Call for Evidence: Worklessness, exits from work and wellbeing

We are reviewing the evidence of how worklessness – not  being in paid work and exits from work affect wellbeing.

Work &Learning


By worklessness we mean not being in regular employment or education/training, because of unemployment, retirement, disability or family care.

We are specifically interested in evidence which relates to the following research questions:

  1. What are the potential effects of not being in paid work on wellbeing?
  2. How does the duration of not being in paid work affect wellbeing?
  3. What are the impacts of changes in wellbeing on worklessness, duration of worklessness and the subsequent transitions?

We are looking for high quality research on each of these questions to use as best available evidence. We aim to use this evidence to show the impact of different types of worklessness- not being in paid work on wellbeing and the impact of wellbeing on moving in and out of worklessness for different demographic groups.

We are particularly seeking the following types of evidence:

  • Evaluation of how not being in paid work linked to different life circumstances (e.g., retirement, disability, unemployment) impacts on wellbeing.
  • Evaluation of the impact of poor wellbeing on remaining in worklessness
  • Evaluation of the extent to which the wellbeing outcomes of worklessness, duration of worklessness and the transitions between worklessness states vary across groups (e.g., age, gender, family status).

We are particularly interested in the effects of worklessness on life satisfaction. However, evidence of impact on wellbeing that may include stress, mental health, anxiety, and depression are also welcomed.

We welcome evidence of a qualitative or quantitative nature, provided the evidence meets the criteria outlined above.  Studies that use longitudinal methods are preferable. However, we also seek evidence from high quality cross-sectional studies.

→Please send your submissions to: with Worklessness as the title

→All submissions should be received by 20th of June 2016.


Social Capital across the UK

Last week the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) released a report on Social Capital across the UK which looked at 5 measures of how people feel about their neighbourhood.

It highlighted that personal characteristics such as age, ethnicity and socio-economic background all have a role to play in explaining differences that exist between regions, urban and rural areas.

 Here, Dr Veronique Siegler, Senior Research Officer at  ONS,  leading the project on Social Capital since 2014, as part of the ONS programme of work on Wellbeing shares some insights from the project:

Our research shows that for the UK as a whole, the majority of people felt positively about their neighbourhood (Source: Understanding Society, 2011/12). However, marked differences were observed, depending on where people live. Exploring these differences is important to understanding how to build strong relationships in communities which in turn delivers well-being and economic benefits.ONS Wellbeing blog 1

We found that people living in rural areas were more likely to feel positively about their neighbourhood than those in urban areas. For example, around 78% of people living in rural areas trusted people in their neighbourhood compared to 61% of people living in urban areas.

ONS Wellbeing blog 2There were also differences across the English regions and countries of the UK. Northern Ireland had the highest proportion  and London the lowest proportion of people feeling that they belong to their neighbourhood (73% versus 59%) , that others around their local area are willing to help their neighbours (80% versus 65%), that most people in their neighbourhood can be trusted (73% versus 56%).

Our research highlights that characteristics such as age, ethnicity and socio-economic status all have a role in explaining the differences in how people in the UK feel about their neighbourhood.

  • Older people were more likely to feel positively about their neighbourhood than younger people
  • People who identified as White were more likely to feel positively about their neighbourhood than people from all other ethnic groups as a whole in terms of having trust in others in their neighbourhood, feeling a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood and feeling others in their local area were willing to help neighbours

At an individual level, people’s views about their neighbourhood varied with their economic activity. Trust in others in their neighbourhood was highest amongst the retired (79%) and the self-employed (70%) but lowest among the unemployed (43%). We also found that people employed in higher managerial occupations were more likely to trust people in their neighbourhood (73%) than people in routine occupations (54%).ONS Wellbeing 3

We also looked at the impact of people feeling similar to others in their neighbourhood can have on how people feel about others. Not feeling similar could indicate a lack of bridging social capital, or connections between groups of different backgrounds. Around 6 in 10 people (61%) reported feeling similar to others in their neighbourhood, amongst which three-quarters of them (76%) felt they could trust others in their neighbourhood. In comparison, around 14% of people did not feel similar to others in their neighbourhood, amongst which 38% felt they could trust others in their neighbourhood.

