Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06, former software engineer, is a coach working with professionals to increase well-being, energy, and meaning in their work lives (Theano Coaching LLC). She is also a writing coach, facilitator of writing workshops, and teacher of positive workplace concepts at the University of Maryland. Her own books include Smarts and Stamina on using positive psychology principles to build strong health habits and Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. Full bio. Kathryn's articles are here.
March 1: Day 2 of the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Conference The second day focused on how to create a healthy workplace by applying the findings from Positive Psychology. Highlights included presentations from several of the organizations that won the awards. These presentations demonstrated that creating positive workplace is not only possible, but also lines up with company values and contributes to the bottom line.
As mentioned in the earlier report on the conference, Clara Cheung is my co-author for this day and took all the pictures.
Positive Psychology in the Workplace
People with good psychological status tend to be more successful at school and work, have better social relationships, be more inclined to contribute to the success of their colleagues, and have better health. Therefore, applying positive psychology in workplaces creates significant business value. They discussed three ways to apply positive psychology in the workplace:
- Positive Reframing
- Creating conditions that enable flow
- Savoring achievements and recognition
Following their general review of positive psychology in the workplace, they turned to their own research about character strengths and why they matter in the workplace.
In conclusion, Chris highly recommended thinking of collective rather than individual efficacy, and not tolerating incivility in the workplace. He highly recommended Sutton’s book on building civilized workplaces.
Rethinking Work-Life Balance Program to Achieve Better Results
Dr. Matthew J. Grawitch and Larissa K. Barber from Saint Louis University discussed some of the flawed assumptions about work-life balance that are promoted in contemporary popular press literature. They wanted to help participants re-conceptualize work-life efforts as helping employees better manage the allocation of limited resources, including money and energy as well as time, to all of the demands in their lives, work as well as non-work. Thinking about work-life balance (a misnomer, since work is part of life) in this way suggests several intervention points for helping people, for example reducing demands, increasing the supply of resources, and helping people manage the allocation of resources to demands. For example, they differentiated work-life practices into one of two types: work flexibility and non-work support. They also discussed the importance of employee involvement in the design and implementation of work-life balance programs.
Practices at Replacements, Ltd.
Jeanine M. Falcon represented Replacements, Ltd to share what they did to win the award. Replacements was founded in 1981 and has become the world’s largest supplier of old and new china, crystal, silver and collectibles. They focus on the importance of custom tailoring workplace practices to serve the unique needs of a particular organization and its workforce. She also discussed employee and organizational outcomes. The following are some of the best practices of Replacements:
- Start with employee Involvement, including roundtables, employee opinion surveys, and benefits manager meetings
- Implement policies and practices that support work/life balance, such as parent education leaves, pets in the workplace, and one of the favorites, on-site chair massages
- Follow best practices for Health, Wellness and Safety, including an on site occupational health nurse and optional health education programs
- Manage diversity in the workplace. The owner has turned away customers who do not support diversity practices of the company
Toronto Police Service (TPS)
Another common theme of the conference was the need to meet people where they are, tailoring programs to match their habits, job constraints and resources. For example, Dr. Carol Vipari talked meetings during 3rd shift hours because that’s when some officers work. TPS programs include health and wellness programs, work-home balance support, attention to promotion processes to address inequitable access to informal social and career mentoring networks, employee recognition programs, and employee development programs. She summarized the lessons she has learned after 4 years as corporate psychologist for TPS:
- Roadblocks are not an excuse. People need the support we can provide, and we can enhance their productivity and satisfaction.
- You don’t need a psychologist to create a psychologically healthy work place.
- You can’t reach everybody and that’s ok. Reach those who are amenable and receptive and you’ll still make a big difference.
- Real change takes time.
- Effective programs cost money, but the costs of inaction are higher.
These were just two of the award winners that presented information about their programs, and we wish we could report on them all. People often learn best from good examples, and they fill this purpose. For more information, see the descriptions on the PHWP 2009 National Award winners and Best Practice Honors winners. See also winners of Local Awards.
Sutton, R. (2007). The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. Business Plus.