CIPD Health & Wellbeing at Work Report 2018

Photo by Hack Capital on Unsplash

Photo by Hack Capital on Unsplash

Key Findings & How to Create Change 

Last month CIPD released the findings of its 18th annual survey completed by over 1,000 HR professionals, to explore issues of health, wellbeing and absence in UK workplaces. 

We’ve reviewed the key findings and provide our recommendations for how as a provider of proactive health initiatives and wellbeing programmes, we can support your business to address some of the key concerns highlighted in the report. 

Reasons to be Cheerful 

Starting with the positive, the survey revealed that there are grounds for optimism: 

There are indications that more employers have a standalone well-being strategy in support of their wider organisation strategy. 

Most organisations believe their health and well-being activities are having a positive benefit, including better employee morale and engagement (44%), a healthier and more inclusive culture (35%), and lower sickness absence (31%). 

Areas for Improvement 

There were some key areas of concern though, including ‘presenteeism’ and ‘leaveism’, the impact of technology on employee wellbeing, and work-related stress and mental ill health. 

The survey reveals that mental ill health is an even more significant issue for organisations than it was in 2016: 

Over a fifth (22%) now report that mental ill health is the primary cause of long-term absence compared with 13% in 2016

There has also been a significant increase in the number of reported common mental health conditions among employees in the past 12 months. 

Nearly two-fifths (37%) of respondents report that stress-related absence has increased over the past year. Workload remains by far the most common cause of stress at work. 

Reasons for these increases are complex, and not always directly within the control of the workplace; for example, the uncertainty around the wider political and economic climate, and the impact of technology (over)use on mental wellbeing. 

However, there are many factors which are within an organisation’s sphere of influence: 

The rising trends of ‘presenteeism’ (people working when unwell) and ‘leaveism’ (people using allocated time off to work) identified in our survey show how organisational cultures and work pressures are more powerful in guiding employee behaviour than well-being initiatives. 

And of course, the attitude and behaviours of senior leaders need to be congruent with promoting positive mental wellbeing and discouraging unhealthy behaviours: 

An effective employee well-being strategy requires a ‘whole organisation’ response with serious leadership commitment and supportive line management. Yet our findings show less than a third of senior leaders encourage a focus on mental well-being through their actions and behaviour or that line managers are trained in supporting people with mental ill health.

Unless there is a substantial improvement in both these areas, it’s hard to see how organisations will achieve the step change needed to improve people’s well-being at work.


Creating Change 

The report concludes by highlighting 5 areas of focus that they believe HR need to act on to create change, one of which being to strengthen the capability of line managers: 

Developing line manager knowledge, skills and confidence is a clear priority on the well- being agenda. Managers don’t need to be health experts, but they do need to recognise the value of health and well-being at work, be able to spot early warning signs of ill health, have the competence and confidence to have sensitive conversations, direct employees to appropriate sources of help and actively promote attendance and well-being

At Work Well Being this belief is central to our work - we cannot possibly expect to have positive impact at an individual level through wellbeing programmes and initiatives without this.

Our Mental Health for Managers Training Course enables managers to feel more comfortable and competent about mental health, wellbeing and illness. As a result, they will be more able to have honest, supportive conversations with people who may be in distress. 

This half day course provides the knowledge to understand and respond appropriately to that distress and recognise when others may need signposting to further help. It also teaches simple skills to enhance personal mental wellbeing, listening skills and manager’s ability to connect with others, all vital abilities in any role in any workplace.

Once this foundation has been laid, we have a number of workshops suitable for all staff, which seek to build personal resilience for example Understanding & Managing Stress, Mindfulness 101 and Unplugging from Technology. 


To find out more about how we can support your organisation to take a proactive approach to wellbeing, including futher details on our Mental Health for Managers Course, then please get in touch. 

Louise Padmore