Wellbeing: Did I Say Pizza? I Meant Lava Lamp.

in Uncategorized, Wellbeing

Lava Lamp — reflecting the model of employee wellness and wellbeing promoted by employee well-being consultant Bob MerbergWellness (or wellbeing, if you will) is usually illustrated as a perfect circle divided into uniform wedges. Gallup’s 5 wedges, for example, represent Social, Financial, Physical, Community, and Career Purpose wellbeing. National Wellness Institute has its Occupational, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Emotional dimensions.

There’s no end to how circles can be sliced up into the elements of wellness, whether there are 6, 7, 8 wedges, or — even as some models have it — 12 wedges of an inner circle surrounded by 8 pastel sections that join to form 2 concentric circles. (Stop this ride, I’m getting dizzy!)

Many models of wellness and wellbeing with circles and wedges to show the elements or dimensions of wellness and well-being.These wellness merry-go-rounds are mostly the product of an American spin on wellness. Elsewhere, especially Europe, the focus is on what wellness is — something related to happiness and life satisfaction. You know… wellbeing! In the US we obsess over the components of wellness — no time to fret about what they add up to — as you may recall from my post “Wellbeing and Pizza: In Search of the Secret Sauce.”

These tidy geometrics are a swell way to say that wellbeing goes beyond physical health. But a handful of static, one dimensional, and evenly distributed wedges — crammed into a flawlessly circular vessel — don’t resonate with my experience of wellness. And I wonder if they’re an ideal way to describe what other people’s wellbeing — ultimately their lives — are or can be.

Meet My Globules

My wellness is more like a lava lamp: An ever-changing bunch of free-floating globules of different shapes and sizes. I’ve got fitness globules, mental health globules, spiritual globules. Some rise to the surface for as others submerge. They’re fluid. They expand and they contract.

Some globules, like my health globule and my financial globule, merge for a while. My emotional globule occasionally smothers my intellectual globule; other times, it’s the other way around. Look: My creativity globule and logic globule are going at each other right now!

But even the lava lamp analogy eventually runs dry. Ultimately, I want my globules to be set free, to be unbound by time and space, and to interconnect with others’ globules — those of people who love me and those of people who don’t. Any model of real wellbeing has to show our globules interacting and interconnecting. You heard me right: We must have global globules.

The change starts within. To paraphrase an ancient sage: Be a lava lamp unto thyself.

Copyright 2020 by Bob Merberg. All rights reserved. (My globules may be your globules. But my work is not.)

Wellbeing and Pizza: In Search of the Secret Sauce

in Uncategorized, Wellbeing, Employee Wellness Programs

pizza[Originally published on LinkedIn 2018-03-15]

“It’s the damnedest thing, hahaha” my father-in-law would say, his thick Irish brogue muscling its way forward through his baritone laugh. “I hate tomato sauce and cheese, and I don’t like bread, but I like pizza. Hahahahah!”

As a Brooklynite weaned on pizza, this really was the damndest thing I’d ever heard. But the corporate world’s newfound adoration of “wellbeing” gives me insight into my father-in-law’s pizza predilections. And vice versa.
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In the Aura of the Wellness Microcosm

in Uncategorized, Wellbeing, Employee Wellness Programs

Abstract image suggesting insightI don’t agree with everything in The Hard Problems of Corporate Wellness, including the premise that wellness hasn’t worked. But I’m grateful as all get-out that my friend and colleague Scott Dinwiddie is saying it. We don’t all need to agree, but we progress only by questioning the status quo, engaging in civil dialog, and seeking better solutions.

If we’re inclined to look, in this article we find wellbeing as a microcosm for the human condition. In fact, Scott’s exploration of personal accountability in the context of systemic disorder may shine a light on social issues that appropriately preoccupy us today.

In the aura of this microcosm, we in the wellness profession are called upon to renew our own personal sense of purpose.

20 Years! Congratulations to Wellcoaches and the Wellness Coaches They’ve Trained!

in Uncategorized

The number 20  —  a milestone

Check out Margaret Moore’s post, 20 Years to a Vision with Wings, chronicling the path of Wellcoaches Corporation (and wellness coaching) leading up to the organization’s 20-year anniversary.

