It’s heartening to see an increasing number of organisations recognising the value of supporting wellness at work and creating environments that nudge people towards improved wellbeing.
Alongside this recognition, organisations want to invest wisely and to ensure that any wellbeing initiatives have the maximum impact possible.
At Umbrella, we are often asked by organisations where it is best to focus resources, and does it matter? From our knowledge of the scientific research, we have always maintained that support and resources at both individual and organisational levels are important. Specifically, we want to help employees maintain high levels of wellbeing, and employers to build psychologically healthy workplaces.
Now, a recent scientific paper has specifically examined this question of where to focus resources, and it provides some helpful guidance.
The research team, led by Karina Nielsen, Professor of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield, conducted both a systematic review of the relevant research literature as well as a meta-analysis.
Firstly, they came up with a definition of “resources”:
Resources enable employees to successfully complete their tasks and goals, as a way to enhance their well-being and capacity to perform well. (Nielsen et al., 2017, p. 102)
Using this definition, and from their meta-analysis, they concluded that there were four levels of resources available, and that workplace resources at all levels were related to both employee wellbeing and performance.
The four levels were defined as:
- Personal characteristics or behaviours – inherent within the individual, that enable the person to cope with the demands of the job, and cope well. This could be emotional agility or maintaining good physical health, for example.
- Shared relationships – the social context, which may foster a quality exchange of information and interaction between people at work.
- Leader-level – leadership style and the quality of leader-staff exchanges.
- Organisational resources – the way work and the work environment are organised, designed and managed. This could be flexible working arrangements, encouraging exercise breaks and regular review of workloads.
They found that, “Overall, our results suggest that organisations may successfully improve employee wellbeing and performance through interventions aimed at building resources at any of the four levels” (p. 115).
There were two other very important findings from this study. Firstly, that no particular level of workplace resource was more important than any other for improving employee wellbeing and performance.
Secondly, the researchers noted that there was a body of research literature to suggest that interventions at multiple levels are preferable, due to potentially synergistic effects (that is, that the combined effect is greater than the sum of the separate level effects).
What, therefore, is the takeaway message? That we are best to combine wellness strategies and initiatives from all four levels and to ensure we action them at the same time.
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The research paper: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/63114/2/WorkandStress_2017_Nielsen.pdf