About the Study


Why are we conducting this study?


Work is good for health and wellbeing. An interesting job with good support from your managers and colleagues and excellent working conditions is likely to improve your wellbeing. In contrast, fast paced jobs with conflicting tasks and low autonomy, little support and guidance from managers, can reduce wellbeing and increase the rates of sickness.


The role of managers is key to maintaining and improving employee wellbeing. There have been many studies demonstrating that lack of support from managers is related to poor mental health and increased sickness absence in employees. However, there have been few systematic studies of manager training in relation to employee wellbeing and sickness absence.


What is being investigated in this study?


This is a pilot study of a trial of an already developed e-learning program to be completed on-line by managers in separate modules over 12 weeks. The e-learning program was developed by Anderson Peak Performance and aims to help managers understand and learn how to support their employees, improve communication, increase information about job change, make sure employees’ work is valued and develop strategies for adjusting workload and thus increase employee wellbeing. The e-learning will be introduced by a trained facilitator, who will also be on hand for support and discussions.


In this first study, we tested the suitability of the e-learning program for an organisation and whether we can achieve high levels of recruitment to the study. We also examined in detail the components of the e-learning intervention and whether managers stick to the program. We also sought to get an initial idea of how effective the program is in altering manager’s behaviours and improving employees’ wellbeing.


Employees were asked to complete an online questionnaire on their health, wellbeing and work characteristics both before and after the managers complete the e-learning program. Sickness absence data was collected from the organisation for the three months before and after the managers completed the program.

As this is a pilot study, we also carried out qualitative in-depth interviews and focus groups as part of the initial evaluation of the e-learning program. This included focus groups with the managers after the intervention to assess whether managers found it helpful or not and to find out if there are ways in which it could be improved. We also conducted in-depth interviews with senior managers and Human Resources personnel to try to understand their perspective on the intervention, and with employees to see if they feel the program for managers had any impact on them.


Who is taking part in this study?


We recruited four different services (or “clusters”) within one organisation, an NHS trust in the North of England, and recruited managers and their employees  In a future randomised controlled trial, we will seek to recruit a number of organisations, both from the public and private sector.


The study is cluster-randomised, which means the different groups are randomly assigned to either the managers being provided with the e-learning program (intervention group) or not (control group). Managers who were assigned to the control group were offered access to the e-learning program once the study was completed.



Who is conducting this study?


The study has been designed and is being led by researchers from Queen Mary University of London and The University of Manchester with expertise in running complex studies such as this, and experience in trial statistics, work, organisation and management, in measurement of wellbeing and mental health, linking aspects of work to wellbeing, mental health and cardiovascular disease, in developing management standards and implementing them in companies and in economic evaluation. The study is being conducted by the Centre for Psychiatry at Queen Mary University of London.



Who will have access to data and results of this study?


Any data collected as part of this study will be treated with strict confidentiality.


  • Employee questionnaire data was transmitted directly to the research team at Queen Mary University of London, and at no time will the employer have access to these questionnaires or the information contained within them.
  • Sickness absence data was collected from the employer in an anonymised fashion. We will not be able to link questionnaire answers to sickness data collected.
  • Individual data and responses will not identifiable in any reports. Data will be aggregated, that means grouped together, when reporting.



Results will be published in a peer-reviewed paper. Participants have been informed of the overall results of the study.


Who is overseeing this study?


An independent Study Steering Committee, comprised of experts in occupational, mental and physical health and economics, as well as union representative and a member of the public, oversees the conduct of the study.


We are accountable to the Queen Mary Research Ethics Committee and our funding body, the National Institute for Health Research. We conduct the study in line with applicable regulations, such as the Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care (2005) and the Data Protection Act (1998).


Who is paying for this study?


The study is fully funded by the National Institute for Health Research as part of their Public Health Research Programme.