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OPINION: Wellbeing, Psychological Health & The Missing Link to Business Advantage

David Shaw CBE


Management Leadership & Psychological Wellbeing

David Shaw CBE, the director of Wellbeing Works discusses how effective leadership, which includes a focus on psychological wellbeing, can bring huge business benefits.

David Shaw CBEHow many bright ideas in the tech industry fail due to poor project management leadership rather than through technical issues?  We know the sector is full of bright, highly qualified, talented and diverse people, but like most sectors, they are only really as good as the leadership and the working environment allows them to be.

Just reading through recent articles on DIGIT’s website and you wonder whether it was poor management that has delayed the Council’s new IT system?  How many IT departments in different organisations fell foul of the Wannacry virus and were slow in adopting relevant protection.  How many project teams are trying to helping digital transformation or trying to be agile, but suffer from imperfect leadership, poor team dynamics and clumsy organisational arrangements?   



According to CIPD, on average in 2016 in UK, employees took 6.3 days absence.  The 2016 Health IT Stress Report found that 55% of professionals in the field are at least frequently or constantly stressed.  As an employer or employee, you should be very keen to know how to avoid bringing unwarranted stress on employees and to reduce associated, costly absence and ‘presenteeism (present at work but not working optimally).

Poor leadership may cause people not to feel valued and trusted; they may also feel detached, harassed, bullied, overworked and humiliated.  The management fails to benefit from all the talent available because employees fear airing their thoughts and ideas, they don’t go the extra mile and some want to leave the project.  Worse still, some may have already left through stress-related illness.  The psychological environment in this instance is dangerous.

In contrast, good leadership will create a positive psychological environment. Employees may be challenged at work, but in a good way.  They can each propose ideas and suggestions, they are fit and able to, and want to, work hard to achieve the project aim.  They are encouraged by, and don’t want to let down, the project manager, so they put in extra effort willingly and can use their initiative.  The project or company succeeds because everyone pulls together, the quality of work rises and their collective talents are well-used.

The Business Case

There are a number of organisations who can deliver proven processes that typically might involve a series of ameliorating steps, as follows:

  1. analysis of data from a bespoke and, in some cases, predictive staff survey
  2. training of line managers in psychological health and
  3. applying improvements through an action plan

In the course of our work we have typically seen 20% reductions or more in absence in medium sized organisations within the first year; we have also regularly seen changes in survey responses such as these:

  • An improvement in “staff thoroughly enjoy their work” from 29% to 50% in a six month period
  • A reduction from 48% “thinking of finding another job” to 17%
  • A reduction from 29% “feeling burn-out because of their work” to 0%
  • An improvement from 41% to 83% among people who can “freely ask for help”
  • A rise from 6% to 50% in people who “do more than is asked of me”

Taking stock…

If you are responsible for a team or a department or a company, it would be worth your while taking stock of your leadership, business processes and their effect on your teams to identify where you might inadvertently causing unnecessary stress that is detrimentally affecting your business.  You can take measures to change processes, conduct training and change a culture to completely alter the environment from a psychologically unhealthy one to a psychologically healthy environment.  You have a moral and legal case to look after your people and the business case should be persuasive too as you will save far more than you spend on this. 

David Shaw CBE

David Shaw CBE

Director, Wellbeing Works

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