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The ESRC Seminar Series provides a platform to share cutting-edge and leading research in challenges in human resources and public policy in the fields of leadership, governance, and diversity.

These seminars:

  • provide opportunities for key issues to be explored from an interdisciplinary perspective
  • facilitate knowledge exchange between academics and other stakeholders
  • build international networks of academics at different stages in their careers
  • identify future research agendas

Sustaining Employee Well-being in the 21st Century

This ESRC seminar series focused on employee well-being in the 21st Century. The aim of this seminar series was to explore ways in which to foster sustainable employee well-being by facilitating knowledge exchange, capacity building and networking between academics, policymakers and HR practitioners.


Dr Tina Kowalski


  • Professor Wendy Loretto, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Tom Redman, Durham University

Research Period

1 September 2013–7 October 2016


Well-being is a topic of increasing interest to individuals, organisations and societies. Conceptually at its broadest level it combines 'feeling good' with 'effective functioning'. This has prompted attention to a variety of facets, from macro level (e.g. OECD's focus on economic indicators of well-being such as GDP and the current UK Government's creation of a 'national well-being index') to concerns over individual physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being. This seminar series will focus on a key aspect of well-being, that of well-being in the workplace, often termed employee well-being.

A plethora of research evidence indicates that poor well-being at work can lead to adverse physical and mental health consequences for individuals and negative organisational outcomes such as increased sickness absence and reduced productivity of workers. In particular, stress and mental health issues are now cited as the primary cause of long-term absence from work. As such, this seminar series will focus predominantly on psychological well-being, aiming to add insight and understanding into the ways employee mental health and well-being can be managed and sustained.


The ESRC funded seminar series 'Sustaining employee well-being in the 21st century', which saw 9 seminars run over a period of 3 years, ended on a high with a two-day event at the School and at the Scottish Parliament in early October 2016.

The series has generated a vibrant and diverse network of academics, practitioners and policymakers all bringing different knowledge, experience and insight into employee well-being and to the crucial issue of how we can sustain employee well-being in the fast changing world of work.

Three key themes have guided the series:

  • What is well-being and why does it matter?
  • How can we develop and sustain employee well-being?
  • What are the challenges for sustaining employee well-being?

Guest presenters have spanned disciplines, institutions, professional bodies and have come from as far as field as southern Australia and, more close to home, from Paris, Sweden and across the UK. A strength of the series has been the involvement with and inputs from key policy bodies (e.g. OECD, CIPD, HSE and ESRC) and a wide range of practitioners, including representatives of leading employers, such as RBS and P&G, as well as independent well-being consultants. The strong network is now seeking to continue the conversations surrounding managing and sustaining employee well-being beyond the remit of the series.

The series was organised by Dr Tina Kowalski (University of York Management School), Professor Wendy Loretto, Dean of the University of Edinburgh Business School, and the late Professor Tom Redman (Durham university), who sadly passed away in December 2015.