February 3, 2015 in True Strength, Resilience, Events (live blogging), HR Directors Business Summit 2015

HREvent15 – Staff engagement and wellbeing – is it core business?

Speaker: Dame Carol Black (Expert adviser on Health & Work, Department of Health and Public Health)

In this increasingly complex world, we have an increased focus on productivity which can, at times, be counter-productive.

What prevents us from working well? Common mental health problems, Musculo-skeletal problems, the quality of work and the workplace (including leadership behaviour and the absence of ‘good work’), along with other factors.

What do we need for health, wellbeing, and resilience ? Good work and workplaces, early interventions by GPs, and proactive ‘reformed’ Occupation Health. Engaged staff, with supportive and empowering leadership along with good support (and a real focus on wellbeing and resilience).

Predictors of back pain are not always medical, and decision control at work, and leadership culture have a major impact.

“If I could only invest in one thing, I would invest it in training managers”. Dame Carol quoted a Danish study where poor social support, lack of role clarity, and lack of meaningful work caused major problems. An intervention focused on middle managers had a major positive impact.

“Having a psychologically healthy workplace and having a profitable and sustainable business are linked”, and Dame Carol called for an integration and linking of Occupational Health and wellbeing initiatives.

Staff need to be empowered to improve their health and wellbeing. An initiative at The Walton Centre NHS Trust was cited where staff sickness absence rates were halved after staff involvement in designing a health an wellbeing programme. A major part of the initiative was increased physical activity, the importance of which should not be underestimated.

One size does not fit all when it comes to a resilience programme, and it depends on what is needed. There are many potential initiatives and things like reading groups, allotments, and a choir can all have there place.

Wellness programmes can benefit the employer, can be cost effective, and can help the company be employer of choice (as part of an appropriate HR programme).

“Britain’s Healthiest Company” study showed that both absenteeism and presenteeism have a major cost. There was also a strong correlation between lifestyle (including BMI) and sleep.


The video recording of the session has been released and is here:



Good work and good workplaces
leads to…
Employee wellbeing and engagement
leads to…
Increased productivity


  1. February 3, 2015 at 10:15 am


    Thanks for sharing this Ian. I am really curious about how presenteeism is costed. The report to which you refer has headlines and a nice infographic but I can’t currently find any data behind those. It seems that the report is linking to a study done six years ago, and once again – finding that study is proving elusive. I appreciate you’ve got loads on at the conference – and if you are able to find any pointers, information on where to look, I’d hugely appreciate it as I’m drawing a blank right now. Cheers – Doug

    1. February 9, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Ian Pettigrew

      Hi Doug, thanks for the comment. As you know, I was a bit busy running from session to session at the conference so I didn’t see the comment until later. The session was incredibly content-rich, and I only managed to capture a smidgen of the content, and didn’t get to capture any of the study references. I believe that the healthiest company is an annual event, so it might be worth digging a bit there! Cheers, Ian

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