Recommendations for research

Recommendations for research: effectiveness

The guideline committees made the following recommendations for research.

The Public Health Advisory Committee E recommends that the following research questions should be addressed. It notes that 'effectiveness' in this context relates not only to the size of the effect, but also to cost effectiveness and duration of effect. It also takes into account any harmful or negative side effects.

All the research should aim to identify differences in effectiveness among groups, based on characteristics such as socioeconomic status, age, gender, ethnicity, size and type of employer and whether workers were paid or unpaid.

1 How can the implementation of the recommendations made in this guideline be evaluated?

This research should be developed in collaboration (or co‑produced) with those likely to use or be offered the interventions studied, that is, line managers and employees. More UK intervention studies are needed with line managers in a range of organisations to answer the following questions:

  • What is the effect of including criteria on positive leadership style (associated with employee health and wellbeing) in line manager selection?

  • What is the effect of different leadership styles on employee health and wellbeing?

  • What is the effect of training line managers in positive leadership behaviours?

  • What is the role of the organisational culture and context in supporting line managers and, in turn, their employees?

  • What is the effect of changes to job design and working practices (such as introducing more employee autonomy and control)?

  • What is the effect of intervention length (such as training of line managers) and the gradual change in intervention effect? Such studies would help in economic modelling and in assessing the length of time over which the cost of interventions should be discounted in economic analyses.

  • What is the role of occupational health, human resources and health and safety advisers in supporting line managers in promoting workplace health and wellbeing?

  • How might these functions work effectively, both together and separately, to improve health and wellbeing at work?

  • What are the barriers and facilitators to implementing interventions or policies to promote the role of line managers in improving employee health and wellbeing?

2. How can outcome measures relating to workplace health and wellbeing be measured?

Research funding bodies such as the National Institute for Health Research or Economic and Social Research Council should ensure clear outcome measures relating to workplace wellbeing, work retention, workplace absence, workplace performance and productivity, return to work and work retention are included in all the research they fund. This will ensure that all intervention research examines the effect on people's working lives and their health and wellbeing.

3. How can the effectiveness of workplace health policies and programmes be measured?

Further research studies need at least 3 measurement points:

  • before the intervention takes place

  • after the intervention has finished, to measure immediate effect

  • a later point, such as 12 to 18 months from the start, to measure longer‑term effect.

The design of studies should also consider the effects of staged interventions (such as training line managers in new practices, assessing uptake and implementation, and its effect on the workplace). How effective are methods for synthesising such evidence, including relevant equalities characteristics? Finally, there is a need to fund more longitudinal studies to identify cause and effect relationships.

4. How can the design and reporting of the outcomes used in intervention studies be improved, so researchers can identify 'active ingredients'? Which validated tools are effective at consistently measuring success, especially in relation to health and wellbeing, performance, productivity and in economic terms?

Research studies should collect both subjective and objective measureable outcomes of wellbeing. This will help organisations to make a business case to invest in policies and measures to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees.

More detail identified during development of this guideline is provided in gaps in the evidence.

Recommendations for research: older employees

The Public Health Advisory Committee D recommends that the following research questions should be addressed.

5 Maintaining and improving the health and wellbeing of older employees

What are the most effective and cost‑effective interventions to maintain and improve the health and wellbeing of older employees?

Why this is important

Demographic changes, and changes to the state pension age, mean the proportion of older employees in the workforce is likely to continue to increase. Productivity depends on the workforce being in good health, and a person's health will affect their ability to stay in work and continue earning an income. However, older employees may wish to remain in work for a variety for reasons other than financial. Continuing to work can have both social and health benefits for older people. So there is a need to further understand what can help to maintain and improve outcomes in this group from a health and wellbeing perspective.

6 Helping older employees stay in work

What are the most effective and cost‑effective interventions to help older employees stay in or re‑enter work? For example, to overcome the problems of a change in job specification?

Why this is important

Older people are more likely to be unemployed or economically inactive than younger people and tend to find getting back into work after an absence more difficult. It is important to ensure they can stay economically active if possible as changes in the state pension age mean many people will need to work in their later years.

7 Helping older employees plan and prepare for retirement

What are the most effective and cost‑effective interventions to help older employees plan and prepare for retirement?

Why this is important

It is important that older employees leave the workforce at the time and in the way that suits them, because a lack of control (this could be perceived or real) over these decisions may have an impact on their wellbeing.

8 Challenging stereotypes and changing attitudes towards older employees

What are the most effective and cost‑effective interventions to challenge stereotypes and change employers' and workforce attitudes towards older employees?

Why this is important

Negative attitudes and stereotyping have led to some older people retiring before they wanted to. Changing attitudes and reducing stereotyping may result in people working for longer, with all the associated benefits for them and society. Reducing negative attitudes may also improve mental health and wellbeing and reduce distress arising from exposure to negative stereotyping.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)