Workplace relationships “the biggest lever” to improve wellbeing

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Published in HRDaily on 22 July 2019.

Positive and supportive relation

ships at work contribute more to workplace wellbeing than other factors, new research has found.

An Australian research team, led by Dr Martin Boult of The Myers-Briggs Company, broke down workplace wellbeing into multiple factors:

  • positive emotions – frequent feelings of happiness and contentment;
  • relationships – mutual feelings of caring, support, and satisfaction;
  • engagement – deep psychological connection;
  • meaning – having a sense of purpose and direction;
  • accomplishment – pursuing success or mastery for its own sake; and
  • negative emotions – low levels of anxiety, pessimism, and depression.

Employees with high levels of wellbeing were found to be committed to their employer, more likely to exercise loyalty, and to increase discretionary effort towards organisational objectives.

"Research shows up to 80% of people in large companies aren't engaged at work. This means huge losses in productivity," says Boult. "Improving employee wellbeing is crucial for improving engagement. The biggest lever you can pull to get started is fostering more productive workplace relationships."

This is a critical differentiator in an era where employers are competing for talent and in-demand employees can choose who they work for and how much of their intellect, creativity and collaboration they offer, he adds.

Identifying which work practices, policies and cultural norms support feelings of enjoyment and optimism at work can help organisations increase the frequency of positive experiences in the workplace, the research suggests.

Which activities foster wellbeing

The study found the most effective work activities for wellbeing are:

  • tasks that are interesting;
  • tasks that makes employees feel positive;
  • work where employees learn something new;
  • breaks at work when they're needed; and
  • work that nurtures new skills and knowledge.

The findings highlight the importance of autonomy in roles to enable employees to undertake work that fits their interests, and facilitating learning.

Further, organisations that enable their employees to move between practices of "slowing down" to rejuvenate, and "speeding up" to stimulate learning and growth, are best placed to thrive in a constantly changing environment by sustaining employee wellbeing, the report notes.

Which workers have the highest wellbeing

Employees from Australia and New Zealand reported the highest levels of wellbeing globally (7.83 out of 10), and those in service-related lines of work, namely education and training, healthcare and technical, and social services, ranked highest in wellbeing by occupation.

In contrast, employees with physical jobs, such as food preparation and service and production, reported the lowest levels of workplace wellbeing.

Differences between wellbeing levels by gender were minimal, with men reporting an average score of 7.45, while the average score for women was 7.52.

Women also reported higher levels of engagement and positive emotions, suggesting that their wellbeing might be supported by emotions that are connected to the level of interest and satisfaction they derive from their work.

Wellbeing in the workplace, Dr. Martin Boult, The Myers-Briggs Company

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