The State of Social Capital in Britain: Policy briefing

→Full ONS report on Social Capital across the UK

→Discuss on our forum 



New insights into wellbeing from the European Social Survey

saamah Saamah Abdallah, Programme Manager and Senior Researcher
New Economics Foundation and What Works Wellbeing Community team.

Last Friday marked the launch of an innovative new report exploring the policy stories told by wellbeing data in the European Social Survey Looking through the wellbeing kaleidoscope. 

The report is the culmination of a year-long project led by the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys at City University London, working alongside the New Economics Foundation, and the Wellbeing Institute at the University of Cambridge.

Whilst much useful wellbeing research has relied upon life satisfaction as an overall measure of wellbeing –  this project took advantage of the richness of the European Social Survey, which has now included two specific modules on wellbeing, to explore its multi-dimensionality.

Here are eight of the most interesting things you’ll find in the report:

  • Results for a new comprehensive psychological wellbeing measure. It incorporates ten different aspects of wellbeing – competence, emotional stability, engagement, meaning, optimism, positive emotion, positive relationships, resilience, self-esteem, and vitality.
  • The UK ranks second from bottom in terms of sense of vitality. As well as the overall comprehensive score, the report explores how different elements of wellbeing vary between countries. For example.  The UK relatively well in terms of optimism (8th out of 21 countries),  but not so well in terms of vitality or positive relationships (16th out of 21).
  • There are often large differences in wellbeing between population groups, but they are not inevitable. Although those of an ethnic minority, on low incomes or with low education often have lower average wellbeing, this is not always the case, with some countries showing almost no difference. This suggests that policy could aim to reduce or eliminate these inequalities.
  • Unemployment rates and governance are the key determinants of wellbeing inequalities.Not only is unemployment and poor governance bad for average wellbeing, but they are further associated with inequalities in wellbeing.
  • People in the UK how low levels of participation in the five ways to wellbeing, compared to peer countries such as France and Germany. The five ways to wellbeing are a set of actions that evidence suggests promote wellbeing. They are: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, and Give.  With the exception of those aged 65 and over, the UK generally had low levels of participation in the five ways,
  • Young women (15 – 24), parents, and people doing housework or childcare in the UK reported very low rates on Take Notice (whether people take notice and appreciate their surroundings). This finding was not replicated across Europe, suggesting there may be particular barriers in the UK for these population groups which may be amenable to policy.
  • The more marginalised groups in society – women, those who claim membership of a discriminated group, and those with lower education – have a lower level of perceived quality of society. This is measured in terms of assessments of the key institutions in society: trust in the police, politicians, parliament and legal institutions, and satisfaction with public services, government, the economy, and democracy. Those in middle aged groups (25 to 64) also have more negative views. This suggests that our democratic and legal institutions may need to do more to engage with these groups.
  • There are marked regional inequalities in perceived quality of society within the UK, with London and the South East having high levels of economic and governmental satisfaction compared to other regions, particularly the Midlands.

→Find out more

→Discuss on our forum

Will this Queen’s Speech improve wellbeing in UK?

Over 50 years of wellbeing research suggests that governments could improve wellbeing, and reduce wellbeing inequalities, by focusing on:Queen

  1. Mental Health, social & emotional skills, partner relationships and physical health
  2. Community wellbeing including social support, volunteering, giving and social contectedness to reduce loneliness
  3. Balanced stable economic growth, low unemployment and wellbeing at work
  4. Good governance including devolving power, anti-corruption, freedom to choose, faster, less contracted, processes especially for children and families

At an individual level there are five ways to wellbeing – Give, Connect, Take Notice, Be Active, Keep Learning.

Does this Queen’s speech address any of these?

