Insights and interventions: Can better data collection improve wellbeing?

Without data insights, our understanding of health and wellbeing remains limited. Dr Masood Aga is looking to build and improve data collection to help organisations be better placed to meet occupational health and wellbeing challenges, and develop a coordinated approach to wider workforce issues.  

Can you tell us more about data collection within your role, and how data is impacting occupational health? 

“We are increasingly looking at how we can capture data and evaluate what is most meaningful to translate into action. We have a lot of data that’s captured through various means. But the gap between the ideal and the real is huge, and it’s widening. So, we need to try and close that gap using data to create solutions and drive change. 

"If you look at mental health data collected through surveys, for example, how does this portray people’s feelings? Can it show whether there is a level of stress in the workplace, the level of satisfaction with current working conditions? Then there is the question of translating these insights into action, because you might not have any interventions in place, or they aren’t specific to what the data is telling you. We end up constantly planning for the future. And, often, by the time we implement interventions, the scenario has changed again.
"People and organisations planned for many, many years for global pandemics like COVID-19, but the plans all changed. Post-COVID is an entirely different scenario. We are dealing with burnout, anxiety, and stress at an entirely different level and severity. So, we’re really focused on how we can triangulate all that data and come up with a coherent way of dealing with the problems we see. I often say that an intervention by itself is not equivalent to a solution. We must have an evidence based approach and develop solutions which will translate into addressing issues holistically and meaningfully. Having a set of off-the-shelf interventions or those introduced on the basis of them having worked elsewhere, without an understanding of unique challenges of your organisation often does not work. Interventions can certainly be a part of the solution, but we must find solutions that are planned on the basis of evidence and local intelligence, the only way to do that is through better data collection.”

What would you say some of the largest challenges are when it comes to data collection? 

“Occupational health data is broad, and can include information on a wide range of people who’ve been referred to occupational health for different reasons. That data is very useful, but it’s often only dealt with as clinical information and used to inform a narrow range of actions. It’s rarely used meaningfully in workforce development planning or interventions because few people know how to interpret it. 

"There’s a lot of data that’s captured from other means also. For example, we’re one of the few Trusts where there is a dedicated wellbeing team to look after mental health, particularly through clinical assessment. Although we use various apps as well, sadly a lot of data from these is lost because the interaction is between the user and the app. 

"Undertaking a survey often tends to be an opportunity to gather data that is both reflective of what is happening in your organisation at a particular moment in time, and targeted towards a specific employee group. But the insights you get from this data are again retrospective, so they can’t be applied meaningfully for timely interventions – it all just keeps telling you a story of the past. 

"If we do not see the integration of data as inherently important to running an organisation, to managing workforce issues and providing solutions, we will miss vital information and insights.”


Can you tell us more about the mental component to physical illness, and how this is impacting data collection? 

“Health data is often looked at in a very discrete way, which doesn’t always tell you the full picture. So, for example, the data collected on mental health from musculoskeletal clinics or interventions could be much more useful for prevention or early intervention in someone with mental health problems. At the point of mental illness, the crisis has already occurred, or the illness has already at an advanced stage. We are not capable of seeing the building up of stress. We only see when it tips over, so using data to be more preventative is key. 

"It's also important that when you have the data, you also have a plan in mind. You need to have already started thinking about what you will do with the answers you discover. It's important to anticipate outcomes and have a proactive approach, preparing for all kinds of scenarios. That data can then be meaningfully used to map out a professional approach to sickness absence. And once you have a coherent, integrated solution, it will start becoming meaningful.”

Why not start your data journey today? Try our Impact of Absence Calculator and find out how much absence is really costing your organisation.

Find out how we can help.

Fill out the form below and one of our team will be in touch to arrange a meeting.

Find out more

Customisable promo module headline.

Supporting info lorem ipsum dolor sitam amet sed do eiusmod tempor.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Duis aute irure dolor.