A major study into work-related health and how organisations can successfully manage the issue has been launched as part of the “new approach” called for by Dame Carol Black in her review of the health of Britain’s working-age population.
The £320,000 project — funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and being carried out by researchers at Nottingham Trent University, with the help of Health and Safety Laboratory, the University of Sheffield, Loughborough University, and Tilburg University in the Netherlands — will examine how the work environment, the nature of organisations, their cultures, and work systems can affect people’s working lives and well-being. The research team will examine more than 40 small, medium and large-scale enterprises during the two-and-a-half-year project.
Lead researcher, Dr Maria Karanika-Murray, a psychologist in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Social Sciences, explained why this work constitutes a different approach: “Previous studies into work-related health and well-being have often been inconsistent, as they have tended to focus only on individual variables, such as job demands and job variety, relationships, support at work, and work-life balance.
“This new study, however, will also consider the effects of higher-level organisational characteristics, such as policies, culture, and organisational change. Experts and organisations will be able to apply such knowledge to the management of work-related health in a successful and sustainable way.”
The researchers hope the results of the project will have a longer-term impact on tackling work-related health and well-being and lead to greater employee commitment, staff performance, satisfaction and productivity. Added Dr Karanika-Murray: “A positive effect would probably also be seen in recruitment and retention, customer satisfaction, and the organisation’s image and reputation.”
HSE figures for 2007/08 revealed that more than 2 million people were suffering from an illness they believed was caused, or made worse by their current or past work, while 28 million days were lost to work-related ill health. Dame Carol Black’s review, published in March last year, found that the annual economic cost of ill health in terms of working days lost and worklessness was more than £100bn a year — equivalent to the annual running costs of the NHS.
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