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What really works in workplace wellness – HR News

An international review of evidence on workplace learning shows workplace training specifically designed to improve wellbeing is effective.

Majority of techniques had a positive impact

The study, from the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, reveals that regardless of what kind of training is used, the majority of techniques had a positive impact: from mindfulness to problem solving, life skills to happiness.

Training to improve professional skills could also offer wellbeing benefits for the learner

The review also found that in some sectors, training to improve professional capabilities, such as emotional intelligence or conflict management, may also have positive wellbeing benefits for the learner. However, the evidence was mainly focused in the health sector and the evidence base needs to be developed.

Online training needs to be interactive to work

The learning process could be the key to success. E-learning may be cost effective, but early evidence suggests that leadership or manager support training was more likely to offer wellbeing benefits when the online training included interactive elements, rather than only self-directed training.

Learning at work and wellbeing from the What Works Centre for Wellbeing draws on evidence from the UK and other similar developed economies. This is the first time a systematic review has shown which types and formats of training are most effective to support wellbeing in addition to learning. The review was conducted by a team based at the Universities of East Anglia, Sheffield, Reading and Essex.

Training is only one aspect of a more complicated picture

The evidence supports the effectiveness of wellbeing training. However, this is part of a more complicated picture and training employees to better cope is not the end of the story. Wellbeing is also highly dependent on job quality, including autonomy and social relations, where employers should focus effort.

Nancy Hey, Director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing says:

“We know work is important for wellbeing and that we need to do more to improve wellbeing at work. What has been less well understood is what actions organisations can take that will have an impact.

“This comprehensive review of published evidence is a great first step to better understand what works with training to improve wellbeing in the workplace.

“We will now look at cost effectiveness of the different types of training, to make sure the research is as practical as possible for companies to assess what’s the right approach for them.”

Olga Tregaskis, Professor of International Human Resource Management, UEA says:

“Workplace training and development has the potential to deliver wellbeing benefits in addition to improved organisational performance. Employee wellbeing is critical to sustainable performance and leading firms recognise the importance of embedding wellbeing within their management practice. Training and development is an important lever available to both individuals and employers.”

Employers need to take a strategic approach to wellness

Sickness absence management specialist Adrian Lewis welcomed the research, saying:

“It’s great to see such positive research and more work definitely needs to be done in this area.  However, I believe these measures could be even more effective when combined strategically with absence management and productivity data.  While it’s great to see more of a focus on wellness initiatives, many companies don’t do any research beforehand, throw in a yoga class, get a low take up rate and write off wellness as a ‘failure’.

“By taking time to look at why individual staff members are off work sick, you can deploy specific wellness initiatives to tackle a known problem and create a win win.  For example, staff with lots of back pain could benefit from postural analysis, whereas those with stress could benefit from mindfulness training.  All of these wellness solutions are effective – and many are even available under existing group risk policies – and they will have most impact on wellbeing, happiness and productivity if applied strategically.”

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