I recently spoke with Tom Rath, a fellow Master of Applied Positive Psychology, and the head of the workplace consulting business with Gallup. Gallup is very well known for their global opinion research, but most of the employees (a couple hundred thousand according to Rath) are dedicated to working with large organizations to build more effective workplaces and build stronger relationships with their customers. They do this by researching and developing practices around employee engagement, strengths based leadership , and organizational and employee wellbeing.
Rath, (who is also the author of “How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life”, “StrengthsFinder 2.0”, and “Strengths-Based Leadership,”) has just published his latest book: “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements” (all are New York Times best sellers, in case you were wondering.) This latest book distills a lot of what Gallup has learned about individual wellbeing into an easy to read text that shares some simple tips that people can follow to improve their lives across 5 domains:
1. Career Wellbeing—how you occupy your time and liking what you do each day.
2. Social Wellbeing—having strong relationships and love in your life.
3. Financial Wellbeing—effectively managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.
4. Physical Wellbeing—having good health and enough energy to get things done.
5. Community Wellbeing—the sense of engagement and involvement you have with the area where you live.
Rath is of the opinion that you can’t manage what you can’t measure so as a companion to the book, Gallup has developed the “Wellbeing Finder” an online assessment tool (purchasers of the book are given free access) that readers can use to assess their wellbeing across these five dimensions. Using tips from the book, readers can work towards increasing their wellbeing across all domains.
The book is geared towards individuals, but Rath’s biggest audience remains the large corporations. Over the last five to ten years, he has seen the demand for employee engagement training and strengths-based leadership really grow in large businesses. And changes at the organizational level make a big impact on the wellbeing of the individuals. “We often underestimate how powerful large scale corporations can be in creating social change,” said Rath.
Rath reports that business leaders are seeing a real ROI for investing in the wellbeing of their work force. The CFO’s he works with report health care as their number one cost concern. And Gallup has the longitudinal research to show that “as [psychological] wellbeing goes up we see new incidences of disease burdens go down.” Does this have an impact on the economics of a large company? Absolutely. According to Rath, “If you go from 70 to 80 on wellbeing, your sick days are cut in half. And if you go from 80 to 90, your sick days are cut in half again. It’s almost a no-brainer to invest in wellbeing.”
Once a goal towards greater wellbeing is established, Rath has a systematic approach for how to get there. For one, you have to get the scores up across all domains. If you let one or two go by the wayside, you won’t be doing nearly as well as someone who is humming along in all areas. And you have to track your progress, (that’s where the online tool comes in.)
It may seem overwhelming at first, trying to work on improvements in five areas. Someone who is low in all areas would read the book and find they have to sleep more, exercise more, volunteer more, socialize more, etc. It could be a bit daunting and the book doesn’t give enough guidance on how to manage competing priorities in limited time. But Rath says you don’t have to cram it all into one day. It’s best to look at the big picture. He suggests making “little adjustments” on an ongoing basis, which over time, leads to the greatest overall wellbeing.
References and Recommended Reading:
Rath, T. (2010). Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements. Gallup Press.