A hot topic within organisations is employee wellbeing and the best ways to support the wellbeing of your employees. At times there is a sense that wellbeing is an isolated strategy away from everyday business. Wellbeing then becomes viewed as a tick box exercise within organisations resulting in low levels of engagement. As well as the cultural challenges that a wellbeing strategy can face a further complexity is the differing definitions of wellbeing between individuals.
‘a state in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.’
The definition clearly demonstrates that for individuals and organisations wellbeing is more than just health related activities such as yoga classes, meditation and bowls of fruit. Martin Seligman the founder of Positive Psychology designed PERMA a validated wellbeing model. It is an excellent tool for supporting wellbeing as it addresses all the questions around the enablers to flourishing. The model suggests that the five pathways or building blocks to optimal wellbeing and ultimately flourishing in life are:
- Positive emotions.
The first pathway to wellbeing is through engaging with pleasurable activities that prompt a sense of positive emotions.
The benefits of increasing our levels of positive emotion are:
- Greater reasoning and decision making,
- Enhanced resilience, optimism, goal orientation,
- Verbal creativity, visual attention
Better behaviours regarding personal health are also associated with higher positive emotions meaning that happier people consistently report better health and fewer ailments. The likely reason being that happier people are more health conscious and tend to engage with physical activity and are less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviour. Research has even found that higher positive emotions can protect the body from the impact of viruses.
The next pathway to wellbeing is through the experience of engagement and flow in our everyday lives. When we find opportunities to engage with tasks that give us the opportunity to use our character strengths, and talents in a way that allows us to perform with a level of mastery this will elevate our wellbeing.
The next pathway to wellbeing is through engaging in activities that generate meaning. Meaningful activities are often associated with pursuing valued goals, or contributing to a transcendent purpose that is greater than ourselves.
People who have a sense of meaning or purpose can live on average seven years longer than those who don’t. Having a purpose in life can aid you in overcoming stress, depression and anxiety and other psychological problems
Relationships are also an essential pathway to wellbeing. The other pathways that contribute to wellbeing receive additional benefits when they occur through our positive relationships. Connections to others can give life purpose and meaning. Relationships have been demonstrated to have a positive impact on longevity, recovery of illness, in systems such as hormonal, cardiovascular and immune system
The fifth pathway to wellbeing occurs when we apply all of ourselves towards a goal that is important to us.
When we are working towards goals, they:
- Give us a sense of purpose, direction and meaning in our lives therefore elevating our wellbeing.
- Lead to enhanced motivation, attention, effort, enthusiasm, energy, and action.
- Enhance our self-esteem and self-efficacy.
To conclude an awareness of PERMA can help your employees increase their wellbeing by focusing on combination of feeling positive, living a life with meaning, establishing and having supportive relationships, accomplishing goals, and experiencing full engagement in life. By changing the focus of your organisational wellbeing strategy from health to include these enablers to flourishing, you will likely experience improvements to employee wellbeing with a resultant impact on engagement and retention levels.
If you would like to discuss how you can apply these building blocks at a practical level within your organisations wellbeing strategy or at an individual level please drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.