Wellbeing: an estimable condition

Arper Lab - Wellbeing© Marco Covi

Towards a culture of labor based on wellbeing

There will be a return to companies in the months to come, but with a different organization, different modes, updated processes, and many uncertainties. In this atmosphere, the focus on wellbeing of people, employees and staff becomes a fundamental factor of reorganization.

Great Place to Work® is a global company specialized in consulting and “people analytics” which helps companies of all sizes to achieve better results. Over the last 30 years, they have gathered the opinions of over 100 million workers on a global level, helping organizations everywhere to identify and create cultures based on trust and high performance. Through programs of recognition and certification, the company detects excellence in terms of labor contexts in the annual rankings of Europe’s Best Workplaces™, as well as other specific surveys in Europe and over 60 countries around the world.

The latest research project of Great Place to Work® on the creation of a culture of trust, health and wellbeing gathers data from over 900 European organizations, to discover the main insights on wellness in the corporation, and to find out what is needed to build an optimal working environment that enables all employees to feel good. Great Place to Work® has asked the companies involved to share the opinions of their managers in relation to problematic issues connected with stress and practices of wellness. The results show that 47% consider stress a fundamental problem inside the company, while 65% of managers say that health and wellbeing have emerged as strategic priorities. The highest stress levels have been recorded in Switzerland (72%), Austria (68%), Greece (58%) and Germany (58%); the countries that assign greater priority to wellbeing are France (84%), Sweden (82%) and the Netherlands (72%). In a wider perspective, within the European strategy for 2020, health and wellbeing have proven to represent a fundamental factor for growth, competitive advantage and sustainable development. Greater engagement and efforts in this direction, on the part of the government and the private sector, can make wellbeing available to everyone.

Infografica riassuntiva delle pratiche di benessere nelle aziende europee. (Fonte Great Place to Work®, agosto 2020).Infographic summarizing wellness practices of European companies. (Source: Great Place to Work®, August 2020).

A holistic model for workplaces

What causes stress in the workplace? And how can wellbeing be improved? In 2016 the causes of work-related stress have been ranked in four main categories: effort related to specific responsibilities (task demands), i.e. uncertainty connected with a job or the possible loss of that job; effort related to professional roles (role demands); so-called role conflict, covering the fear of not being suitable for the role assigned in terms of physical effort (physical demands); temperature, lighting, set-up of the working position; and interpersonal demands, involving conflicts of personalities and styles of leadership.

Il Wellbeing Model sviluppato dalla sede inglese di Great Place to Work®The Wellbeing Model developed by the English headquarters of Great Place to Work® 

Given the issues connected with wellbeing in the labor market, Great Place to Work® UK has developed a Wellbeing Model to theorize and measure wellness in the workplace in a holistic way. The model subdivides the concept into six basic aspects, distinct but closely correlated. Aspects such as the work environment, in the lower part of the model, are more elementary and immediate; on the other hand, aspects such as fulfillment, in the upper part, are more intangible and abstract, and are capable of generating the larger part of the value if approached in a correct way. The six aspects are also evaluated in relation to 17 statements in the context of a wellbeing index.

The diagram demonstrates the need for fundamental change regarding the efforts to achieve wellbeing, oriented on the basis of a model mechanism that lies in the need for long-term cultural change. An authentic culture of wellbeing cannot be developed from one day to the next, nor can it be seen as a simple checklist; instead, it has to be created in a strategic manner, and cultivated over time. It is a philosophy, a way of acting.

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Studio di architettura: 3XN Arkitekter, ph. Salva LopezAmong the major causes of stress, there are physical demands: temperature, lighting, set-up of the work position are all important aspects. Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Architecture Studio: 3XN Arkitekter, Ph. Salva Lopez

Prosperity, equality and opportunity: how much impact do they have on wellbeing?

To evaluate our state of wellbeing, we cannot look only at data regarding GDP, or the economic statistics of different countries. This is the conviction of the OECD, which has created the OECD Better Life Index. The international organization for cooperation and economic development founded in 1961, with 34 member countries, works to build policies that improve the wellbeing of citizens, promoting prosperity, equality and opportunity.

The OECD Better Life Index makes it possible to compare levels of wellbeing in various countries, broken down into the 11 themes OECD has identified as essential, in the various areas that involve the material conditions and quality of life. This index is an interactive tool that enables us to gauge the performance of different countries with respect to the issues OECD considers essential for wellbeing, in terms of conditions of material life (housing, income, labor) and quality of life (social relations, education, environment, governance, health, personal satisfaction, security, relationship between private life and work). The theme of labor, for example, is a function of four particular indicators: employment rate, long-term unemployment, independent work income, job security. For each indicator, it is also possible to compare results between men and women, and to see how socio-economic conditions influence the results.

Coworking Space, ph. Salva LopezCoworking Space, Ph. Salva Lopez

Sustainability as a wellbeing parameter

Working conditions are a crucial theme in Europe, where in the years to come resources will be invested to map the professions and the different, new forms of employment that are taking form on the international scene.

Besides the OECD, another governmental organization focuses on sustainable working conditions and wellbeing. Created in 2014, the European Observatory of Working Life (EurWORK) brings together the long-established observatories on industrial relations (EIRO) and working conditions (EWCO) of Eurofound. EurWORK is supported by a European network of national correspondents in all the member states of the EU and in Norway, who periodically report on national developments in the area of working life.

Infopact, Studio di Architettura: Quub Interior ConceptsInfopact, Architeture Studio: Quub Interior Concepts

Working conditions and sustainable work represent one of the six main activities of the program for the period 2021-24; Eurofound will continue to operate as a center of expertise for the monitoring and analysis of developments in this sector, also with a focus on the ways the COVID-19 crisis has impacted the conditions and quality of labor, as well as practices in workplaces. The analysis covers various countries, sectors, occupations and groups of workers, concentrating on questions regarding work organization and remote working, working hours, balance of working and private life, equal opportunity, health and wellbeing in the workplace, qualification and training, income and prospects and personal satisfaction. Atypical forms of employment, especially for freelance operators, will receive particular attention.

Wellbeing thanks to an app

The course at Yale University, in the United States, is titled “The Science of Well Being” and is coordinated by Prof. Laurie Santos. The objective is to learn to design one’s own life to increase happiness and to build more productive habits. The idea is to avoid warped beliefs or ideas that make us fail in our objectives, preventing us from building a life that makes us feel well. 

“The Happiness Project” è l’application sviluppata dai neuroscienziati dell’University College di Londra e dalla Yale University.“The Happiness Project” is the application developed by neuroscientists of University College London and Yale University.

Santos also addresses this theme in a very popular podcast, “The Happiness Lab”, in which she guides listeners through the latest scientific findings, sharing stories and experiences that help us to think about the concept of wellbeing and happiness in a new way. Besides the course and the podcast, an app has been created to help scientists to understand what determines happiness. “The Happiness Project” is the app developed by neuroscientists of the University College London and Yale University, who have transformed neuroscience experiments into entertaining games. Every time you enjoy playing with the new app, you make a contribution to the scientific experiment to understand how the human brain works and to formulate an equation for happiness.

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