Friday, 6 July 2007

Well-Being at Work

CIPD and Spirituality - not often you find those two terms in the same sentence!

At yesterday's Well-Being at Work seminar by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the UK's professional body for HR practitioners, we discussed the role of Spirituality in the workplace. Who would have thought that such a seriously business-minded association would even consider it? Thankfully the penny's dropping; connecting with your employees as whole human beings is good for them and it's good for your business. If you're not sure about this just look at Lyubomirsky et al's 2005 research.

Dr Noreen Tehrani, Occupational and Counselling Psychologist, skillfully presented an overview of the benefits of well-being to business performance. It's not a simple matter either; the CIPD's well-being model incorporates 5 of 12 possible domains - Physical, Emotional, Personal Development, Organisation and Values; all of these are interlinked. In order for the CIPD model to deliver, however, I think it has to actively develop psychological well-being by focusing on the positives, something which is only implicit in the model.

Peter Barnard, Registrar and Clerk to the Corporation for the Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education, described their journey towards a well-being culture over the last 5 or so years. They don't have a specific strengths-based approach as Positive Psychologists would recognise it, but they have put a huge amount of time and effort into creating physical well-being initiatives, culminating in them receiving two prestigious Employee Benefits Awards this year.

Dr Paul Pritchard, environmental risk specialist for Royal & SunAlliance presented a fascinating case study demonstrating how employee engagement throughout the organisation was transformed by the introduction of a National Volunteering Week. Pritchard was refreshingly honest about the fact that he didn't specifically set out to increase employee engagement, it was a happy by-product of a Corporate Responsibility initiative. I found this such an interesting story that I'll be featuring it in more detail in a later post.

According to the next speaker, Father Dermot Tredget OSB, a member of the Benedictine community at Douai Abbey, spiritual intelligence (SQ) is at the heart of being effective at work, simply because like EQ, PQ and IQ, SQ is a core part of what it is to be human. Asking someone to leave their spirituality at home means that you're not seeing the whole person at work. Before the non-believers amongst you stop reading, spirituality is starting to appear in many MBA and leadership programmes, e.g the Praxis Centre at the Cranfield School of Management. Fr Dermot also has many years business experience, an MBA from Bath University and regularly runs retreats for business leaders. I particularly liked this model of spirituality in the workplace for its emphasis on the importance of community-building, something which is often absent from organisations where people are too busy and too focused on business objectives to make meaningful contact with each other.

Finally Barbara Wren, Occupational Health Psychologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London, presented a simple systems view of well-being, which elegantly explained the conflict (and corresponding decrease in well-being) which arises when the employee, the role and the organisation are not aligned. Of course getting those three lined up is a lot more difficult in real life; it's a challenge that change managers have to contend with almost on a daily basis.

The seminar gave a valuable insight into how various organisations see the role of well-being at work, and the issues for anyone in the HR field trying to implement a balanced well-being policy. But stick with it; all the evidence shows that the benefits of getting it right, for both employees and the organisation, can be enormous.

If you have any comments on your own organisation's well-being policy, we'd love to hear from you.


Yang-May said...

Going out for lots of team lunches; everyone taking turns to bring in cakes and chocolate and doughnuts - that all contributes to the wellbeing at our office in the City!

You should check out the Financial Times 50 Best Workplaces - it would be interesting to hear about what makes any of them great places to work. Maybe you could interview one of them for an article on this blog?

Bridget said...

Hi Yang-May, yes you are absolutely right, the simplest ideas are often the best ones.

I wonder if the FT Top 50 is the same as the Sunday Times Top 100 - I'll look into it - thanks for the tip.