Published on 22 June 2022
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KPMG and the University of Cambridge announce partnership to reimagine the world of work – starting with mental wellbeing

Bennett Institute part of new partnership on the ‘Future of Work’ to examine the big issues affecting the modern workforce and offer practical, research backed solutions to employers.

KPMG and the University of Cambridge have unveiled a new partnership to understand how the world of work is changing. The partnership will begin by focusing on what works when it comes to supporting employees’ mental wellbeing – a programme that will be led by Professor Gordon Harold at the Faculty of Education, with Professor Diane Coyle at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, and Professor Sir John Aston at The Statistical Laboratory.

The partnership will bring together researchers from different disciplines to better understand the factors that affect mental wellbeing at work. It will show how different kinds of supports can boost individual mental wellbeing, enhance productivity, and promote a healthy workforce for the future.

KPMG will open its doors to Cambridge researchers, who will assess the effectiveness of the mental wellbeing initiatives the firm currently offers to its 15,000 UK employees. This will develop an evidence base of what works and how new support measures can be developed and evaluated to meet employees’ future needs. The firm will use these insights to invest in and evolve its package of mental wellbeing support.

The research will be published and available to all employers to help them support their own workforces. It also aims to provide empirical evidence clearly demonstrating the link between employee mental wellbeing and improved productivity.

Gordon Harold is Professor of the Psychology of Education and Mental Health at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Andrew and Virginia Rudd Research and Professional Practice Centre. He 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.”

Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy at Cambridge, and a Director of the Productivity Institute at the Alliance Manchester Business School, will lead the research on wellbeing and productivity and the workplace.

She said: “There is strong evidence showing an association between individual wellbeing and productivity and the workplace but the cause is not well established. Researchers at the Bennett Institute will explore the channels of causality from wellbeing to productivity and variations across different working scenarios.

“Of interest will be differences across certain business types, countries, interaction in the workplace and with the wider community that impact wellbeing and productivity.

“The importance of wellbeing policy is gaining momentum but there’s only a slender thread of evidence on which it is based. We want to test theories on how employment might affect wellbeing and productivity in different scenarios and the implications for policy ‘solutions’ – whether it’s at an individual level such as an increase in pay or at a community level through improving the neighbourhood’s social and physical facilities. The findings will inform the policy implications for local and national governments, and individual workplaces.”

John Aston, the Harding Professor of Statistics in Public Life at the University of Cambridge, said “Supporting mental wellbeing is one of the biggest challenges that employers and employees are facing. We will develop essential evidence using the data and the insights from our partnership to understand how to effectively promote positive mental health in the workplace.”

Jon Holt, Chief Executive of KPMG UK, said: “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.”

The announcement is part of KPMG’s £300m three-year strategy to transform and grow its business, as it invests in new insight and services to support its clients and its people.

It also forms part of a wider partnership between KPMG and the University of Cambridge, which aims to examine the big issues affecting work and society, such as the impact of digital technologies, the global distribution of work and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), and to provide evidence-based, actionable insights.

In September last year, the firm unveiled a training programme with Cambridge Judge Business School, which will deliver ESG training to KPMG’s 227,000 global workforce.

Read more about the Future of Work partnership.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

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