I’m honored that Margaret, Wellcoaches Founder and CEO, included me amongst the founders of the wellness coaching field, and especially honored to be associated with the other distinguished innovators she mentions:

Our inspiring fellow founders of the field we now call health & wellness coaching included Sean Slovenski, Bob Merberg, Michael Arloski, and Linda Bark.

Congratulations to Margaret, Wellcoaches, and the 12,000 coaches they’ve trained across the globe, who over 20 years have shaped the field that has benefited the wellbeing of so many!

Make Change Happen with Rob Baker’s “Personalization at Work: How HR Can Use Job Crafting, to Drive Performance, Engagement and Wellbeing”

in job design, job crafting

Book cover: Personalization at Work — How HR Can Use Job Crafting to Drive Performance, Engagement And WellbeingI may not know the future of coronavirus or the future of the economy (see my previous post with 10 non-predictions about COVID, wellness, and the future of work), but one thing I feel certain about is that the future of work will be personalized. Business demands will require it. As such, I’m proud to offer an unpaid and wholehearted endorsement of the just published book Personalization at Work: How HR Can Use Job Crafting, to Drive Performance, Engagement and Wellbeing, by my friend and colleague Rob Baker. I just finished the book and it has already changed the way I work.

As Adam Grant said,

Job crafting is a skill every employee needs and every manager should value. This is the first book to bring research and practice together in an engaging way for HR professionals.,

Employee Experience Rises

in Uncategorized

sunrise with hot air balloons, to depict employee experience rising

In the seminal article, Employee Experience is the Operating System for Wellness 2.0, Scott Dinwiddie breathes meaning into the concept of employee experience (EX) — employee-centered, adding purpose, facilitating value creation, and offering environments and cultures that support wellbeing.

With its clear vision and unabashed call-to-action, this article is a must-read for anyone interested in employee experience (as well as wellness, engagement, and business success).

I was honored to be recognized in the article, and especially privileged to be included among the other distinguished colleagues whose work Scott referenced.

JD-R Job Crafting Intervention: What Works? What Doesn’t?

in job crafting

job crafting JD-R intervention with post-its

 

Oodles of studies that include workers with diverse jobs in various countries show that JD-R job crafting is an employee-forward way to improve person-job fit — a win-win for employees and employers. It leads to improved wellbeing, stronger work engagement, better adaptability to change, and more productive job performance.

But when it comes to pulling their job demands and resources into an ideal level of balance — ie. JD-R job crafting — workers often aren’t aware of the possibility, and some aren’t confident in their ability to do it. Then again, some employers haven’t yet come to appreciate job crafting or don’t know how to inspire it.

These are among the reasons we, especially those of us trained and experienced in operationalizing workplace wellbeing programs, want to know how to structure JD-R job crafting interventions and what kinds of interventions work.

In a previous post, I reported studies of what I dubbed “Job Crafting Classic,” the original model proposed by Wrzesniewski, Dutton, and Berg.

Here, let’s navigate the more rugged terrain of the JD-R job crafting landscape. The following are studies of JD-R job crafting interventions — almost every study I could find. Almost all are based on a “quasi-experimental” design, meaning that — consistent with most studies of workplace interventions — neither the participant group nor the control group was selected randomly. They’re mostly pre- and post-test study designs, meaning measurements — of things like job crafting behaviors, work engagement, levels of demands and resources, and job performance — were measured before the intervention and after.

This is a relatively detailed overview, with links to the original studies in case you want more detail. If you’re in a rush, there’s an abbreviated version on LinkedIn.

4-Week Job Crafting Intervention for Police District Employees

Van den Heuvel et al paved the way with phased intervention for employees of a police district. The first stage was a one-day workshop that taught participants about JD-R job crafting; had them assess the current state of their demands and resources; and raised their awareness of opportunities to find more meaning and satisfaction in their jobs via crafting. The workshop concluded with creation of a job crafting plan. This was followed by four weeks of independent work on their plan, which included two or three goals per week. At the end of the study period, a half-day “reflection session” was held.

