With organisations increasingly focusing on employee wellbeing this post explores two things: a TED talk by Robert Waldinger in November 2015 about the key findings from the longest study of human happiness spanning over 75 years and the upcoming Workplace Wellbeing Index from Mind.
The Harvard study of Adult Development followed two groups of 724 boys from their early teens until today, with 60 of them now in their 90s still participating. The study has evolved over the years to include their partners and the study is also now researching over 2000 of their children.
The two groups of boys came from completely different backgrounds, one group were Sophomores from Harvard and the other group were disadvantaged boys from one of Boston’s poorest neighbourhoods.
Despite the differences in individual lives there were some very common themes about happiness and health with the overall message being ‘Good relationships keep us happier and healthier’. In particular the research found that:
- social connections are good for us and improve our health and emotional wellbeing whereas loneliness and isolation mean we are less happy and tend to die younger.
- it’s the quality of our close relationships that matter. Warm relationship with others that we can rely on in difficult times means that both our bodies and our brains stay in better shape.
- actively working to replace work colleagues on retirement with new playmates results in living longer and happier lives.
Waldinger states that those who fared the best ‘leaned into relationships, with family, with friends and their communities’.
When the research team asked a group of Millennials what their major life goal was 80% stated it was to get rich and over 50% wanted to become famous.
This focus on striving to attain wealth and fame is not what the research suggests is necessarily good for us. Rather, it is the quality of the relationship we have with others, both inside and outside of work that really matter in the long term. The difficulty is that human relationships are not a quick fix and are often difficult and messy, so continually working at them is important. For some therefore, it can be easier to concentrate on other things such as accumulation of money or belongings.
Organisations who focus on the quality of relationships at work may significantly improve their employees physical and psychological health.
One way in the UK companies will be able to measure this is Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index (WW Index) which is due to be launched this year. Mind argue that stress and poor mental health is costing UK organisation’s an estimated 26 billion pounds a year.
Employers can now register their interest in taking part in the WW Index either through this online form or through their LinkedIn page. The index can then act as a benchmark for best policy and practice of promoting and supporting employees mental wellbeing. The assessment will take place in two ways; an annual employer survey and an employee survey against pre-set, weighted criteria. It will be open to all UK and Channel Island organisation’s who want to see how what they are doing compares to others. It is also expected that organisation’s that are reaching certain standards will be recognised but a system such as a gold, silver or bronze rating.
More information can be found on Mind’s website here.