Our tools and processes are based on over ten years of research into measuring happiness and well-being by nef (the new economics foundation).

Here we outline some of the thoughts and ideas that have informed the development of our Well-being at Work services and survey tools.

A dynamic model of well-being

The model behind our understanding of well-being at work is based on nef’s work with the UK Government Office of Science’s Foresight Programme. For the project report, nef developed a measurement framework that integrated different academic approaches to understanding well-being in one coherent model.

The model describes how an individual’s external conditions (bottom left) – such as their income, employment status, housing and social context – act together with their personal resources (bottom right) – such as their health, resilience and optimism – to allow them to function well (middle) in their interactions with the world and, therefore, experience positive emotions (top).

The model shows how different aspects of our well-being interlink and how improvements in one area influence other parts of an individual’s experience.

For the happiness at work survey we have applied this thinking to a work context, creating indicators that describe how the organisational system interacts with the resources employees bring to work to support people to do well and feel good in their jobs. We believe that through better understanding these connections, individuals and organisations can identify the changes that will have the biggest impact – both for employee happiness and business success.

Plugging into virtuous cycles

The dynamic nature of well-being means that there are many routes into improving it, which can lead to win-win situations, supporting higher well-being for employees and improved performance for organisations.

What does a virtuous cycle in workplace well-being look like? The truth is, they take many forms. Some we intuitively know from experience – think about a time when a highly energised and positive employee has lifted a room or boosted morale. Interestingly, the research shows that both happiness and cooperation are contagious. Other virtuous cycles have slightly more complex trajectories and very different starting places.

Think about the employee who has a job well suited to their strengths. The more they feel they are doing what they do best at work, the more confident and useful they feel in their role. This makes them more able to connect their job to the organisations’ objectives, think round problems and be more pro-active about getting things done. This ultimately makes them better at what they do. In turn, this makes them feel even more able and good about themselves.

Organisational performance flows out the side of this process. In effect, improvements in the way an employee functions as a result of good job design translates into a happier employee, greater expertise and a real commitment.

Of course, peak performances like this one are what all organisations are looking for because they ultimately deliver results for the service or business. The starting place to arriving at this point is in understanding how to improve the employee’s well-being at work. The next step is being intentional about acting on it.

The importance of fun for a resilient workforce

Research has found that positive emotions play an important, often neglected, role in our day-to-day lives. Good moods, joy, amusement, gratitude, pride, satisfaction and contentment all work to…

  • Broaden our attention, thoughts and actions
    …making us more open to new ideas, more trusting of others, more creative and adaptable, and more flexible.
  • Build our psychological resources
    …making us more confident in our abilities, more emotionally aware, more able to cope, and more able to bounce back.
  • Undo the effect of negative emotions and buffer against stress.

This explains why people work best when they find happiness in what they do.

(Source: Fredrickson, 2001; 2010)

Things we are reading

Here are a few books that are well thumbed on our shelf at the moment:

An enjoyable and inspiring read about how to make great places to work, this book charts Tony’s set-backs and successes, which led to Zappos becoming a $1 billion company in less than ten years.

Get tips from Henry on the ideas his company Happy knows make happy workplaces from practical experience. Their core principle is that people work best when they feel good about themselves. The book provides good insights for management.