Improving employee well-being through diagnosis, intervention and evaluation of policy and practice
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Bedfordshire
Unit of AssessmentAllied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Summary of the impact
Work-related stress and work-life conflict are the biggest health and
safety challenges in the UK with considerable costs to the economy as well
as employees and their families. Research conducted by Professor Kinman
over the last 15 years has made a significant contribution to enhancing
knowledge of the mechanisms underpinning work-related well-being and ways
in which this can be enhanced. In recognition of the unique nature of
Kinman's work, the UoB is widely recognised as a centre of excellence in
this field. Kinman has advised organisations, predominantly in the public
sector, on ways to manage stress and enhance work-life balance and
resilience. The significance and reach of this work has been demonstrated,
most notably with academic employees and social workers. It has been used
to develop interventions and informed changes to policy and practice at a
national level in these sectors.
Professor Kinman started working at the UoB in 1996; she was appointed as
a Reader in 2007 and awarded a Professorship in 2009. During this time,
Kinman has built an international reputation for her research on
work-related stress and wellbeing (e.g. 3.1). She is particularly well
known for her research in the higher education (HE) sector. Her work has
made a unique contribution to understanding of the wellbeing of staff and
the factors that underpin this. Kinman has been commissioned by
professional bodies to conduct six national surveys on work-related
wellbeing in HE and post-compulsory education more generally (in 1996,
1998, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013, see 5.1). Previous work in the sector was
fragmented and limited to small scale cross-sectional studies (primarily
of single institutions), but Kinman's body of research has facilitated a
longitudinal analysis of the working conditions underpinning the wellbeing
of academic staff at a national level, their responses to ongoing change
in the sector, and the implications for employees and HE institutions
(3.2). The surveys have yielded substantial response rates, with 24K
participants in the most recent wave (2012). Findings have highlighted
increasing demands and negative perceptions of change management, whilst
levels of control have continued to exceed national benchmarks. A further
unique contribution is Kinman's work on academics' experiences of the
work-home interface whereby they have been found to be particularly at
risk of work-life conflict and poor recovery due to a combination of
external demands and individual coping strategies (3.3). Published work
that has tested models of stress in the sector has also shed light on the
role played by working conditions in underpinning wellbeing, particularly
the need for professional esteem and respect and the role played by
individual differences (3.4 and 3.5).
Since 2009, Kinman has also published a considerable body of work
focusing on work-related stress in general and the emotional experiences
of helping and service professionals more specifically. Her
inter-disciplinary research (with Louise Grant, Senior Lecturer in Social
Work at the University of Bedfordshire since 2007) on enhancing resilience
and wellbeing in social workers has had considerable impact. It is
generally agreed that social work is a satisfying but emotionally
demanding profession with high sickness rates and turnover. Social workers
are now required to demonstrate that they have the emotional resilience to
manage the demands of their work. Prior to Kinman's research (3.6), there
was no evidence-based information on perceptions of resilience in trainee
and qualified staff and how this may be enhanced. Moreover, the extent to
which resilience and self care issues more generally are currently
included in the social work curriculum in the UK and educators attitudes
towards this issue were unknown. Such information is essential in order to
inform interventions to enhance the wellbeing of social workers and the
service they provide. Since 2011, several journal articles have been
published which have outlined the factors that underpin resilience and
ways in which this might be enhanced in trainee and qualified staff.
Research has also explored social work educators' views of resilience and
the acceptability of a national evidence-based emotional curriculum has
also been conducted and disseminated widely.
Kinman is also recognised nationally and internationally for her work on
work-life balance. Her research on work-life balance in academic employees
has been highlighted above. In recognition of her national standing in
this field, in 2009 Kinman was commissioned by the British Psychological
Society to form a national working group on work-life balance to
disseminate evidence-based practice to academics, practitioners and
organisations. This group has organised several events nationally and
internationally and published a series of evidence-based fact sheets which
are currently being evaluated by practitioners and end users. Kinman has
also conducted studies of work-life balance and wellbeing in two large
English police forces since 2008 and is currently working with several
fire services (including Bedfordshire) to investigate work-life balance
and its relationship with wellbeing and performance and make
recommendations for policy and practice.
References to the research
3.1 Kinman, G. & Jones, F. (2005). Lay representations of workplace
stress: What do people really mean when they say they are stressed?. Work
& Stress, 19(2), 101-120. doi:10.1080/02678370500144831
3.2 Kinman, G., Jones, F. & Kinman, R. (2006). The Wellbeing of the
UK Academy. Quality in Higher Education, 12, 1, 15-27.
3.3 Flaxman, P. E., Ménard, J., Bond, F. W., & Kinman, G. (2012).
Academics' experiences of a respite from work: Effects of self-critical
perfectionism and perseverative cognition on postrespite well-being.
Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(4), 854-865.
3.4 Kinman, G. & Jones, F. (2008). Job-related efforts, rewards and
over-commitment: Predicting strain in academic employees. International
Journal of Stress Management, 15, 4, 381-395.
3.5 Kinman, G. (2008). Sense of coherence, work stressors and health
outcomes in UK academic employees, Educational Psychology, 28, 7, 823-835.
3.6 Kinman, G. & Grant, L. (2011) Predicting stress resilience in
trainee social workers: the role of emotional competencies. British
Journal of Social Work, 41, 2, 261-275.