  • The life chances approach is an opportunity to address inequalities in wellbeing that lead to poor outcomes both for those individuals involved and the affect on our national and community wellbeing.  We all benefit from reduced inequalities in wellbeing.  The proposed indicators for life chances needs to include personal wellbeing.
  • There is a a focus on better mental health provision for individuals in the Criminal Justice System, on speeding up processes for children in care, and for adult learning. Improving the speed and efficiency of court processes should improve governance which has an unexpectedly large impact on our wellbeing.  We’re not always great at looking after our future wellbeing so the focus on savings should help. There is potential for digital services to help connect people, improve services and increase learning as well as growth.
  • The National Citizen Service has been shown to have positive lasting wellbeing impacts so its extension is welcome.  It will be important to make sure that the impacts are sustained as it expands.  Increasing giving through the Small Charitable Donations Bill should be positive for wellbeing too.
  • Commuting is one of the few things that has a sustained negative impact on our wellbeing so improving services and giving greater control through access to information is welcome.
  • Continued support for devolution of powers appears in many of the proposed Bills.  This promises greater autonomy, freedom and control and we need to see if these new powers do lead to these outcomes and increase our wellbeing. Likewise support for the Sustainable Development Goals, which takes a wellbeing approach at a global level, is promising and should include the measurement of personal wellbeing.

Why this matters

Our national wellbeing is how we are doing as individuals, communities and as a nation and how sustainable this is for the future. It is measured by the Office for National Statistics and covers – the natural environment, personal well-being, our relationships, health, what we do, where we live, personal finance, the economy, education and skills and governance. Our personal wellbeing is  particularly important as a way to see how we’re doing overall and it impacts the other outcomes.

Give your view on the new forum

Take part in a National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey from Business in the Community

Our emotional health, in both adult and childhood, is the biggest driver of our adult wellbeing, followed by our partner relationship and our employment.  Mental health is one of four areas recommended by the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy where action would improve wellbeing, with wellbeing at work another.  This is why we are supporting the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey from Business in the Community → Take part

This week is Mental Heath Awareness week #MHAW16Print

To coincide, Business in the Community have launched the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey  – the UK’s largest survey of mental wellbeing at work, taking place annually over 3 years. It includes the personal wellbeing questions used by the Office of National Statistics to measure national wellbeing. 

Are you aged 16-64+ and currently in employment in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Why take part?

  • Mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK and is on the increase. 15.2 million days of sickness absence in 2013 were caused by everyday conditions such as stress anxiety or depression – a dramatic increase from 11.8 million days in 2010.
  • be part of an unprecedented collaboration to transform how the UK approaches mental wellbeing at work.
  •  National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey  wants to hear from all UK employees – line managers, senior leaders, direct reports – in order to give a complete picture of workers’ mental wellbeing now,what employers are doing about it, and what needs to change.  Every opinion counts.

We want to conduct the UK’s largest survey of mental wellbeing at work in the UK to gain a snapshot of the UK workforce’s mental wellbeing, and its capacity to support wellbeing.

– Business in the Community

Why businesses should take part in the survey?

BiTC believe we are nearing a crisis point for mental wellbeing in work and it is a business critical issue for all organisations:

  • Mental health costs the UK £70 billion per year, equivalent to 5% of GDP.
  • Mental ill health costs each employer £1,035 per employee, per year.
  • Failure to unlock the workforce’s full potential costs UK business £6 billion.
  • Only 2 in 5 employees are working at peak performance.
  • Studies suggest that presenteeism from mental ill health alone costs the UK economy £15.1 billion per annum, almost twice the business cost of employee absence from work.
  • More line managers are experiencing stress-related ill-health and symptoms of psychological ill-health.
  • 3 in 5 managers are concerned about the impact of longer working hours on their stress levels.

There is still a stigma associated with mental health, through a lack of understanding.  People might feel very happy to tell a colleague about a physical injury they’ve sustained, but when it comes to mental health, people can keep this to themselves through fear of being treated differently or judged.

