John Lewis Partnership uses data analysis to shape proactive wellbeing strategy

john lewis partnership

Retail organisation John Lewis Partnership houses 84,500 UK-based employees in a wide range of roles across the John Lewis and Partners, and Waitrose and Partners brands, from the shop floor to head office, and from factory to farm.

To address wellbeing across this diverse workforce, the organisation harnesses a wide range of data, including quantitative analysis of demographic trends and occupational health data, as well as qualitative employee feedback. For the latter, it uses an annual survey, quarterly pulses and net promoter scores, as well as employee forum meetings.

John Lewis Partnership also participates in the Business in the Community (BITC) Britain’s healthiest workplace survey every year. Through this, it gathers anonymised information about aspects of employee health, such as blood pressure, with which it can shape future initiatives, communications and policies.

Nick Davison, head of health services and leisure benefits at John Lewis Partnership, says: “It’s very easy to forget that people are whole people. What’s going on at home, people bring to work.

“It’s about [taking] what you can measure to inform and point you in the right direction. Particularly around things like wellbeing, as patterns emerge and more data emerges, our ability to count and measure things mounts.”

For example, in 2016, realising that two-thirds of its occupational health interventions were related to musculoskeletal disorders, and 40% of these were specifically related to the lower back, the organisation was able to shift its health and wellbeing strategy to focus on back injury prevention.

As part of this, John Lewis Partnership introduced a fast-tracked, remote physiotherapy service, which has saved approximately 190,000 working days, says Davison. “People get better over 10 days rather than five or six weeks, at half the cost, and the clinical outcomes are no different to [those with] face-to-face treatment,” Davison explains. “That’s enabled us to actually start to measure the return on investment.”

In 2018, the organisation launched mental health and wellbeing app Unmind. As of July 2019, 7,000 members of staff have signed up.

The app, which is free and available to all employees, provides access to tools and training on topics such as mindfulness, energy, sleep and working relationships. It also allows users to track their mood, helping to preemptively flag mental wellbeing issues and highlight relevant resources, without giving the employer access to sensitive individual data.

Combining this with other data sources has proven particularly helpful, says Davison. “We measure when we receive someone that needs [cognitive behavioural therapy] or counselling, [and] how severe they are. What we get with Unmind now is a correlation which is building over time, telling us how people were feeling before they got ill. So we start to see the trends, and that allows us to feed into other wellbeing opportunities.

“There are some challenges in our industry that we’re focused on overcoming. What we’ve tried to do is make best use of the information, which isn’t in one place, [and] actually pick up on the most important things.”