‘Good work’ is critical in supporting wellbeing

Post author image. Peter Cheese
Peter Cheese, Chief Executive Officer at CIPD argues employers who focus on good work are better placed to bolster their workforce’s wellbeing, as well as their organisation’s resilience.

COVID-19 has posed a tremendous challenge for individuals and organisations alike. But it also affords employers an opportunity to learn from how they stepped up on a grand scale to better support people’s health, safety and wellbeing. In 2020 employee wellbeing jumped to the top of the corporate agenda, because overnight the pandemic turned it into a business continuity issue. Organisations recognised they needed to put people first. The pandemic should act as a real catalyst to encourage us to treat wellbeing in all its aspects as a strategic priority, helping to create organisations that allow people to thrive, which in turn is good for our economies, communities and society.  

The title of Business in the Community’s (BITC) important new report, What if your job was good for you? therefore captures the mindset with which every employer should approach workplace mental health. Work can and should be a force for good, for individuals as well as for organisations. There is now more expectation that organisations provide good jobs together with supportive cultures and workplaces, including opportunities for flexible ways of working. These are all essential in enhancing wellbeing, fostering inclusion, engagement and retention of staff as well as critical business outcomes such as productivity.

Work can and should be a force for good, for individuals as well as for organisations.

Health and wellbeing should be holistic

The pandemic has demonstrated how integrated all aspects of our health and wellbeing are – for example, how constraints on our social connections and access to support impact our wellbeing but also how we work and how we learn. The pandemic has directly impacted many people’s physical health and for many more, their mental health and financial wellbeing. However, it’s encouraging that the most recent CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and wellbeing at work survey report shows widespread appreciation for the need to develop more holistic health and wellbeing programmes.  The vast majority of organisations have taken additional action to support employee wellbeing in response to the ongoing pandemic. Many have increased their focus on looking after employees’ mental health and are providing more tailored support to address individuals’ needs and concerns. However, just half believe their organisation has been effective in managing the mental health risks arising from COVID-19.

More will be needed as we face more change and uncertainty in the future. More evidence of what works best in interventions particularly around mental wellbeing and support will be vital in driving the best outcomes. Greater transparency across organisations as to the actions they are taking to support wellbeing should also be part of encouraging a continued focus and accountability.

 We need more focus on job quality

Good work or job quality, as the BITC report highlights, is a vital part of holistic approaches to wellbeing. Good work covers fairness of pay, employment rights and conditions, use of skills and progression opportunities, having a voice and agency, and balance of work and flexibility. These in turn impact how people feel about their work and point to the critical dimensions of work being safe and good for our wellbeing. The CIPD’s latest Good Work Index (GWI) shows that although overall job quality in the UK has been surprisingly unaffected by the pandemic so far, it continues to fall short in a number of key areas.

As many as one in four said work is bad for their physical or mental wellbeing. Three in ten report unmanageable workloads, and almost a quarter report a poor work–life balance, finding it difficult to relax in their personal time because of work. These are statistics that have to improve in the future, and there is clearly much to be done to close existing gaps and improve job quality across the board to ensure it improves wellbeing outcomes.

The UK has experienced record levels of employment in recent years, but the future jobs economy is more uncertain, impacted as it is from many different directions, including what may happen as furlough schemes come to an end. Going forward, employers and public policy, need to focus on the quality as well as the quantity of jobs in the UK labour market. Those employers who focus on good work will be far better placed to bolster their workforce’s wellbeing as well as their organisation’s resilience going forward.

Considering the calls to action set out in Business in the Community’s report would be an important step in the that direction, so do read What if your job was good for you?

The What If Your Job Was Good for You? report was delivered in partnership with the Business in the Community Wellbeing Leadership Team and Affinity Health at Work, and supported by CIPD