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Employee wellbeing definition

Part of wellbeing perceived to be determined and influenced by work and workplace interventions.

Subjective and considers material, social, emotional and developmental dimensions


Measures of employee wellbeing

Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale

Satisfaction with Life Scale

HSE Indicator Tool

The Great Place to Work® employee survey


Why is wellbeing important?

9.9 million days lost to stress in 2014/15 (HSE, 2015).

Burnout, depression and reduced performance and absenteeism (McTernan et al., 2013)

Heart disease (Terril, 2012)

EU cost of depression 617 billion euros


Stress Definition

The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work

HSE (2016)


Causes of Stress

(HSE, 2016)

High demands
Lack of control
Lack of support
Relationship conflict
Poor work-life balance
No development

A disparity between the job requirements and the resources


Theories of Stress approaches

Structural approach:
Focus on specific elements of work and how they interact to result in negative emotional state (demand-control- support model).

Transactional approach:
Focus on psychological mechanisms involved in the process of stress (cognitive appraisal and transactional model of work-stress.


Work-home conflict outcomes

Health: burnout, depression, substance abuse, emotional exhaustion, problem drinking in men

Work: lower satisfaction, performance and commitment, greater turnover and absenteeism

Family: reduced marital and family satisfaction


Role Strain Theory

Greenhaus and Beutell (1985)

Conflict arises from managing work and home life.

Conflict types:
Time based
Strain based
Behaviour based


Time based conflict (role strain theory)

When multiple roles compete for an individual’s time.

E.g. accessing work emails in the evening, when you need to be with family


Strain based conflict (role strain theory)

When strain from one role begins to affect another role.

E.g. work related stress may cause fatigue and anxiety that is taken home


Behaviour based conflict (role strain theory)

When there is an incompatibility of behaviours necessary for two roles.


Conservation of Resources

Hobfoll (1989)

Theory of stress

People seek to acquire and maintain resources.

Loss of resources = stress.

Two principles:
Primacy of resource loss
Resource investment

Resources are depleted when job demands are too high so job cannot be completed.


Primacy of resource loss (COR)

More harmful for individuals to lose resources compared to benefits from gaining them resources


Resource investment (COR)

Hobfoll (1989)

People will invest resources in order to protect against and recover from loss and to gain resources.


Effort-Recovery model
(Meijman & Mulder, 1998)

Theory of recovery

People need time for the psychobiological systems to return to ‘normal’.

If not = spiral of accumulating fatigue

Recover = removal of demands put on individual


Allostatic Load theory

(McEwan, 2006)

Theory of recovery

Chronic stress causes accumulative wear and tear on the body.

The stress response fails to switch off.

Minimizes an organism's ability to cope with uncertainty in the future

Recover = removal of demands put on individual


Passive and active recovery theory

(Geurts & Sonnentag, 2006)

Theory of recovery.

Recovery after work (external) is necessary when recovery during work (internal) is insufficient.

Long hours and cognitive stress processes (rumination) impeded recovery.

Incomplete recovery = chronic health problems


Benefits of teleworking

Employee-oriented schedule flexibility linked to good work-life balance (Byron, 2005)

Mitigates work-home conflict (Allwn et al, 2013)


Downsides of teleworking

Increased social isolation (Martin & MacDonnell, 2012)

Blurring boundaries leading to poor work-life balance


DWP (2006)

Work good for physical and mental health.

Unemployment associated with lower wellbeing.

Jobs should be safe and accommodating.

Benefits of work outweigh risks of unemployment.


Transactional approach to stress

Considers individual differences.

Stressful stimuli cause different reactions in different people.

Depends on cognitive evaluations of situations and coping resources available.

Differences in coping strategies.



The capacity to remain flexible in our thoughts, feelings and behaviours when faced with a life disruption or pressure


Positive Psychology

Positive effect linked to positive outcomes in:

Decision Making Creativity


Broaden and Build theory

Fredrickson (2001)

Positive psych theory of resilience.

Positive emotions broaden awareness and encourage varied and exploratory thoughts/actions.

Over time the broadened behaviour builds skills and resources.


Learned Optimism

Seligman (2006)

Positive psych theory of resilience.

Happiness can be nurtured like any other skill.

Contrasted with learned helplessness.

Learning optimism is done by challenging negative self talk.



Csikszentmihalyi (1997)

Positive psych theory of resilience.

People are happiest in a state of flow (complete concentration in current activity).

'In the zone'.

An optimal state of intrinsic motivation as you are fulfilled by the activity with no external motivators.


Organisational Level Interventions (PIOP)

Increasing resources to workers and/or decreasing demands

Changing the way organisation is designed, organised and managed.

Best to use a participatory approach (involve both workers and managers)

Increases collaboration, support and engagement.


Individual level interventions

Providing resources to the workers themselves to improve their own wellbeing.

Resilience training - develops mental health and improves wellbeing (1-1 coaching most effective) (Vanhove, 2015).

Stress interventions - relaxation interventions, CBT or physical activity (Bhui, 2012).

Mindfulness stress reduction - increases compassion and satisfaction and reduces burnout (Shapiro, 2005).


Best intervention basis

A holistic viewpoint can help to ensure that all the individual, team, leadership and organisational elements have been taken into account.


Intervention levels

Organisation level
Group level
Leader level
Individual level

Don't overfocus on one specific level, use all.


Group level interventions (CREW)

Target teams to improve quality of workplace interactions and relationships

Aimed at employees who work together.

Coworkers working together to improve workplace conduct, interpersonal skills and improving employee outcomes.

Encourages employees to ask their team for help and be open about own strengths and weaknesses.


Leader level interventions

Training and resources given to leaders to help foster health and wellbeing in themselves and workers.

Directly (given them information) or indirectly (general training which helps)

Mental health awareness training (MHAT) to provide leaders with resources and knowledge to recognise and address/support employees at work.

Promote an open and destigmatised environment.