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KPMG partners Cambridge University for mental health at work study

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KPMG UK and the University of Cambridge have unveiled a new partnership to understand how the world of work is changing, starting with “what really works when it comes to supporting employees’ mental wellbeing”.

Stress – and high blood pressure – is one symptom of difficulties at work
Stress – and high blood pressure – is one symptom of difficulties at work

The partnership is a global first and sees the university bring together researchers from different disciplines to better understand the factors that affect mental wellbeing at work, and how to provide support which boosts individual mental wellbeing, enhances productivity and promotes a healthy workforce for the future.

The collaboration comes as a new report finds that the UK is the fifth worst country in Europe for employee wellbeing, ahead of Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain and Portugal. The study by Latus Health found that 46 per cent of the UK workforce reported experiencing burnout relating to work.

In relation to productivity, however, the Latus study ranked UK workers as ‘extremely good’ for sickness absence with an average of 4.6 days off per year, in comparison to Germany which ranked worst with 19.9 days of absence a year relating to sickness – perhaps suggesting the problem may lie with management rather than work rate.

The new project will see KPMG will open its doors to Cambridge researchers, who will assess the effectiveness of the mental wellbeing initiatives the firm currently offers to its 16,000 UK employees. This will develop an evidence base of what works and how new support measures can be developed. The firm will use these insights to invest in and evolve its package of mental wellbeing support.

The firm will share its research with the wider business community, and also aims to provide empirical evidence demonstrating the link between employee mental wellbeing and improved productivity.

Kelly Dunn, senior partner for KPMG in Cambridge, said: “Mental wellbeing is a global issue and a leading concern on the minds of the business leaders I speak to. Businesses need research and data to help them invest in the right areas to support their staff through a huge period of change, as we emerge from the pandemic and introduce new ways of working.

Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge
Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge

“But mental wellbeing at work is an under-researched area and it is hard to access empirical data evidencing clear links between mental wellbeing policies and better employee health.

“This partnership with the very best academics in their field seeks to address this and provide real answers on what works. It aims to help leaders support their people to thrive at work, which in turn will lift productivity and deliver wider benefits to the economy.”

Professor Gordon Harold, who is leading the mental wellbeing programme for the partnership, said: “Mental health is the bedrock of a healthy, productive and positive society. By 2030 depression will be a leading cause of mortality and morbidity globally, with significant implications for individuals, society and the future of work.

“Promoting positive mental health and supporting those who experience or are at risk of mental ill health is now a national and global priority.”

A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1trillion each year in lost productivity.

The UK rate for sick days from work is relatively low in Europe
The UK rate for sick days from work is relatively low in Europe

Professor Andy Neely, pro-vice-chancellor for enterprise and business relations at the University of Cambridge, said: “Work – what we do, how and where we do it and what it means for individuals, organisations and wider society – is changing. This ambitious partnership will bring together Cambridge researchers from a wide range of disciplines to reimagine the world of work and to co-create with KPMG effective strategies and interventions that will benefit both its workforce and those of organisations worldwide.

“Finding the best ways to support mental wellbeing at work is an urgent and important task, and the starting point for this partnership which will explore more broadly how can we enable meaningful work that addresses society’s needs.”

The announcement forms part of a wider partnership between KPMG and the University of Cambridge, which includes a training programme with Cambridge Judge Business School, which will deliver environmental, social and governance training to KPMG’s 227,000 global workforce.

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