When it comes to your experience of work and life lately, would you describe yourself as flourishing, just functioning or maybe even flailing? Take a moment and think about it.
Recently when you've woken up in the morning, are you looking forward to the day ahead? Are you feeling well and doing well when it comes to the life you're living?
We all have these moments of genuine wellbeing where we feel like we're flourishing. These are the moments, researchers have found, make it possible for us to feel connected, to be more resilient, to be more engaged and productive in our work, and to be healthier and happier as we navigate the highs and lows we all experience. And yet for most of us, as quickly they appear, these moments seem to pass: bright sparks in a sea of the mundane, the "ordinary" and the exhausting.
So what can we do to consistently improve our ability to flourish?
While getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising are the hygiene factors to flourishing, researchers are also suggesting that our workplaces have much to gain and much to offer by also helping us to cultivate wellbeing. Studies have found that employees who describe themselves as flourishing have higher levels of job satisfaction, are more committed to their organizations, put greater thought and effort into their work, are less likely to leave and have fewer sick days and workplace accidents.
For example in a recent study of a nationally representative sample of more than 10,000 New Zealand adults researcher Lucy Hone and her colleagues found that working is good for our wellbeing. They found one in four New Zealanders in paid employment diagnosed as flourishing, compared to just 10 percent of those not working and nine percent of those permanently sick or disabled.
And while Hone found those in paid employment were more likely to flourish if they were older, healthy, educated, married and financially secure when these factors were controlled for, our odds of flourishing also increased when we:
- Felt appreciated -- workers who felt highly appreciated by people they are close to had 29.32 greater odds of flourishing than those feeling least appreciated.
- Were aware of our strengths -- workers reporting moderate and high awareness of strengths had 2.19 and 9.58 greater odds of flourishing than those with low strengths awareness.
- Were using our strengths -- those reporting moderate and high strengths use had 3.22 and 18.13 greater odds of flourishing than those reporting they used their strengths least.
- Had a sense of autonomy -- workers reporting high autonomy had 9.97 greater odds of flourishing than those reporting low autonomy.
- Reported job satisfaction -- workers expressing high job satisfaction had 4.63 greater odds of flourishing than other workers.
- Cultivated the five ways to wellbeing -- 'be active', 'connect' and 'giving' all improved the likelihood of flourishing, but it was 'taking notice' and 'keep learning' that were most likely to impact people's sense of flourishing.
- Volunteer -- the odds of flourishing increased with the frequency of volunteering, which aligns with the abundant previous research indicating that ''when we help others we help ourselves.
- Balance work and life -- those ''moderately'' and ''highly satisfied'' with their work-life balance had 2.95 and 10.02 greater odds of flourishing than those ''unsatisfied'' with work-life balance.
But what can leaders and employees do to improve these odds?
Hone recommends the following five steps:
- Show appreciation -- Being able to give regular, strength-focused feedback is a skill every manager should be trained to deliver. Implementing meaningful strategies that make people feel valued is one of the strongest predictors in this study of cultivating a workforce who flourishes. Click here for more tips on how to teach managers to have strengths-based conversations.
- Develop people's strengths -- The strong positive association between strengths awareness and use in this study backs up previous research showing that people who use their strengths report greater levels of wellbeing and increased progress toward their goals. Take the time to discover people's strengths (try the free, 10-minute VIA Survey) and find ways to help them develop them each day through on the job opportunities, coaching and formal training. It's not enough to just know our strengths, this study suggests we need to be using them regularly to increase our likelihood of flourishing.
- Build trust -- People want to be given greater control over the decisions they make, the way they organize their work and the ideas they put forward. This requires leaders to set clear goals that matter, provide guiderails or boundaries where needed, and then coach -- rather than control - their people as they move forward. It means trusting people to show up and do the best they can, and to support and nudge them when required.
- Encourage Volunteering -- The United Healthcare/Volunteer Match Do Good Live Well Study reported that 76% of those employees who volunteered through workplaces felt better about their employer as a result. Look for meaningful ways you can encourage your employees to volunteer and actively encourage their participation regularly.
- Cultivate Curiosity & Mindfulness -- In view of the finding that 'Take Notice' and 'Keep Learning' were significantly associated with the greatest odds of flourishing from the Five Ways To Wellbeing, it seems that providing opportunities for people to practice mindfulness, gratitude and curiosity is likely to promote employee flourishing. Make time to cultivate these practices and encourage these behaviors so they become a natural part of how your people work.
What can you do today to help yourself or others flourish at little more consistently at work?