Five-Factors of Work Well-Being

What are the ingredients of a healthy workplace? There’s nothing fancy about them, just so long as they are designed into the organization.

In this second article in a series looking at designing for well-being, we look at five things that, if applied liberally, can create a foundation for a culture of well-being anywhere.

How they are applied will be a matter of context, preference and resources, and how we attend to that in a way that designs for humans will be in our next article.

Well-Being at Work

These five elements are both facilitators and components of well-being. A thriving work culture involves a healthy, prosperous workforce. Without healthy, well people, it’s difficult to imagine a workplace that will perform well over the long term.

A culture of well-being requires we learn and acknowledge what makes us healthy, happy, engaged, productive and energized because all of these things contribute to well-being much like an index.

Health & Happiness

1.Health: Diet, rest, movement, and protection from environmental threats (e.g., clean water, air, and safe spaces). Health is the most obvious and relates to basic human, fundamental human survival needs. Nevertheless, while obvious, it’s easy to see how we design spaces that limit, harm or suppress many of these qualities. Do we provide opportunities and encouragement for people to move? Consider the remote/hybrid work trend of doing meetings via Zoom or Teams. These meetings, combined with the way most project calendars are set up, allow for us to schedule calls back-to-back, allowing little opportunity to move. One simple option is to set a default meeting time to 50 minutes to allow everyone to move. Using healthy work communication hygiene can make a big difference.

2.Happiness: The ability to pursue things we enjoy and engage in recreation, solitude, stimulation and relaxation. Happiness is often considered a luxury, yet there is little reason to exclude this. Research on organizational aesthetics shows clear connections between beauty in work and positive mood, performance, and outcomes. Beauty and happiness are connected as they are with creativity. Aesthetic pleasure has been found to connect with well-being simply through the design of the jobs to be done.

Engagement, Productivity & Energy

3.Engagement: Connecting to others, ideas, and the world around us in ways that fit our needs, preferences, and aspirations. We may work independently and on our own — especially in remote work contexts, but we are still social beings. Connection to others matters significantly and enhances our well-being and commitment to our work and the organization’s mission. Create the space online and in real life for your workforce to connect as people. Familiarity and connection are tied to proximity and are much more difficult to cultivate when we are exclusively remote.

4.Productivity: The opportunity to contribute value to ourselves and others while creating outputs and outcomes that have meaning for us. Everyone wants to make some kind of difference, especially those working in professional contexts. When we connect to a purpose and mission and see results from our effort, it fosters well-being. Most of us want to be a part of something and to play a part in something. Evaluation — making our work effort, outputs, outcomes, and impact visible — is vital for well-being as well as accountability and improvement. Create space for this in your organization and make it visible to those who make a contribution.

5. Energy: The physical, mental, and emotional capacities to actively and fully contribute to things with value and meaning in our lives. Among the greatest mistakes is assuming that because motivation, incentives, opportunities, and the factors mentioned above are present that well-being will follow. We cannot get well without energy. Depletion can’t be undone with motivation; we need rest. A mission can’t be achieved without the energy to execute and contribute. However, with the previous four factors, energy can grow. Energy often flows from them.

Assessing our Well-being

Ask yourself: how well are you doing on all of these? Are these five factors given consideration when you develop your plans for the coming year? Recovery, rehabilitation and healing come more easily when we work within a context that supports well-being all-around.

It should also be mentioned that the undercurrent among all of these is mental health. Mental health (and well-being) comes from physiological, social, intra-personal and interpersonal factors. Bringing these five areas together is far more likely to improve mental health, just as positive mental health will help contribute to energy, productivity, health, engagement and happiness. There’s a strong path-dependent relationship between mental health and well-being. If you’re not able to get movement in any of these areas or even some of them, mental health (and trauma) could be the reason why.

In our last article, we’ll explore how to put these together in ways that can apply to your context. Using Design, systems thinking, behavioural science, and community psychology, we’ll look at what designing a culture of well-being can look like in an age of disruption.

Are you seeking to create a culture of well-being in your organization by design and need help, advice, or some direction? Let’s grab a coffee and talk about how I can help.

Image Credit:  Wyron A on Unsplash,  Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash, and vadim kaipov on Unsplash

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