Wellbeing at work ideas: five ways to improve working lives
Promoting wellbeing in the workplace helps both individuals and businesses to flourish.
While employee wellbeing has been steadily climbing up the list of priorities for employers, there’s still work to do in implementing holistic wellbeing strategies that not only minimise the likes of burnout and presenteeism, but also nurture positive traits and behaviours that help people reach their full potential.
Our Psychology of Kindness and Wellbeing at Work PGCert explores various strategies for boosting employee wellbeing, and in this blog, we highlight five wellbeing at work ideas that could spark positive change in your organisation, helping to enrich working lives and enhance business performance.
Wellbeing at work ideas
1. Strength assessments
Research shows that when people understand their unique character strengths, their sense of wellbeing improves which leads to positive outcomes.
Pioneers in the field of positive psychology, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, created a strength assessment questionnaire, the VIA Character Strengths Survey, which is widely used in corporate settings to help employees identify their strengths and understand how they can best add value within a business.
Depending on participants’ answers to the survey, they receive a score against 24 individual strengths, each of which fall into one of six categories:
- justice e.g., fairness, leadership
- humanity e.g., kindness, love
- wisdom and knowledge e.g., creativity and curiosity
- courage e.g., honesty, persistence
- temperance e.g., humility, prudence
- transcendence e.g., gratitude, humour.
Try the VIA survey for yourself here.
What are the benefits of strength assessments?
A 2018 study into strengths research and interventions carried out by Ghielen et al., concluded that an awareness of character strengths has a broad impact on:
- wellbeing and happiness
- job performance and satisfaction, including employee engagement
- social relationships and group dynamics, including teamwork and group cohesion.
Introducing validated strength assessments for employees could therefore be an effective way to improve wellbeing at work, empower individuals and optimise their performance.
2. Mindfulness practices
Mindfulness is defined as a therapeutic technique which allows individuals to focus on what they are experiencing in the present moment without judgement. The mental health charity Mind explains that mindfulness can help you manage your day-to-day wellbeing by teaching you to:
- become more self-aware
- feel calmer and less stressed
- feel more able to choose how to respond to your thoughts and feelings
- cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts
- be kinder towards yourself.
The benefits of workplace mindfulness programmes have been recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), an executive non-departmental body sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care.
In their most recent guidelines on mental wellbeing at work, they strongly recommend that mindfulness practices including yoga and/or meditation are offered to all employees and that employees at greater risk of mental illness are offered mindfulness training and/or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
3. Appreciative Inquiry
Appreciative Inquiry is another wellbeing intervention inspired and informed by theories underpinning positive psychology.
This is arguably similar to the strength assessment intervention, but the approach is conducted at an organisational level. Carried out by either an external consultancy or internal management, Appreciative Inquiry focuses on organisational strengths and provides a systemic framework to set goals and achieve them.
The approach is made up of five stages, known as the ‘5D model’, in which the stakeholders ask specific questions in order to unlock insights and formulate a plan – always focusing on the positives.
Stage 1: Definition: what do we want to enquire into?
Stage 2: Discovery: when are we at our best?
Stage 3: Dream: what would happen if we could make these exceptional moments more commonplace?
Stage 4: Design: what could we do to make it happen?
Stage 5: How do we get started? (This stage involves drafting up a concrete action plan.)
While most wellbeing interventions are developed once an assessment has taken place, the Appreciative Inquiry approach is unique in that involvement in the assessment is part of the intervention itself. It can therefore be understood as the art and practice of asking questions that empower people and help organisations fulfil their potential.
4. Stress management strategies
While businesses have long grappled with issues linked to work-based stress, the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated this, leading to mass burnout and resignations. According to the CIPD’s 2022 Health and Wellbeing Survey, the issue persists even now, two years since the start of the crisis, with stress among the top reasons cited for employee absence.
So, what wellbeing interventions can combat this prolific and costly issue to employers?
There are numerous strategies that have proven effective at reducing stress, including:
- job design or job crafting: job design is a process in which an employee and their employer determine what their role should be, and what support they need to do it well, while job crafting gives the employee the autonomy to alter the contents, conditions and boundaries of their job to suit their interests and needs
- boundary management: increasingly important in our ‘always-on’ digital world, this intervention might involve switching off email and chat notifications for a fixed number of hours, giving employees adequate time to recharge and come back to work with a renewed capacity to cope
- stress management training: for many, attending an intensive, dedicated course where they can gain an understanding of stress triggers, thinking patterns, and strategies can help to minimise incidents of stress and keep them at a low level.
5. Fostering positive relationships
When you think of your career to date, you might reflect that the people you’ve worked with can ‘make or break’ your experience and enjoyment of the job.
Research into this area support this view, indicating a strong correlation between positive working relationships and job satisfaction. From an employers’ perspective, fostering these relationships – and ideally friendships at work – offers the best chance of:
- retaining talent
- boosting employee engagement and motivation
- improving overall efficiency and productivity.
While remote and hybrid working – precipitated by the pandemic but likely here to stay – offers many benefits for workers, it can pose a threat to relationship building. Without regular in-person interaction and the diminished opportunity to make friends over coffee or lunch in the office, isolation and loneliness have the potential to affect wellbeing in a significant way.
For HR staff, or anyone responsible for employee wellbeing, considering ways to instil a sense of comradery and belonging within remote and hybrid teams should be high on the agenda. Gallup suggests several ways to help employers combat issues around loneliness, many of which involve injecting the personal touch back into workers’ lives.
This could simply involve blocking out time in people’s diaries to discuss previous weekend activities, future holiday plans or checking in on how work projects are going. Maintaining previously held team traditions can also alleviate isolation, including weekly virtual quizzes, coffee breaks or even book clubs.
How to promote wellbeing at work
If staff wellbeing falls under your remit, or you’re looking to raise awareness of its ability to bring about organisational change, our Psychology of Kindness and Wellbeing at Work PGCert has been designed with you in mind.
Delivered from Sussex’s School of Psychology, this 100% online Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) focuses on the transformative power of kindness in work contexts and its impact on wellbeing, making it the first postgraduate course of its kind in the world.
Learn more about the psychology of kindness in our introductory blog.
The curriculum will develop your theoretical understanding of both kindness and wellbeing while ensuring you develop the practical skills needed to make an impact in your organisation right away.
- kindness and wellbeing interventions (including but not limited to those outlined above)
- how to measure wellbeing at work
- the importance of kindness in teams and leadership
- how to navigate the threats to wellbeing at work in a post-Covid world.
As a fully online and part-time course, you can join us wherever you’re based in the world, without the need to pause your career or sacrifice other important commitments.
Keen to learn more?
Visit the Psychology of Kindness and Wellbeing at Work course page for full details on modules, start dates, entry requirements and more.