“If all you do is work to fix problems, to alleviate suffering, then by definition you are working to get people to zero, to neutral”
“Positive psychology is another arrow in the quiver of public policy and psychology through which we can move wellbeing above zero”
The challenge: there is increased awareness, fuelled by the media and data insights, that despite high engagement levels, negative symptoms of low wellbeing are on the rise in our organisations. The costs of this, to our health, happiness and performance, are massive and well documented.
We want to do everything we can to support our people’s wellbeing, but we can struggle with how to position this - how to fit it into our people strategy so it aligns meaningfully with leadership, performance, diversity & inclusion and employee engagement.
The opportunity: there is an holistic and simple model of wellbeing that can help on many levels:
The PERMA model was introduced by Martin Seligman in 2011 through his research into flourishing and thriving in the new area of positive psychology. The model comprises 5 core pillars, each equally important and combining to give a foundation of positive wellbeing that can be learned.
There are already numerous examples of the wellbeing and performance benefits to organisations, from interventions focused on each separate element of PERMA (which stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment) but the application of the holistic PERMA model in the workplace is pioneering.
Positive Emotions: Mental / Self-Acceptance / Autonomy
Engagement: Work life balance / Environmental Mastery
Relationships: Social / Collective / Positive Relations
Meaning: Spiritual / Purpose
Accomplishment: Personal Growth
We use PERMA as a model of “psychological” wellbeing rather than using the term “mental” for one important reason: in our opinion, the word “mental” has negative connotations and limits its application across all of the 5 pillars, as it only relates to one pillar (see above).
There are a variety of initiatives in organisations that relate to wellbeing. The majority focus on fixing mental ill health and physical health problems; getting people back to zero/neutral as Seligman refers to. There are several others that relate to the practical elements of being able to work such as childcare, flexible hours or location options, as well as relationship work on developing more inclusive workplaces.
These broad initiatives such as “coaching” or “talent development” easily map to one of these pillars, but do they positively and strategically focus on what can be learned in each pillar to lead to flourishing and thriving? It seems we still have quite a way to go beyond simply creating employee engagement to really improving wellbeing positively.
Some helpful questions to consider in application:
A longer version of this article appears at https://www.baileyandfrench.com/future-of-wellbeing-at-work/
We welcome your opinions and feedback to articles that appear in Mad World News. Please send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also invite editorial contributions for future editions of Mad World News. Guidelines for contributions can be found here.