Viewing archives for Dr. William Fleming

Leaders don’t really care about employee engagement. Here’s why

Fast Company

The moment has come when leaders must stop pretending we care about engagement. Let’s quit asking workers to fill out surveys that everyone knows are insincere, “check-the-box” activities. Instead, leaders should start dedicating resources to not only measuring employee well-being, but actually committing to improving employee well-being.

Research suggests that employee well-being matters more to the success of a business than employee engagement. For instance, Oxford University researchers have determined that how people feel at work is the biggest driver of employee productivity. Consequently, focusing on improving employee well-being will lead to a massive win for employers and employees alike.

Work Wellbeing Playbook: A Systematic Review of Evidence-Based Interventions to Improve Employee Wellbeing

Sarah Cunningham, William Fleming, Cherise Regier, Micah Kaats, and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve


The Work Wellbeing Playbook is a concise guide that distils insights from a large-scale systematic literature review of workplace wellbeing interventions. It presents high level insights in an accessible, and plain English format for ease-of use.

With support from Indeed, and in collaboration with our academic partner at the University of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre, the World Wellbeing Movement has curated this Playbook of evidence-based interventions categorised by 12 key drivers of workplace wellbeing. 

The researchers reviewed more than 3,000 academic studies of workplace wellbeing interventions to identify strategies proven to increase the wellbeing of employees across diverse work environments. Recognising that business leaders often face time constraints, we have condensed the key insights into this open-access resource and distilled them into an accessible, high-level summary to support busy professionals.

This playbook builds upon the World Wellbeing Movement’s science-based recommendations for how to measure both how employees are feeling at work, and why they are feeling that way – just like the Indeed Work Wellbeing Score, also created alongside experts from the Wellbeing Research Centre, does. Once you have collected the data, you can then use this Playbook to address the areas for improvement within your organisation.  

Business leaders are recommended to keep diversity top of mind when leveraging the playbook to craft a holistic employee wellbeing strategy for their organisation. When choosing interventions, employers should consider factors such as their workplace environment, industry, geographical location, and the unique needs of their employees. 

Although there is no magic formula, and all interventions have their limitations, many companies start to affect positive change when they combine multiple interventions (organisational-level interventions, group-level interventions and individual-level interventions) across multiple drivers of employee wellbeing. 

Assessing data quality in a Big convenience sample of work wellbeing

William Fleming, George Ward and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve


Survey research is facing a multitude of challenges to its validity, especially for the study of labour and organisations. Online surveys with non-probability, convenience samples are simultaneously seen as part of the problem and a promising solution. Methodological literature argues that researchers should not think of data quality of online surveys in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but in degrees, with a series of recommendations scattered across disciplines for assessing and managing data limitations. We present a case study of a Big, multi-level, online, convenience sample of subjective work wellbeing, the Indeed Work Wellbeing Score survey (IWWS). IWWS is an ongoing international survey of subjective work wellbeing, with over 20,000,000 responses and growing. In this study we evaluate the UK subsample collected by October 2023 (N = 1,463,503). While a prima facie valuable source of data, the data generation process raises concerns of selection bias and inattentive responses. We evaluate the extent of bias, variation in bias, response rates, internal consistency and employer cluster-level reliability. We then turn to considering what types of research questions a researcher may want to answer with the data, especially unit comparisons at different survey units and inter-item relationships. Overall, we suggest that at the individual, employee level, the survey suffers from selection and binary bias in responses, but that at the employer-level IWWS offers a valuable resource to supplement existing random probability surveys of work and wellbeing. In our conclusions we offer practical methodological recommendations for others using Big, online convenience samples. Finally, we provide commentary on the strengths and limitations of the IWWS for ongoing and future research, as well as the value for businesses, jobseekers and policy-makers.


Workplace wellbeing interventions: what works, what doesn’t and why?


This year, a research paper went pretty viral on TikTok. It was seen by nearly a quarter of a million people and it was based on the University of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre work into mental health interventions in the workplace.

The key finding of the research was not too surprising: there is no evidence that individual interventions, like wellbeing apps and relaxation classes, improves employee’s mental health. It is organisational change which makes the difference.

Individual-level wellbeing strategies aren’t working

HR Magazine

The headline finding is that individual-level mental health interventions don’t work. Across several indicators of work wellbeing and mental health, participants appeared no better off than their colleagues who didn’t participate. There wasn’t improvement in evaluations of the job either.

Link between wellbeing and productivity is made ‘clear’

Financial Times

The good news, says William Fleming, research fellow at Oxford university’s Wellbeing Research Centre, is that there is a “clear link between subjective wellbeing and productivity”.

He points to two recent studies that show happier workers make more sales, and wellbeing at work can boost financial performance. They support the business case for tending to staff happiness, he argues. “This is without considering absence rates because of mental health and costs of employee turnover.”

Employers re-examine wellbeing strategies

Financial Times

Positive effects observed in pilot schemes often evaporate when a programme is released into “real-world settings”, cautions William Fleming, research fellow at the University of Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre. In a study of survey responses from 46,000 UK workers, he found no difference in the self-reported mental health of those who participated in wellbeing programmes and those who did not.

Why are workers so sad? These researchers offer clues – and recommendations

Fast Company

Layard cites his research, along with studies by George Ward, an economics research fellow at Oxford University, and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, a professor of economics and behavioral science at Oxford’s Saïd Business School, which demonstrates the impact of worker well-being on individual- and firm-level performance. 

While more conservative economists prioritize quantifiable measures like income, rather than subjective emotions like happiness, Layard says “we should be measuring the benefit of a policy not by its effect on income, but by its overall effect on well-being.” The professor cheekily rejects the idea that studying wellness is not a hard science. “We are the hard-headed ones and they are the softies,” he argues. 

Volunteering: A Proven Way To Improve Employee Well-Being


However, it’s important to note that the Oxford research concluded volunteering has an impact on well-being because it provides a sense of purpose and belonging. Other research confirms a strong connection between volunteering and mental health and even demonstrates that it can lead to a longer life.

How to create a great volunteering program


Employee volunteer programs have a positive correlation with worker retention, wellbeing, and engagement, according to a study published earlier this year by the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford. And workers who participated in volunteering and purpose programs were 52% less likely to leave their companies, according to a 2022 talent retention study from Benevity, a donation, volunteer, and grant management platform.