Details of the impact
Kinman's work has enhanced understanding of the wellbeing of HE staff and
the factors that underpin this, and also resulted in changes to national
policy and practice. Several reports have been published (e.g. 5.1). The
results of this research have been widely publicised in the sector, and
have been used as evidence by the House of Commons Education and Skills
Select Committee on the future sustainability of the HE sector and to
inform the development of workload management models and approaches to
change management at a national level (5.2). The research was also quoted
extensively in a report commissioned by Universities UK on the extent and
impact of the changes experienced in the academic profession in recent
years (5.3) and cited in international working papers for reform in the
sector (5.4). Kinman has advised HE professional bodies, such as the
Universities and College Union (UCU), which has enabled them to raise
awareness of stress in post-16 education via conferences, reports and
inform national campaign materials to improve terms and conditions for
Over the REF assessment period, Kinman's longitudinal research in the HE
sector has applied the UK Health and Safety Executive Management Standards
approach in several waves to allow the UCU and institutions to monitor the
wellbeing of employees and the extent to which short and longer term
targets to improve this are being adhered to. The research has gained
substantial coverage in the media, for example it was featured in a leader
in the Times Higher Education Supplement and in other newspapers such as
the Guardian, and also stimulated public debate..
In 2009, with Dr. Almuth McDowall of the University of Surrey, Kinman
founded and now co-chairs the British Psychological Society's Working
Group on Work-Life Balance, sponsored by the Division of Occupational
Psychology. This working group aims to raise awareness amongst
practitioners, organisations and employees of the role played by evidenced
based psychological research in enhancing the work-life balance and
wellbeing of employees and the profitability of organisations. She has
organised two conferences to promote knowledge and best practice in this
area focusing on organisational aspects (2010) and diversity and
difference (2011). Several other events (such as breakfast meetings and
seminars) have also been organised addressing issues of contemporary
concern such as the role of the recession on work-life balance
initiatives. These events have been attended by a wide range of
stakeholders such as HR managers, management consultants, company
directors, and officials from trade unions and professional associations.
In terms of outputs, Kinman has led the development of three
evidence-based factsheets on work-life balance that are tailored to
different audiences: individuals, organisations and life coaches (5.8).
These have been well received by the business community and developed and
updated consultants' skills in order to help individuals and organisations
enhance their work-life balance and wellbeing.
In terms of international activities, in 2012 Kinman coordinated a summit
at the inaugural Work-Family Network Conference in New York to debate
international concerns about key issues with experts from 15 countries -
this work continued with an invited panel discussion of academics,
practitioners, employers and representatives of the not-for-profit sector
at the BPS Division of Occupational Psychology conference in January, 2013
which she led. The events have enhanced knowledge and experience of
Kinman's research on the factors that underpin resilience and how this
might be enhanced has had impact in terms of reach and significance. It
has received considerable attention in the UK and Europe (5.9).This work
has been utilised by national social work bodies to illustrate how
emotional reactions to practice can impact on wellbeing and service
provision: for example, Skills for Care and the National Skills Academy,
who support employers to develop the skills of the nearly 1.6 million
social care workers, and the British Association of Social Workers (5.7
and 5.10). The broad impact of the research findings on the social work
community is illustrated by the journal article mentioned above (3.6)
having been distributed to all managers in the Bedfordshire and
Hertfordshire regions by senior management. The research has also been
presented at the national Health and Wellbeing at Work 2013 conference
which is attended by 3,000 health and safety professionals.
The research has also informed the development of interventions that have
been disseminated nationally via reports, websites and training. The
Higher Education Academy (HEA) has also commissioned Kinman to develop a
resource guide on how to enhance resilience and wellbeing in health and
social care (5.6). In 2012, the HEA commissioned a national study of
social work departments with a view to developing an "emotional
curriculum" based on Kinman's work. This identified the extent to which
resilience and self care was included in the curriculum and educators'
attitudes towards the inclusion of the strategies emerging from Kinman's
In 2012, Kinman and Grant were commissioned by Community Care (the major
information source for social care professionals working with children and
families) to write an online resource and interactive quiz on resilience
in social workers. The work has been exceptionally popular in the social
work community. To date, almost one third of the social workers that
subscribe to the service have viewed the resource and participated in the
quiz in order to help them develop their emotional resilience within
practice. A live "advice clinic" has been replayed more than 1,300 times.
Social work practitioners from several countries have contacted Community
Care to provide feedback on the usefulness of the tool for enhancing
insight in their personal strengths and areas for development and
improving their wellbeing and professional practice. In 2012, Kinman was
also invited to participate in an online debate hosted by The Guardian on
tackling stress in social care. Moreover, a training package developed by
Kinman from this research has been delivered to more than 400 trainee
social workers and qualified staff from several local authorities
(including East Kilbride and Oxford) and social care charities with
demonstrable effectiveness. There is evidence that trainee social workers
levels of psychological wellbeing improved following the training.
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 UCU 2013 Report on Higher Education Stress Survey.
5.2 Memorandum submitted to the Education and Skills Commons Select
Committee by the University and College Union (UCU).
5.3 Management of Academic Workloads report for HEFCE (2009).
5.4 Danish School of Education Report.
5.5 UCU Report on Tackling Stress in Higher Education (2008).
5.6 HEA Social Work and Social Policy Resource Sheet on developing
5.7 Presentation from British Association of Social Workers Student
5.8 British Psychological Society work-life balance factsheets www.bps.org.uk/news/society-publishes-work-life-balance-factsheets
5.9 Development of Social and Youth Workers Cultural Competence website.
5.10 Documents supporting development of resilience skills on Skills for
Care national website