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Sarah Cunningham: I hope the next government prioritises people’s wellbeing over GDP growth

Tortoise Media

Every area of policy has implications for our wellbeing, so it’s vital that whoever ends up in No10 considers every single policy decision through a wellbeing lens to ensure a healthier, happier, fairer society.

After all, wellbeing is a science: it can be measured, and improved.

But although the ONS (Office for National Statistics) has been tracking life satisfaction – the most reliable measure of population wellbeing – since 2011, these efforts have not been matched by effective actions to address declining trends.

Wellbeing is not a luxury. It’s a basic human right which the next government must protect

The Big Issue

With the general election just a few days away and the past few couple of weeks’ news being dominated by the launch of the party manifestos, I’ve been keeping a keen eye on the content of the manifestos but I’ve been disappointed. There has been a notable absence in the priorities of those vying for Number 10: wellbeing.

Wellbeing is a bit of a misunderstood term, often overlooked in discussions about what truly matters to people’s everyday lives.  But let’s get one thing straight: wellbeing is not a luxury. It’s a basic human right that permeates every single issue at this general election and our politicians must sit up and take notice.

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. 

Sarah Cunningham

Sarah Cunningham is Managing Director of the World Wellbeing Movement (WWM), a coalition of global leaders from business, civil society, and academia that have come together to help put wellbeing at the heart of decision-making in both business and public policy.

Sarah is a senior business leader, board director, and Future of Work strategist with over 20 years’ experience, gained in companies including Mastercard, Google, BT, CapGemini and Accenture. 

Prior to being appointed to her current position, Sarah was Vice-President and lead of Mastercard’s European Technology Hub in Dublin, where she was focused on creating a great place to work with employee wellbeing as the cornerstone. Under her leadership, Mastercard’s Dublin operation grew from 450 employees to just over 1,000 with employee engagement scores improving year-on-year, and moved to a flagship new state-of-the-art campus. 

A former Management Consultant, Sarah holds an Executive MSc in Behavioural Science from The London School of Economics and Political Science, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business & Law from University College Dublin; a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the London Business School; Google’s MBA-level ‘Marketing Academy’ executive education diploma from INSEAD business school; and is a graduate of the Smurfit Senior Leadership programme in partnership with Darden University, where she was awarded a partial scholarship in 2019. 

Sarah is a frequent speaker on the topics of Workplace Wellbeing, the Future of Work, and Diversity & Inclusion. In 2019, she was honoured to be named “Business Role Model of the Year” at the Women in IT Ireland awards. 

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys hiking with her husband. Over the years, she has hiked in the Himalayas, Lesotho, Peru (the Inca Trail), Spain (a leg of the Camino), the Alps and of course, beautiful scenic Ireland.