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Following its launch three years ago, The National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work has gone from strength to strength.

No issue is higher up the boardroom agenda today than employee wellbeing, and Alliance MBS is at the heart of changing company cultures for good.

Founded three years ago, the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work is focused on improving workplace wellbeing in the UK and globally. It aims to inspire organisations and their leaders to challenge the thinking of what healthy, high performing employees can bring to an organisation and to the productivity of the nation.

The Forum is led by Professor Sir Cary Cooper in conjunction with Dr Paul Litchfield, Chief Medical Officer at BT, and was borne out of conversations Sir Cary began having, during his wider research into wellbeing issues, with HR Directors and company Chief Medical Officers.

As he explains: “Time and again they kept telling that there was an urgent need for a national body to look at all these issues. Although these companies were already looking at these issues individually, for instance by running wellbeing or mindfulness sessions, there was not a sense that this was core to their organisation."

Stress

He adds that another big driver behind the Forum is talent retention. “Companies come to me and say ‘we cannot afford to lose key people’. They want to know how they can create the right culture so that people stay fit and healthy within their business. So this is also about bottom line.”

Professor Cooper says the original aim was to have one organisation from every industry on the group, and that has now been more than achieved with a total of 37 members at present. As well as private sector representation from the likes of Shell, Rolls-Royce, BP, Marks & Spencer, Barclays, Twitter, Microsoft, GSK and John Lewis Partnership, the Forum also comprises of public sector bodies including the UK Government Wellbeing Champion, Health and Safety Executive, NHS employers, Public Health England, the National College of Policing, and the Local Government Association.

Impact

Some of the topics that have already been discussed at the quarterly meetings of the Forum include:

• The role of line managers in creating healthier workplaces and enhancing productivity

• The impact of work-related technology (i.e. work emails) on people’s lives

• The impact of a multi-generational workforce on health and wellbeing

• Compassion at work

• Long working hours culture and its impact on health and wellbeing

• Individual wellbeing interventions e,g. mindfulness, resilience training, mental health first aiders, etc.

Adds Professor Cooper: “The aim is very much for the Forum to hear from experts on particular topics. There are some huge challenges out there for businesses to deal with right now such as the impact of multi-generational workforces, the wider effect of technology and social media, and the potential of AI to transform the workplace further.”

PhD student and project co-ordinator Lina Siegl, and Dr Ian Hesketh, a former police officer and College of Policing wellbeing lead, are both supporting the Forum by collating and presenting research and exchanging knowledge with subject matter experts. This is informing discussions in support of Forum subgroups and in the development of useful guidelines, toolkits, policy initiatives with government and private sector organisations, and a range of good practice approaches.

“The next stage is to go into these companies and look at what difference the membership of the Forum is making on the ground and hear how it has helped them in their wellbeing strategies,” adds Professor Cooper.

Future plans

How big could the Forum become? At this stage Professor Cooper is unsure. “For the moment we will carry on doing what we are doing, looking at the issues that the Forum thinks are important. This year is about further cementing the work of the group. But looking further ahead there is a big role here for business schools in terms of teaching executives about these issues, and we want our research to be informing our teaching. Should business schools be training managers more on their social skills so that they can instil better wellbeing in staff? Absolutely, and Alliance MBS has the potential to be an exemplar.”

Sir Cary Cooper is our 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health.