The study included 39 employees in a Dutch police district and 47 employees in a control group.

Outcomes: Increased wellbeing; increased self-efficacy (confidence in one’s ability to effect their situation); greater access to developmental opportunities. (The same team recently published another study (in Dutch)  of a similar intervention — with only one goal per week and more participant interaction between each other and with the trainers — with 83 civil servants. They found increases in job crafting behaviors, increases in access to job resources, and improved wellbeing, compared to controls).

The researchers found the findings of their police district study, generally, to be “not significant.” But they concluded,

The job crafting intervention seems to have potential to enable employees to proactively build a motivating work environment and to improve their own well‐being.

Van den Heuvel, Machteld, Evangelia Demerouti, and Maria CW Peeters. “The job crafting intervention: Effects on job resources, self‐efficacy, and affective well‐being.” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 88.3 (2015): 511-532. This pilot intervention was originally described with additional detail in Van den Heuvel, Machteld, Evangelia Demerouti, and Maria Peeters. “Succesvol job craften door middel van een groepstraining.” Scherp in werk 5 (2012): 27-49. [Dutch], worth noting because it may be the first published study of a JD-R job crafting intervention.


Simplified Job Crafting Intervention for Medical Specialists and Nurses

Intervention: Gordon et al tested a fine-tuned version of the 4-week intervention (above). They explained: “As the eects found by Van den Heuvel and colleagues were rather weak, we modified their intervention in several respects. Adjustments were made to the intervention to increase individuals’ understanding and application of job crafting behaviors into their daily work…”

The intervention started with a three-hour workshop in which participants learned about JD-R job crafting — seeking resources, seeking challenges, and reducing demands. It encouraged participants to learn from their own or others’ real–life experiences by sharing stories of how their proactive behavior changed their thoughts, feelings, or relationships at work. The workshops were customized to support the employer and its workers during a period of organizational change. At the end of the workshop, participants created individual job crafting plans to follow for next three weeks.

The team conducted one study with 119 medical specialists and another with 58 nurses. The interventions were customized for each group based on the needs of the organization and the employees during a period of organizational change.

Outcomes: Overall, the participants experienced increases in their job crafting behaviors, improved wellbeing, and better performance compared to controls. The medical specialists improved adaptive performance — that is, their ability to effectively modify behavior in response to changes at work. Consistent with other JD-R research, reducing demands did not clearly lead to positive outcomes — a dynamic that’s not yet fully understood.

The interventions led to “medium to large” increases in job crafting behavior and wellbeing.

The researchers concluded that the intervention was…

…a promising job redesign intervention strategy that individual employees can use to improve their well-being and job performance… Individual and organizational interests … can be integrated by adopting the theoretical framework of the ‘job demands-resources model.’

Gordon, Heather J., et al. “Individual job redesign: job crafting interventions in healthcare.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 104 (2018): 98-114.


Blending The Job Crafting Exercise and JD-R Interventions for Healthcare Workers

Van Wingerden published several studies of job crafting interventions in recent years. She and her team published a relatively early study of a JD-R job crafting intervention, delivering a hybrid of the style of interventions described above and the Michigan Job Crafting Exercise™. The subjects were 67 healthcare workers who diagnose, identify, and treat hearing-impaired patients.

The intervention led to increased work engagement and improved job performance in the participants. Van Wingerden continued to use this “hybrid” (my word) intervention, weaving the JD-R model into the Job Crafting Exercise framework, in other studies.

Wingerden, Jessica van, Arnold B. Bakker, and Daantje Derks. “A test of a job demands-resources intervention.” Journal of Managerial Psychology 31.3 (2016): 686-701.


Comparing Resource Interventions and Job Crafting Interventions for Special Education Teachers

Van Wingerden et al compared different interventions for primary school special education teachers at multiple sites: 26 participants took part in an intervention geared exclusively to increasing personal resources  (specifically, psychological capital… hope, optimism, self-efficacy, and resilience); 32 participated in a complete job crafting intervention; 26 participated in a combined personal resources and job crafting intervention. 18 study subjects were assigned to a control group.