  • Only a third of employees received any support to manage workplace stress.
  • Less than half of those that are affected by mental ill health feel confident to disclose their condition in the workplace, which can mean issues become more severe.

→ Information for employers

→ Information for individuals

→ Take the survey

Call for Evidence: Culture & Sport – Grey literature on wellbeing outcomes of music and singing

Evidence Call for Grey Literature for a systematic review of the wellbeing outcomes of music and singing in adults and the processes by which wellbeing outcomes are achieved.

By grey literature we mean “literature that is not formally published in sources such as books or journal articles” (Lefebvre, Manheimer, & Glanville, 2008, p. 106). This may be produced by charities, government departments, businesses, community groups and others; and may include reports, theses or dissertations, trials, and more.

In this instance we’re looking for evaluation reports.

We will accept for review and possible inclusion in our systematic review using the following criteria:C&S call for evidence (2)

  •  submissions must be evaluation reports only
  •  reports submitted must be completed in the past 3 years (2013-2016) and include
  • author details (individuals, groups or organisations)
  •  evaluation methods may be qualitative, quantitative methods or mixed methods
  •  the central report objective must be the evaluation of music or singing intervention

Please note the following condition for review of grey literature:

  •  Evidence can only be reviewed for inclusion in the work of the Culture and Sport programme if submitted through this call.
  • Evidence submitted to individual researchers in the programme cannot be considered.
  • If you have previously sent documents to the culture and sport team please re-submit through this call.

Please send your submissions to  and include ‘Music and Singing Evidence’ in the subject line.

The deadline for submissions is the 10th June 2016

Please note additional invite for submission of primary data sets for review:

  •  Primary data sets used in submitted reports can also be submitted
  • Primary data may be qualitative or quantitative and in excel or word formats.
  • Please submit data sets directly to, or contact for further information.

→discuss on our forum


Guest Blog: A Whole City Measuring Its Wellbeing

Happiness is a part of how we feel, our subjective wellbeing. There are a number of ways this can be measured at an individual level but can we measure how we feel at a city or area-wide level?

Here, Sam Wren-Lewis from Happy City shares the new Happiness Pulse tool – which sets out to do just this- with us:


Last week saw the launch of the Happy City Index pilot – a citywide effort to measure wellbeing across a city.

The project is being piloted in Bristol, UK.

It has the dual aim of:

  • collecting rigorous wellbeing data that can be used by local organisations and policymakers to make better decisions
  • to engage citizens in the measurement process – helping people better understand their wellbeing and how they can improve it. 

It is a bold initiative, led by Happy City and a wide range of partner organisations and advisors, including wellbeing experts from the New Economics Foundation, Office of National Statistics (ONS) National Wellbeing Programme, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), University of Cambridge Wellbeing Institute, University of Bristol, Bristol City Council and What Works Centre for Wellbeing.


The pilot focuses around the Happiness Pulse tool – an online survey and bank of wellbeing resources that enables users to better understand and improve their wellbeing.  Over two years in the making, the tool has been designed to be as accessible, intuitive and informative as possible, without compromising on breadth and academic rigour.

It takes just 5 minutes to complete and the survey questions and results are grouped into three easy-to-understand domains: BE, DO and CONNECT.  Users can then explore their results in more detail and ways in which they can improve their wellbeing in each domain.

SurveyresultsCitizens of Bristol will be encouraged, as part of a citywide media campaign, to “Take their Happiness Pulse” throughout May and June.  In addition, over 50 partner organisations, across a range of sectors, have already signed up to measure the wellbeing of their members of staff during this period.  Happy City expects to collect representative ward-level data via these two channels, which will then be analysed over June and August.  The key findings and policy implications will be released in the form of a policy report in September 2016.

The Bristol pilot will pave the way for the national roll-out of the Happiness Pulse tool and process in 2017 – to cities and organisations across the UK.  Happy City has designed the Happiness Pulse to be easily adopted and used by a large range of stakeholders, from on-the-ground projects to local authorities.  As an example of this adoption, the University of Bristol is currently piloting a university-specific version of the tool – the Happy University Index – to measure the wellbeing of their students.  A number of other universities, local organisations and cities across the UK have already expressed their interest in using the tool once it has been fully tested on a city scale.

