeing strategies were increasingly being seen as a way for companies to deliver better value to customers. While this is harder to prove in service industries he said, in areas such as call-centres, it was possible to show improved Net Promoter Scores, delivering metrics that would be attractive to decision-makers within organisations.

Litchfield said that the four questions – Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?; Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?; Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday? and overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday? were a sound basis for employee wellbeing research.

Coinciding with the event, Bupa published research showing claims for mental health treatment through work are up 53 per cent over 10 years, while stress and anxiety diagnoses have doubled, 35 per cent feel more able to talk to their line manager about mental health issues as attitudes change and 26 per cent of line managers have had training to support team members’ mental health issues over the last year.

Litchfield said: “The simplest way to measure wellbeing are the ONS questions, four simple questions in the Measuring National Well-being survey. This can give you an evidence-based standardised measure of wellbeing.

“Making the link to hard outcomes such as productivity is difficult, particularly in the service industry. However we are seeing work in call centres looking at Net Promoter Scores, which is not just looking at costs such as sickness absence et cetera but also looking at growing your business. When you start talking about this, commercial people start to get quite excited.

Bupa UK corporate director Patrick Watt says: “The data and research illustrates the progress businesses have made, whilst highlighting that we still have more to do. In recent years many high profile business leaders have openly discussed their mental health challenges which has helped reframe how we talk about mental health in the workplace and create a more open culture. At the same time, UK businesses now recognise that to be able to increase engagement it is just as important to ensure that their people are mentally, as well as physically fit.

“The diversity of the modern workforce means there is no silver bullet. The Wellbeing Edit aims to encourage businesses to ensure holistic wellbeing remains a boardroom by creating a workplace culture that drives a healthy workforce and a healthy business.”

“It is clear that employers are investing in education and training, with around half – 47 per cent – of line managers saying that they have received formal training on how to manage team members’ mental health issues. There is more to be done with 27 per cent saying that they worry that discussing mental health issues in the workplace as it may affect their career prospects and almost a third are unsure whether their employer has any provision for health and wellbeing.”