The study found… 

  1. The personal resources intervention improved work engagement
  2. Job crafting intervention can, in contrast to  Van den Heuval’s study above, increase employees’ job crafting behavior.
  3. An intervention combining personal resources and job crafting leads to improved performance, but not increased work engagement.

The researchers concluded that job crafters probably should focus on increasing resources if they seek to boost work engagement. They suggested that, in addition to interventions, senior managers could do more to support employees’ balance of demands and resources, especially by expanding available resources.

Van Wingerden, Jessica, Daantje Derks, and Arnold B. Bakker. “The impact of personal resources and job crafting interventions on work engagement and performance.” Human Resource Management 56.1 (2017): 51-67. [first published in 2015]


Lasting Effects of Job Crafting in Teachers

Van Wingerden took it a step further in a study of 75 teachers, in which she and her team evaluated the sustainability of outcomes one year after completion of a JD-R job crafting intervention, in addition to the measurements they took shortly after the intervention’s conclusion.

They found that

  1. Participants exhibited significantly increased job crafting behaviors one week after the intervention was completed and 1 year later.
  2. Feedback, professional development, and self-efficacy resources had increased at the conclusion and one year after the job crafting intervention.
  3. Significant performance improvements weren’t found at the conclusion of the study, but were found one year after the intervention. The researchers explained this lag by suggesting that participants increased their challenge job demands during the intervention, which could result in a short-term suppression of performance improvement but long-term growth.

They concluded…

The job crafting intervention may be a promising tool to facilitate a resourceful work environment which enables employees to achieve their personal and organizational goals.

(This study, which focused on reducing hindering demands, did not lead to increased work engagement — a recurring finding in JD-R studies. A study Van Wingerden led and published in 2017, Fostering Employee Well-Being Via a Job Crafting Intervention, however, found that an intervention focused on increasing challenge demands did lead to increased work engagement.)

Van Wingerden, Jessica, Arnold B. Bakker, and Daantje Derks. “The longitudinal impact of a job crafting intervention.” European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology 26.1 (2017): 107-119.


Broad Study on Effects of Job Crafting Opportunities

Finally, Van Wingerden and Poell published a study in 2017 that, based on questionnaire responses of 2,090 Dutch employees from various walks of life, supports the value of job crafting interventions: “Results indicated that individuals who experience a high level of opportunities to craft reported higher levels of job crafting behavior. In turn, perceived opportunities to craft and job crafting behavior related to higher levels of work engagement and subsequently performance.”  [Emphasis added.] Interventions are one means of creating “opportunities” to craft jobs.

The research team advised:

Managers who positively influence employees’ perceived opportunities to craft before offering job crafting interventions, in the organization, can create optimal conditions that may in fact strengthen intervention effects.

Wingerden, Jessica Van, and Rob F. Poell. “Employees’ Perceived Opportunities to Craft and In-Role Performance: The Mediating Role of Job Crafting and Work Engagement.” Frontiers in psychology 8 (2017): 1876.


“Awareness” Intervention in Chemical Plant Workers

Tims et al surveyed chemical plant workers regarding their levels of demands, resources, work engagement, job satisfaction, and burnout. Surveys were sent at the outset and at the conclusion of a 2-month study period, with another survey specific to job crafting sent midway.  All participants received standardized feedback that scored their levels of job demands and resources, with examples illustrating how demands and resources can be crafted by employees. 288 workers completed all three surveys and were, therefore, included in the analysis.

(This study generally isn’t described as an intervention, but it obviously is one — more of an “awareness” campaign rather than a behavioral intervention, but an intervention all the same. In health promotion terms, it’s comparable to, say, assessing someone’s level of physical activity and, if it’s low, providing boilerplate feedback on the risk of sedentary lifestyle and strategies people use to add physical activity into their life. The fact we aren’t telling them what they have to do or that they have to do anything at all doesn’t mean it’s not an intervention. In fact, it would be a fairly typical health intervention.)

