Well being and work

Status: Ongoing


HSE: David Fishwick



Target groups:

Employers and employees, Researchers, OSH experts

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General information on the project

Worker well being has become a central theme adopted by both policy makers and researchers around Europe offering great potential to improve working lives. PEROSH members describe the concept of wellbeing in OSH as a positive, sustainable concept of optimal function. In order to understand well being, various themes should be included.

In addition, drivers for well-being research and interventions will be discussed and in particular how these differ between institutes and nations. Based on consideration of what has already been achieved and what is in progress, project members will seek to identify common needs for not only improving well-being, but also preventing ill-health, enabling those with ill-health to stay at work, and for rehabilitating people who are not at work following ill-health or injury.

As one of their outputs, members of the PEROSH wellbeing group have worked together to produce the ‘Wellbeing Tree’ as a model of wellbeing at work. Wellbeing experts from HSE, NFA, BAuA, TNO, CIOP-PIB and FIOH contributed. The tree is intended to enhance employers’ understanding of what wellbeing at work means. A tree was selected as an appropriate metaphor because of its scope in intuitively capturing the ‘transaction’ between wellbeing contributors and consequences (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Employers can use the tree to identify the range of factors affecting wellbeing at work, with view to helping them ‘grow’ a more sustainably productive and committed workforce.

The tree metaphor also allows wellbeing contributors, or ‘antecedents’ to be portrayed as the roots systems, grouped by roots into individual, job environment, organisational and societal influences. Similarly, consequences or outcomes can be grouped by branches in the same way, with specific outcomes denoted as fruits. The impact of environmental (job, organisation and societal) conditions upon wellbeing can also readily be communicated through a tree. Investment in wellbeing can be represented as generating a large fruit yield. Economic austerity and hard times can conveyed through less tree growth and less fruit yield where no attempt is made to protect staff wellbeing.

The model arose from a process of deriving consensus from expert judgement from across PEROSH and wellbeing group members. Development of the tree followed on from an initial Delphi survey of wellbeing experts from PEROSH institutes (Fishwick et al, 2012). This Delphi exercise was undertaken to establish consensus on defining wellbeing, wellbeing drivers and potential solutions for employers. The tree concept emerged through a succession of facilitated structured discussions within the PEROSH group. Attention then turned to grouping and defining labels through team discussions and consultation via email. Explanations for the rationale underpinning the models were produced by HSE and agreed through email consultation with the PEROSH group. The current evidence base can thus be considered as channelled the Delphi exercise and by representation within the group of wellbeing experts from across Europe.

This model does not pretend to lend itself to rigorous scientific testing. Its generic inclusive nature prevents examination of how it differs from other related concepts such as workability or quality of life at work. Arguably, wellbeing at work subsumes such concepts. However, testability was never intended as this model’s purpose. As a tool for making employers more informed in their management of wellbeing at work, the PEROSH wellbeing group believes this tree has great potential. The model can evolve over time, just like trees, so please use it.

References: Lazarus, R., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.
Fishwick, D., Lunt, J., Trainor, M., Gervais, R., Curran, A., Robinson, E, Cleal, B., Demeyer, S, Hohenstein, R., Weber, B., Mockallo, Z., Pawlowska, K, Mieszkowska, M, Anttonen, H., Grosjean, V., Persson, R., Wiezer, N., Kaufmann, M., Flockenhaus, M., Beswick, J. Work and Wellbeing: A European consensus from PEROSH (2012). Under submission to Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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