David Brackwell: Should employers include wellbeing policies in annual reports?

Policies are, to a degree, statements of aspiration. Placing a policy in the public domain does not mean there is a substantive programme or that the organisation is willing to effectively implement it.


If we instead ask: should employers include information about their wellbeing programmes in annual reports?, my answer would be a resounding yes.

Publishing details of programmes with associated metrics, such as participation rates, provides tangible evidence of organisational commitment.

I also believe that once reporting takes place, it attracts senior-level (and external) attention, with stakeholders wanting affirmation that their investment decisions are appropriate and effective.

‘What is measured gets managed’ has long been a management mantra. The truth in that cliché is that if an issue is focused on and performance tracked, then this usually leads to improvement. It is the rationale behind most performance management programmes, so why should it not apply to wellbeing?

In my opinion, and that of many researchers, wellbeing is not yet properly understood. It is seen as worthwhile and something that responsible employers should do, but the business argument is not well understood or widely accepted.

In its Health, wellbeing and productivity survey 2012-13, published in March 2013, Towers Watson reported that even though employers planned improvements to health and wellbeing programmes, only a small minority linked this to productivity.

Where attempts have been made to develop a business case for wellbeing programmes, this has often been linked narrowly to absence metrics, where correlation is indirect, at best. Few organisations acknowledge health as a facet of human capital with its consequent impact on productivity, according to The impact of productivity: empirical evidence and policy implications, by Emile Tompa (Institute of Public Policy Research, 2002).

This thinking has informed Fujitsu’s approach to reporting on wellbeing, although we are on a journey rather than at the destination. Our reporting is primarily based on wellbeing programme goals rather than policy. For example, this included our innovative partnership with charity Mind to develop an approach for supporting mental health issues and our sourcing strategy for support services such as occupational health and an employee assistance programme. We plan to extend this approach in the future.

If organisations reported on wellbeing, it is likely to lead to a wellbeing programme that has a clear business focus. This, in turn, will enhance both engagement and productivity, allowing organisations and individuals to derive real benefit from investment in wellbeing.

David Brackwell is head of wellbeing and inclusion, UK and Ireland, at Fujitsu