Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine - Barts and The London

Pilot study of a randomised trial of a guided e-learning health promotion intervention for managers based on management standards for the improvement of employee wellbeing and reduction of sickness absence (GEM Study – Guided E-Learning for Managers)

Centre for Psychiatry

Funding Body:  National Institute for Health Research

Project Investigator:  Stephen Stansfeld


There is empirical evidence that the psychosocial work environment impacts on employee wellbeing, mental health and risk of sickness absence [1-4]. There is now consensus that employees’ health is a public health priority and the responsibility of employers and employees as well as health services [5, 6]. 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 very few systematic studies of manager training in relation to employee wellbeing and sickness absence, and the majority of interventions have been delivered to individuals rather than targeting the organisation.

This research is a pilot study of an already developed e-learning programme for managers to be completed on-line by managers in separate modules over 12 weeks. This e-learning programme provides knowledge and skills about management standards and their implementation in terms of managing stress at work and promoting wellbeing. In this first study, prior to the main trial, we will test whether organisations will accept the intervention and whether we can achieve high levels of recruitment to the study. We will also examine in detail the components of the e-learning intervention and whether managers stick to the programme. We will also get an initial idea of how effective the programme is in altering managers' behaviours and improving employees' wellbeing.

The study is being conducted at an NHS Trust. Four clusters of managers and their employees from within the organisation are randomised, three to the intervention and one to the control group. All participating managers in the intervention group receive the e-learning intervention. The primary endpoints of the main trial are the effect on employee wellbeing (measured by self-report questionnaire before and after the intervention) and sickness absence (as reported by the Trust HR department before and after the intervention). Additionally, this pilot study will also collect information from the employer on whether the intervention is cost-effective in terms of reducing sickness absence. We also carry out qualitative focus groups and in-depth interviews with managers, employees, and key informants within the organisation.

The GEM Study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Public Health Research (PHR) programme (Grant Reference Number 10/3007/06).

Study website: GEM Study


Main Contact

Stephen Stansfeld (Chief investigator)
email: s.a.stansfeld@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7882 2031

Doris Lanz (Trial manager)
email: d.lanz@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7882 2011