So watch this space for the city results in September and take your Happiness Pulse today!

→If you have any further questions, or would like to use the Happiness Pulse to measure the wellbeing of your organisation,  contact the Happy City Index team

→ The Happiness Pulse uses the ONS 4 wellbeing questions and WEBWMS

→ Discuss on our Forum 

→ Happy City are part of our Community team

New Systematic Review of Resilience Training in the Workplace

You may well have undergone resilience training at work which could take many forms. But how do we know which interventions are effective? How do we know what works?

A new systematic review – reviewing the review literature – sets out to start and answer these questions.

Here, one of the authors of the review Mustafa Sarkar @mussarkar sets out the findings:

resilience 1

Resilience refers to the capacity of individuals to withstand – and even thrive on – the pressure and stress they experience in their lives (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013) and resilience training programmes aim to equip individuals with resources and skills to prevent the potential negative effects of pressure and stress. The emphasis on building resilience in the workplace has been at least partially due to the period of global recession and subsequent austerity (Robertson & Cooper, 2013). People in the workplace have heavier workloads now and are working under enormous pressure as we enter the ‘getting more from less era’ (CIPD, 2009). The need for personal resilience in the workplace, therefore, has never been greater.

With a view to determining the effectiveness of resilience training in this context, we (Robertson, Cooper, Sarkar, & Curran, 2015) recently conducted a systematic review of work-based resilience training interventions. After applying rigorous criteria,  14 studies were considered robust enough to draw conclusions from. The 14 studies included programmes varying in length from single 90 minute sessions to workshops run over 12 weeks, and from online programmes to 2½ day retreats and group workshops supported with 1:1 coaching. Moreover, they included approaches based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), coaching-related principles, mindfulness- and compassion-based practices, and interestingly,  two programmes used technology in the form of emWave biofeedback machines to help individuals self-manage their own stress.

resilience 6

In order to determine the effectiveness of these resilience training programmes, we evaluated their effects on various outcomes including  personal resilience, mental health and wellbeing, physical health, psychosocial functioning, and performance.

The findings provided some indication that resilience training for employees may have beneficial effects with 12 out of the 14 studies showing positive and significant changes as a result of resilience training. This was especially the case for mental health and wellbeing outcomes such as stress, depression, anxiety, and negative mood/affect/emotion, which appeared particularly sensitive to resilience intervention. There was also an indication, across the studies, that personal resilience may be improved following resilience training (as would be expected) and it was also found that resilience training had a number of wider benefits that included enhanced psychosocial functioning (e.g., increased self-efficacy, work satisfaction, social skills) and improved performance (e.g., goal attainment, productivity, observed behavioural performance). However, due to the limited evidence (i.e., shortage of studies) and small sample sizes, it is worth noting that the results available permit only tentative conclusions. Similarly, the evidence is too limited to determine the most effective type of intervention. Indeed, at this stage, there is no definitive evidence for the most effective training content or format, but the results do suggest that it may be wise to include an element of one-to-one support based on individual needs in any resilience training programme.

In conclusion, this systematic review is the first step in identifying the impact of resilience training in the workplace and provides initial evidence of the impact of resilience training on personal resilience, mental health and wellbeing, and performance. However, more work-based studies in this area are required to better enable us to determine which particular aspects of resilience training are most effective.


Robertson, I., Cooper, C. L., Sarkar, M., & Curran, T. (2015). Resilience training in the workplace from 2003-2014: A systematic review. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 88, 533-562.


→ The World Economic Forum: Global Agenda Council has launched:                                             Seven Steps Guide towards a Mentally Healthy Organisation as part of World Bank/WHO Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority 

→Our Chair’s blog: Out of the shadows – World Bank & World Health Organisation on Mental Health

→We are currently running a Work & Learning Call for Evidence on job quality