Wellbeing at Work: Applying the PERMA model of Psychological Wellbeing

Wellbeing in the workplace: a challenge and an opportunity. We’ll be discussing how the PERMA model of Psychological Wellbeing can be applied.

Wellbeing Challenge: there is increased awareness (thanks to media and data insights), that despite high engagement levels, negative symptoms of low wellbeing are on the rise in our organisations. The costs of this, to our health, happiness and performance, are massive.

We want to do everything we can to support our people’s wellbeing. However, we can struggle with how to position wellbeing, how to fit it into our people strategy so it aligns meaningfully with leadership, performance, D&I and employee engagement.

Wellbeing Opportunity: there is a holistic, robust and simple model of wellbeing available that can help us on many levels:

– It is relevant to all of us, not just those in crisis. It helps us take a proactive, preventative approach to strengthening organisational wellbeing

– It is backed by evidence based-research which connects people’s wellbeing and performance. This directly aligns with our business needs, helping us build a clear strategy

– It is simple enough to help everyone understand and take accountability for their own and others’ wellbeing

PERMA model of Wellbeing

The PERMA model was introduced by Martin Seligman in 2011 through his research into flourishing and thriving.  With 5 core pillars, equally important and combining to give a foundation of positive wellbeing that can be learned, this is pioneering work in the very new area of positive psychology.

Download full article on how to apply PERMA

Below the 5 pillars are mapped to the components of other relevant models (e.g. Ryff, CIPD)

Positive Emotions:  Mental / Self-Acceptance / Autonomy

Engagement: Work life balance / Environmental Mastery

Relationships: Social / Collective / Positive Relations

Meaning: Spiritual / Purpose

Accomplishment: Personal Growth

We use PERMA as a model of psychological wellbeing rather than using the term “mental” for two important reasons: the word “mental” has negative connotations and also limits its application across all of the 5 pillars as it only relates to one pillar (see above).

Wellbeing Initiatives

There are a variety of initiatives in organisations that relate to wellbeing. We have looked at those that were recently showcased in the REBA Wellbeing awards Feb 2018 as well as other studies focused specifically on wellbeing and case studies shared at relevant events and conferences.

The majority focus on fixing mental ill health and physical health problems; getting people back to zero/neutral as Seligman refers to. There are several others that relate to the practical elements of being able to work such as childcare, flexible hours or location options as well as relationship work on developing more inclusive workplaces.  These broad initiatives such as “coaching” or “talent development” easily map to one of these pillars, but do they positively and strategically focus on what can be learned in each pillar to lead to flourishing and thriving?  It seems we still have quite a way to go beyond simply creating employee engagement to really improving wellbeing positively.

Things to consider when Applying PERMA

Some helpful questions to consider in application:

– What interventions/support do we provide for our people for Psychological (PERMA) wellbeing, (in addition to Physical or Financial wellbeing awareness and education)?

– Is our current approach focused on treating symptoms, or is it strategic, preventative and positive?

– How could we best enable our individuals, teams and organisation to thrive in each area?

– Should we be putting more pressure on our managers to be responsible for this?

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