Blog, Employee Wellbeing
Why your workplace wellbeing solution needs to incorporate positive psychology
All too often workplace wellbeing has sought to resolve an issue that a person is already experiencing. For example, when thinking of mental or emotional wellbeing, employers often reactively respond to employees that are in crisis or need immediate support. However, in doing so, employers fail to account for colleagues who are not in crisis, but still need support in handling the stresses and demands of day-to-day life.
This way of thinking – proactively, instead of reactively, is the bedrock upon which positive psychology was formed. Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that explores and looks to nurture the positive facets of the human experience by studying traits such as happiness, gratitude and resilience. Traditionally, psychology has focused on the treatment of mental illness and negative emotions. However, positive psychology instead examines what is needed to help individuals foster positive emotions and seeks to prevent mental health difficulties from occurring in the first place.
Positive psychology supports individuals to take the next step from average functioning to optimal wellbeing (i.e., flourishing). Average functioning refers to employees who are simply getting by; they are functioning well and are able to manage the demands of daily life. However, individuals that are flourishing feel fulfilled, engaged with life, and can thrive in difficult situations.
One study found that when employees flourish at work they are less likely to leave their current job, and more likely to perform better and be more productive. While we as employers can’t force employees to engage in health-seeking behaviours, we can provide them with the tools and support needed so they can more easily adopt positive behaviours.
The role of PPIs in helping employees adapt to life
Positive psychology interventions (PPIs) are a set of techniques and exercises, with a scientific basis, that are specifically designed to enhance wellbeing and happiness. PPIs are practical exercises for individuals to engage in, that have been shown to increase positive emotions.
Wellbeing interventions tend to focus on treatment, rather than prevention. But, in the last two decades, there has been a shift towards preventing poor wellbeing using PPIs. The goal of these is to support individuals, increase their resilience to daily stressors, and aid them in maintaining healthy levels of wellbeing when facing adversity.
Within the workplace, PPIs have been shown to enhance work engagement, job performance, and reduce stress levels among employees. One study asked Spanish healthcare providers to engage with mindfulness meditations for 10-15 minutes every day for three weeks. They found that, after taking part, participants reported significantly greater levels of happiness and productivity, plus greater engagement at work. This research demonstrates that taking just 10-15 minutes a day for mindfulness-based activities can have a hugely positive impact on the employee’s wellbeing and, by extension, the organisation’s productivity and culture.
Brief, low intensity PPIs
Despite the many benefits that engaging with PPIs can bring, many employees face barriers to cultivating healthier lifestyle habits due to feeling ‘too tired’, lacking motivation, or simply not having the time, so it’s important to consider this when exploring your organisation’s wellbeing solution. Presenting employees with support that requires them to take very little time out of their day, but still allows them to build more positive habits and improve their wellbeing, is arguably the optimal digital wellbeing solution. Many PPIs can be implemented as brief, low intensity interventions. Two examples of this are gratitude-based interventions and mindfulness-based interventions.
Gratitude-based interventions: Gratitude is integral to achieving and maintaining healthy wellbeing. The benefits of having high levels of gratitude are many and varied. Research has found that grateful individuals experience higher levels of happiness, better physical and emotional health, and reduced stress. However, perhaps the most important trait that gratitude fosters is resilience.
Practicing gratitude enhances our emotional resilience which supports us in overcoming life’s daily stressors. Even taking just five minutes to think about three good things in your life can help to reduce burnout and promote work-life balance. Simple initiatives such as encouraging employees to jot down something they are grateful for can have a sizeable impact on the organisation’s overall wellbeing.
Mindfulness-based interventions: Mindfulness-based interventions are therapeutic approaches and practices that incorporate mindfulness techniques to enhance wellbeing and reduce distress. Mindfulness refers to being fully present and aware within the current moment. When practicing mindfulness, we are encouraged to non-judgementally observe our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. In recent years, mindfulness has become a major buzzword when discussing wellbeing, and for good reason! The success of mindfulness practices in improving wellbeing has been repeatedly demonstrated.
Mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to improve mood, enhance sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, practicing mindfulness can drastically affect cognitive functioning. A large review of 111 studies on mindfulness-based interventions found that mindfulness can improve working memory, attention, problem-solving, focus, reasoning, and more. There is even some research to suggest that mindfulness can help employees to better manage a heavy workload. Supporting employees with their wellbeing requires more than simply ensuring that they are not ill; we need to help them flourish. By encouraging colleagues to engage with brief, low intensity interventions based on the principles of positive psychology, we can help them overcome adversity and enhance their resilience.
A digital solution
A new study published in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology demonstrated that Benefex’s workplace wellbeing product, OneHub Wellbeing, can significantly enhance subjective wellbeing. Through investing in low-intensity interventions to support their employees, employers can cultivate a healthier, happier workforce and, ultimately, a healthier, happier and more productive organisation. Find out more about OneHub Wellbeing here.