Posted by: Ornella Farrugia
on Thu 28 Jun

Welcome to the latest in a series of brief interviews with guest experts from KnowledgeBrief’s Innovation Programme, providing a window into the experts’ latest ideas and new advice for executives.

Following the Innovation Day in June, Jeanne Meinholt, Head of Research at KnowledgeBrief (KB), interviewed Kevin Daniels (KD) from University of East Anglia to discuss the importance of promoting wellbeing in the workplace.

KB: What’s the key business challenge that organisations need to address that your research tackles?

KD: Our research is focused on the practical actions that organisations can take to protect and enhance wellbeing in the workplace. We take an evidence-based approach and over the past three years we have examined over 25,000 scientific studies, picked 240 of the best studies that focus on the actions organisations can take and synthesised this evidence alongside further analyses of large databases and conversations with various stakeholders.

KB: What advice would you give to executives, based on your findings?

KD: First, there is so much evidence that wellbeing and organisational performance are linked that it isn’t really much of a debate anymore. The managers we talk to – including the executives in the KnowledgeBrief programme – get this link.

Second, there is no single magic bullet – organisations with successful programmes seem to do a range of things – more on this in a minute. Many of our recommendations are simply based around good practice in people management.

KB: How does your latest research approach this? What do the results indicate?

KD: Following on from the idea that what is good practice in people management is good for wellbeing and performance, then four of the five things we recommend that should form part of an integrated and coherent approach to wellbeing are simply around good people management. Three of these are things that people encounter very frequently in their work – how people are managed and treated on a day-to-day basis is part of the DNA of the organisation and can tell you quite a lot about whether wellbeing is mainstreamed into business thinking or whether – if it is a consideration at all – just a bolt-on.

The three things that form the bedrock to any approach to wellbeing are:

  1. High quality work, supported by good people management practices.
  2. Line managers.
  3. High quality workplace relationships.

The fourth element concerns the support organisations provide for people struggling or having difficulties with life challenges. This can include flexible working for carers, structured return to work programmes and workplace accommodations for those coming back to work after sick leave, but there are other innovative examples too – for example, mid-career reviews for older workers.

The last element relates to health and wellbeing promotion – activities around exercise, diet, etc. Volunteering is often an element included in these programmes. However, I hope to have convinced readers that workplace wellbeing is a lot more than yoghurt and Pilates!

Readers can find a lot more information from the What Works for Wellbeing Centre’s website (, its Twitter feed (@WhatWorksWB) and the Twitter feed for our own research programme (@WorkLearnWell).

KB: How does your latest research approach this? What do the results indicate?

KD: Every organisation is different, and the exact composition of a good wellbeing programme and how it is implemented will change in different contexts. Being able to discuss such issues with an engaged and knowledgeable audience at the Innovation Day is both a pleasure and finding an unsolvable problem or unanswerable question is a great way of finding gaps in the research base. 

With thanks to Kevin Daniels, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at University of East Anglia.

Next month, we will be talking to Andy Wilkins, Cass Business School, on individual and organisational learning capabilities. Find out more here.

Part of a series of brief interviews with expert guests from our Innovation Programmes, we cover insights from the latest research and key advice for executives to stay ahead in management and innovation.

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