4 ways to talk about well-being at work

Well-being at work is a slippery and, at the same time a somewhat boring concept.  I mean, we do talk about how different aspects of well-being should be taken care of in organizations, and most often, we do that in a severe tone. Well-being is serious business.

This year I came across Piritta Parkkari’s study on discursive construction of well-being at work. In her study she had discussed three discourses or frames based on Finnish business media texts. Her findings made immediate sense to me. Let me introduce her findings briefly.

First, there is an economic frame which seems to be popular currently in Finland. This means, that well-being is seen important, but mainly from the perspective of bringing economic benefits to the organization. Wellbeing is an investment and one should be able to calculate the benefits:  the returns of that investment and the savings.

Second, we tend to see well-being as a management or leadership issue. Well-being is something the management has to take care of.  This means introducing for example early warning –systems and related HR practices. Both the economic and managerial frames are relevant, but they have the problem of looking at well-being as a top-down arrangement and leaving only a limited space of agency to individuals.

This leads us to Parkkari’s third frame, an experiential one.  This underlines well-being as a subjective effort and experience. There is no universal meaning of well-being, and the problems, goals and appropriate means are only conceivable from each individual’s situation.

At this point I would like to add yet another frame, a collective one. In this frame it is proper to ask: shouldn’t we all take some responsibility of each other’s well-being at the workplace? Today’s work is no more individualistic or solitary; instead, we are more and more dependent of each other’s input.

What does the collective frame of well-being mean in practice? More procedures and ????????????????????????programs? So old school, I would say. Instead, it means cherishing and sharing the fun and enjoyment we hopefully collectively experience at work. Even small things count to help keeping a dynamic spirit alive.

Happy time of enjoyable Christmas parties at workplaces to everyone!

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