Well-being Through Work

We are moving beyond the limiting paradigm that the only way for companies to contribute to the health and well-being of their employees is through wellness and other employee engagement programs or health risk mitigation. Instead we look at systems at work.

The understanding of well-being from a systems perspective starts with workplace culture. This is core to how businesses thrive. We’re also looking to understand how the culture of well-being within a company affects business.

What is invisible cannot be managed, and our research shines a light on what an organization cannot see—leading indicators for worker well-being found in the workplace culture that help companies determine where the gaps are in the health and culture of their organization, and what can be done to help workers flourish and organizations to perform at optimum.

Our complete well-being model uses work as a platform to understand how work detracts from or enhances overall well-being, which in turn influences business outcomes. To obtain a better understanding of the drivers of well-being in the context of work, we take a systems approach of inputs (workplace drivers) that lead to impact (well-being and business outcomes). To do this we’ve developed a universal measure that encompasses all the main aspects of work that influence well-being.

Most leaders consider wellness programs and health risk assessments as all companies can do to influence the well-being of their stakeholders. In our research, we are able to pull back the curtain on work culture and workplace resources such as recognition, job autonomy, learning and growth, and more, to understand how these impact individual well-being. In our well-being framework we’ve honed in on metrics that help us get at the questions of: What workplace drivers influence individual well-being and how does the level of overall well-being within an organization influence business metrics such as production rate, absenteeism, turnover, and others?


We consider multiple factors in the work context as drivers of happiness, health and engagement of employees at work and in life.

As part of the complete well-being model, we measure individual flourishing. The term flourishing, used for thousands of years and literally meaning “to grow” or “to prosper,” represents a powerful way to view health in its fullest sense. We apply “the flourishing index” (for more on the Flourishing Index, we invite you to explore Tyler VanderWeele’s wok at the Harvard Flourishing Program) in our research to divide universally desired factors contributing to flourishing into 6 key domains: happiness and life satisfaction, physical and mental health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, close social relationships, and financial and material security. In contrast to many previously proposed measures that are not as comprehensive, the flourishing index addresses 5 universally desired domains that constitute ends, as well as a sixth (financial and material security) that constitutes a critical means to securing them.

In essence, we measure how the resources, practices, and systems inside the workplace influence well-being and individual flourishing. This gives us powerful insights for how work, in any context – whether sectoral, or within any part of the supply chain – influences the human life experience and how this reflects back in business economics.


PUBLICATIONS

VanderWeele TJ, Trudel-Fitzgerald C, Allin P, Farrelly C, Fletcher G, Frederick DE, Hall J, Helliwell, John F., Kim, Eric S., Lauinger, William A., Lee, Matthew T., Lyubomirsky, Sonja, Margolis, Seth, McNeely, Eileen, Messer, Neil, Tay, Louis, Viswanath, Vish, Węziak-Białowolska, Dorota, Kubzansky, Laura D. Brief well-being assessments, or nothing all? Preventive Medicine (2020).

Weziak-Bialowolska, D., Bialowolski, P., Sacco, P. L., VanderWeele, T. J., & McNeely, E. Well-being in life and well-being at work: which comes first? Evidence from a longitudinal study. Frontiers in Public Health (2020).

Tyler J. VanderWeele, PhD, Eileen McNeely, PhD; Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH.  Re-imagining Health – Flourishing. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) (2019). 

Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska, Eileen McNeely and Tyler J. VanderWeele. Flourish Index and Secure Flourish Index – Validation in Workplace Settings. Cogent Psychology (2019).

Sara Gale, Irina Mordukhovich, Sami Newlan and Eileen McNeely. The Impact of Workplace Harassment on Health in a Working Cohort Work Organization and Well-being. Frontiers in Psychology (2019).

Tyler J. VanderWeele, Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska, Eileen McNeely, Piotr Bialowolski. A comprehensive approach to problems of performance measurement.
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A (Statistics in Society) (2019).

Eileen McNeely, Ira Tager, Sara Gale, Steve Hecker. The self-reported health of U.S. flight attendants compared to the general population. Environmental Health (2014).