Major partnership to probe how the workplace is changing

19th July by Lee Robertson

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KPMG and the University of Cambridge have announced a new five-year partnership on the ‘Future of Work’ which will examine the big issues affecting the modern workplace and aim to offer practical research-backed solutions to employers.

KPMG is opening its doors to the University’s researchers in a bid to better understand how the world of work is changing. The study will commence with a look at what really works when it comes to supporting employee’s mental wellbeing. It also forms part of a wider partnership investigating the hot topics affecting work and society, such as the impact of digital technologies, the global distribution of work and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).

Researchers from Cambridge will assess the effectiveness of mental wellbeing initiatives KPMG currently offers to its 16,000 UK employees. Bringing together researchers from a variety of disciplines, the study will explore the factors that affect mental wellbeing at work and show how different kinds of support can boost individual mental wellbeing, enhance productivity and promote a healthy workforce for the future.

Mooted as a global first, the partnership hopes to develop an evidence base at scale of what works and how new support measures can be designed and evaluated to meet the future needs of employees. KPMG will use the study’s insights to invest in and evolve its own package of mental wellbeing support.

It is reported that the research will also be shared with the wider business community to help other organisations support their own workforces and reduce attrition and wellbeing related absence. It also aims to provide empirical evidence which clearly demonstrates the link between employee mental wellbeing and improved productivity.

Quoted in the official press release announcing the partnership, Professor Andy Neely, pro-vice-chancellor for enterprise and business relations at the University of Cambridge said: “Work – what we do, how and where we do it and what it means for individuals, organisations and wider society – is changing. This ambitious partnership will bring together Cambridge researchers from a wide range of disciplines to reimagine the world of work and to co-create with KPMG effective strategies and interventions that will benefit both its workforce and those of organisations worldwide.

“Finding the best ways to support mental wellbeing at work is an urgent and important task, and the starting point for this partnership which will explore more broadly how can we enable meaningful work that addresses society’s needs.”

Karen Smart, head of consultancy with the AoEC commented: “I think this has the potential to be a hugely significant step forward in how organisations design their wellbeing strategies. We have seen before that there is criticism of how ineffective some interventions for conditions like stress and burnout can be. The University of Cambridge has broached the subject before and this should be a very welcome development for those in the people management profession. Mental wellbeing must have parity with physical wellbeing or health and safety in the workplace. A study of this magnitude with its sheer scale and rigour will be play a very important role in how we define the workplace of the future.”