Access to different types of resources had increased for respondents who reported, at the midway point, that they craft resources. This was positively related to increased engagement and job satisfaction, and decreased burnout. Those who said they craft job demands did not necessarily experience a change in job demands, but crafting challenge demands was linked to increases in wellbeing. This is consistent with findings in other studies that suggest, perhaps counter-intuitively, that positive outcomes may be rooted in the empowerment to engage in job crafting, if not with actual changes in resources and, especially, demands.

These researchers offered this caution:

Our results do not suggest that employees should be held responsible for their work environment and well-being. Rather, they suggest that management interventions should focus more on the effects of job demands on employee well-being because employees seem to change their job demands less often than their job resources.

They added…

These results obviously suggest that employees can optimize their own well-being when allowed to. Therefore, organizations should not only facilitate employee well-being by providing sufficient job resources and an optimal level of job demands, but they should also offer opportunities for employee job crafting.

Tims, Maria, Arnold B. Bakker, and Daantje Derks. “The impact of job crafting on job demands, job resources, and well-being.” Journal of occupational health psychology 18.2 (2013): 230.


Harvard Meta-Analysis: Job Crafting is Associated Positively with Work Engagement, but Interventions…

Harvard’s Frederick and VanderWeele conducted a meta-analysis on job crafting. A pre-print of the study is available on a limited basis. The researchers searched for studies of various outcomes, but only found enough studies of sufficient quality to examine work engagement as an outcome.

Their analysis showed that job crafting is positively associated with work engagement, but they weren’t able to say the same thing about interventions, specifically.

The studies of interventions, rather than just job crafting behaviors, that we did identify found no effect of the intervention (Van den Heuvel et al., 2015; Van Wingerden et al., 2015).

Presumably, they mean “no effect” on work engagement. Frederick and VanderWheele acknowledge that the intervention studies may not have had sufficiently large subject pools to demonstrate such an effect. Take note, however:

  • The authors don’t mention Van Wingerden’s 2016 and 2017 studies (above) — perhaps they were published after the meta-analysis was conducted — that did demonstrate increased improvements in work engagement.
  • The analysis didn’t include Tims et al’s “Impact of Job Crafting…”  stealth intervention from 2012 (above), understandably since the authors didn’t describe it as an intervention. But it was an intervention and it did lead to greater work engagement.

If you’ve paid close attention, you may notice a few red flags about these studies: small populations (n), apparently homogenous demographics, limited number of studies, and a concentrated group of researchers. In a future post, I’ll offer my assessment of these studies — strictly from my perspective as an American employee-wellbeing practitioner — and (spoiler alert!) I’ll share why job crafting is, by far, the most exciting thing to happen to employee wellbeing in a long time.

Gauged: Job Crafting Intervention for Meaning and Purpose, Part I

in job crafting

Desktop measurement instruments

We wellness professionals are an interventionist lot. Once we see that job crafting “in the wild” enhances wellbeing, reduces burnout, boosts performance, and eases adaptation to change, we want to know how we can make it happen.

And if we’re going to offer job crafting programs… We want to know what what works, based on evidence..

Let’s look at interventions based on two branches of job crafting:

  • What I call Job Crafting Classic — as I described in I Have Seen the Future of Employee Wellbeing. It’s Name is Job Crafting — in which workers modify the tasks of their job, the personal interactions they have, and their perception of the job in order to experience a greater sense of meaning and purpose, and to increase work engagement, satisfaction, resilience, and thriving.
  • What I call Job Demands-Resources Job Crafting — as described in my article The Good, the Bad, and the Crafty: Challenges and Hindrances in JD-R Job Crafting — in which workers seek resources, seek challenges, and ratchet down “hindering” demands in order to achieve much of what’s achieved in Job Crafting Classic, but with more emphasis on well-being and, theoretically, health.

