Well-being: it's more than happiness

Posted 22 August 2017 by
Dr. Martin Boult Senior Director, Professional Services and International Training, and Psychologist, CPP

Research increasingly shows that our well-being – often called ‘happiness’, though this isn’t quite the same thing – influences a wide range of life outcomes, including health, relationships, occupational performance, creativity, collaboration and income1

Flourishing with the PERMA model

One of the most researched models of well-being is the PERMA model, developed by Martin Seligman2. He proposes that positive well-being, or ‘flourishing’, is more than just happiness and comprises the following factors:

Psychologist Edward Diener, a leading researcher in the field of subjective well-being, suggests that well-being has a beneficial impact on the performance of an organisation:

When workers are happy and enjoy their jobs they tend to work harder and better. Businesses with high work satisfaction are more productive. Their employees quit less and their customers are more loyal…It has been found that the share value of companies with happy workers increased over time compared to organizations with less happy employees, holding constant many control factors. Thus, even if an employer is only concerned with profits and the well-being of workers is not a goal, the employers should care about the subjective well-being of workers because it can add to the “bottom line” of company profits…It is not surprising then that happy people tend to earn higher incomes in their lives. (Diener and Tay, Report of the Well-being Working Group, Royal Government of Bhutan: Report to the United Nations General Assembly, 2012, p. 10)

Does personality and culture affect our well-being?

Although personality and culture have been researched extensively by organisational psychologists, the interaction between personality, culture, and well-being has not been investigated to the same extent – until now. 

Global research and well-being tips

New research by CPP, Inc. looks at well-being all over the world, and how it links with personality (MBTI type) and culture (geographical location). While the research is ongoing, here are three tips from our early findings to help you get started on improving your employees’ well-being, and in future blogs we’ll share more findings that will help your organisation.

Improve employees’ self-awareness and relationships

The research highlighted that different personality types find particular activities to be more effective than others for improving their well-being. For example, some personality types reported engaging in work was effective, whereas for others spending time with family and friends helped their well-being.  If your employees understand both their own and others’ personality types, they can take ownership of and select activities that are most effective for managing their well-being. Understanding different personality types also allows you to support the well-being of the different people in your organisation. 

The research also found that having supportive relationships (the R of the PERMA model) was the highest rated (average score of 7.98 out of 10) aspect of well-being for people at work. The well-being, motivation and performance of people in the workplace is enhanced by opportunities for people to build and maintain supportive relationships3.

Recognise accomplishments

Accomplishment (the A in PERMA) was the lowest-rated of the factors (average score of 6.81 out of 10), so this is an area where large gains could be made fairly easily. To address this, organisations can review how accomplishment is evaluated and recognised. Managers and employees can use measures of progress and recognition tactics to help individuals and teams identify when key targets have been met, or address barriers to progress.

Talk about well-being!

Getting the conversation started about well-being – and keeping it going – is probably the first thing to do. Find out how people feel so you can work out what needs to be done. CPP has recently been working with individual organisations to help them accurately assess the well-being of staff. These evaluations also help identify how organisations can improve the collective well-being of employees.  Organisations wanting to improve productivity, creativity, profitability, cooperation, retention and employee health should evaluate staff well-being at least annually. 

Look out for future blog posts on this topic, which will go deeper into the relationships between well-being and type, and well-being and culture.

1 Diener, E. (2000). Subjective wellbeing: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34–43. doi:10.1037//0003-066X.55.1.34

2 Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Free Press.

3 Steffens, N. K., Haslam, A. S., Schuh, S. C, Jetten, J., & van Dick, R. (2016, July). A meta-analytic review of social identification and health in organizational contexts. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1–33.

Lyubomirsky, S. (2001). Why are some people happier than others? The role of cognitive and motivational processes in well-being. American Psychologist, 56(3), 239.

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