Centre for Organisational Health and Wellbeing launched by health minister
Revolution in approach to public health needed to reduce ‘avoidable’ sickness absence says Minister for Health
The Minister for Health, Ben Bradshaw has announced that a preventative approach to public health must be the way forward as the total amount lost to the economy due to absence and ill health equates to £100 billion - equivalent to the NHS budget.
Addressing representatives from private and public organisations at the launch of Lancaster University’s Centre for Organisational Health and Wellbeing on 12 May at Westminster, he also said that it is more important than ever to reduce the amount of money needlessly lost to illness at work as in the future the NHS will not see the same significant spending levels.
The minister said that the Centre for Organisational Health and Wellbeing will provide serious research for organisations so they can understand the problems and the action needed to avoid them.
Based at Lancaster University, the centre is funded by 12 public and private organisations. The Centre aims to research on how to integrate many aspects of mental and physical health into work and the work environment.
Current projects are being conducted in the area of employee engagement, absenteeism at work, leadership and health, and the effectiveness of health promotion initiatives.
Mr Bradshaw said that he was glad to see the Cabinet Office and North Lancashire PCT had joined the centre and said that the centre “is an example of government and industry working together to improve the health of the nation.”
Nestle, Unilever, Tesco, North Lancashire PCT, National Policing Improvement Agency, Manchester City Council, Shell, Northumbrian Water, GlaxoSmithKline, Astra Zeneca, the Cabinet Office and npower have signed up to support the Centre.
Also launched this week were the findings of new research from the Centre for Organisational Health and Wellbeing on the effects of the recession on UK workers’ health.
The research found that British workers are spending more time at work in attempts to safeguard their jobs during the recession than they used to but surprisingly this is not adversely affecting their relationships at home.
The findings shows that 66% of employees are succumbing to ‘presenteeism’ at work as job insecurity bites as a result of the economic downturn.
The survey also found that whilst 61% of employees are worrying about the future and over half are finding the current economic situation stressful, the majority of those surveyed said that their home relationships had not been badly affected.
The Director of the Centre Professor Susan Cartwright, from Lancaster University’s School of Health and Medicine commented “The gender differences in this survey are also worth mentioning, in that 71% of women reported that they are now spending more time at work compared with 61% of men. This suggests that women may feel more vulnerable about job loss than men. Furthermore, a higher percentage of women than men are finding the current economic situation stressful”. Professor Cartwright is a leading expert in the design and evaluation of organizational initiatives to reduce stress and promote health at work and together with Professor Cary Cooper has developed “ASSET”, a widely used stress screening tool.
Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University (see below for contact details) said that some of the results of the survey were encouraging.
“It’s probably not surprising that workers are stressed and worried, but I think these results show that people are realising that family life is important and are investing in it to make relationships work when other parts of life seem uncertain.
“Presenteesim may make the employee feel more secure because he or she is ‘putting the hours in’, but there is no evidence that consistent long hours result in increased productivity.”
The Lancaster / UGov survey asked employees from all regions of the UK and all age groups how they are dealing with the recession in terms of health and wellbeing.
Key results of the survey conducted 17-20th April with a sample of 2247 workers showed that:
• 66% say that over the past few months they are spending more time at work than they used to. Only 15% of those surveyed are not.
• The majority - 61% - of respondents said that they worry more about the future. 22% disagree
• Over half ( 54% of workers) are finding the current economic situation stressful. 22% say they are not finding it stressful
• 54% of people said that their relationships were unaffected by the economic downturn, with 21% saying that relationships had been adversely affected.
• 42% of people surveyed said that in the past 3 months that they feel more insecure about their jobs. 37% disagree
• 45 % of employees said that they thought it best to ‘play it safe at work and keep my head down’ . 24 % disagreed.
• 41% of people reported a negative atmosphere at work. 24% said that there was a positive atmosphere at work