Job Crafting Classic

In a controlled study at a large tech company, employees were happier and more effective in their jobs 6 weeks after completing the Job Crafting Exercise™. This quick video Job Crafting Classic intervention and some outcomes…

Desktop measurement instruments

As far as I can tell, outcomes from this particular intervention, which was spearheaded by Amy Wrysznewksi, Jane Dutton, and Justin Berg, weren’t published in a peer-reviewed journal.

A Japanese study delivered a variation of The Job Crafting Exercise to 54 manufacturing managers and 25 psychiatric hospital workers. The intervention led to improved levels of work engagement, reduced stress, and an increase in job crafting behavior.

Increasing job crafting behavior — Wrzesniewski et al describe a job-crafting mindset — is important. The intention of these programs is not to have participants modify their jobs at the intervention workshop and then go about their merry way; it’s to have them re-envision their jobs as malleable and to develop their skills and their sense of empowerment…so they can establish and continuously improve their person-job fit.

Interventions and evidence for JD-R Job Crafting are a different story — one that will be told in Part II.

Dealing With Burnout

in Uncategorized, Stress, industrial organizational psychology

burnt out personIf you can find some downtime (or some treadmill time?), listen to “Dealing With Burnout” the Wisconsin Public Radio Morning Show. One of the guests was Monique Valcour PhD CPCC, who has a gift for articulating, in super-practical terms, the connection between work and wellbeing. Monique explains what burnout really is, and delivers keen insight when the first caller makes a reference to the role of autonomy in addressing his own burnout. She talks about burnout as an “interpersonal phenomenon” and notes the supportive effects of mindfulness and emotional intelligence. And she provides practical tips for workplace leaders.

By the way, not only is it essential for us wellness professionals to address the burnout that occurs amongst employees, but I’m observing that it’s increasingly common within HR, Employee Benefits, and Employee Wellness teams. So if you don’t feel the need to learn about burnout for your organization, learn about it as an act of compassion for yourself.

https://www.wpr.org/shows/dealing-burnout

 

 

Beware of Running with the Wellness Herd

in Uncategorized, Commentary

Like many industries, we in the wellness biz tend to run with the herd. A few years ago, all we could talk about was mindfulness. Then we veered toward resilience. Last year, financial wellness was the buzzword. This year, the herd must be getting tired, as we switch direction toward…sleep.

Sleep loss and its cost to business are hot topics these days. Employee Benefit News recently published an article titled, Companies Can’t Afford to Ignore Sleep in Wellness Offerings. Fast Company published Your Employees’ Sleep Problems Are Costing Your Business Time And Money. The Institute of Health and Productivity Management created its Sleep Health and Wellness division, to be introduced with a day-long conference. And a book, Work and Sleep, will be published next month and will draw additional attention to workers’ sleep loss.

New sleep program providers are cropping up, and existing wellness vendors are waking up to the opportunity to hop on the bandwagon.

Don’t get me wrong. Mindfulness, resilience, financial wellness, and sleep are important.

herd

And I’m not saying that none of us have run against the herd by addressing these topics before they got trendy or supporting employee wellbeing in innovative ways. But, in general, our industry flits from one topic to another, from one tactic to another, falling in line with our herd’s stampede. The risk is that workers get trampled in the process.

One key to sustaining established wellness efforts, rather than letting the sun set on last year’s program as dawn breaks on this year’s, is to strategically scale up the size of the team that operationalizes these efforts. In other words — to use the term HR has eerily adapted from cattle ranchers — “add headcount.” Expand resources in proportion to demands? What a concept.

Despite my earlier acknowledgment  that our herd mentality is comparable to other industries’, there is a difference: Other industries — especially those that are consumer-oriented — respond to changes in demand: Cold-pressed juice with chia one day, probiotics the next. Fuel-efficient cars one year, technology packages the next.

What drives our wellness herd?

As our newfound devotion to employee sleep takes hold this year, I suspect our herders may be revealed to us if we  keep an eye on who is sponsoring the events, the publications, and the research that promotes it. There, the presence of vendors and pharmaceutical companies, for example, wouldn’t invalidate sleep as an important issue for employees, but it seems unlikely to serve as a sustainable driver of a successful long-term employee wellbeing strategy.