In the post-pandemic world, creating a working environment for employees to have a positive experience is essential to building a thriving organisation and retaining top talent. Organisations who have learned how to apply positive psychology in the workplace are being rewarded for their efforts, and for good reason.
Research has consistently shown that when employees are engaged and motivated, they experience less stress, anxiety and other related health problems. If the Great Resignation has taught us anything, it’s that employees are moving away from jobs that deplete their energy and leave them feeling burned out.
Humans spend an average of 50% of their waking hours at work, so it’s no wonder those who resent their jobs are leaving to preserve their mental health – taking their knowledge, skills and strengths with them. So what can organisations do? How can employers harness culture and capability training, strengthen workplace culture and ensure employees feel happy and energised?
In this article, we’ll dive into what positive psychology looks like for organisations, evaluate the benefits of implementation and highlight 5 simple practices for positive psychology that you can apply in your organisation.
What is positive psychology?
Studies define positive psychology as the science behind positive emotions and explores an applied approach to individuals operating at their best. In the context of the workplace, positive psychology involves prioritising employee wellbeing. This includes introducing strategies to create a positive working environment where employees are more likely to be engaged, motivated and feel overall happier.
Benefits of positive psychology in the workplace
Positive psychology offers scope for enhancing workers’ job satisfaction, motivation, and productivity in the workplace. While some sceptics suggest this is merely a method for employees to do less and gain more, the reality is that both employees and organisations can benefit from a positive work culture that can create opportunities for growth and puts people first.
Research shows that low engagement alone costs the global economy $7.8 trillion each year. So if businesses can foster a culture that improves employee engagement, they also have a lot to gain from investing in psychological strategies.
As the Black Dog Institute puts it, “when our workplaces are mentally healthy, we see enormous benefits to individual employees and to the business itself”. So how can everyone benefit from positive psychology at work?
Improving the culture of the workplace to be more positive can benefit the intrinsic motivations of employees, leaders and organisations at large. Organisations that use positive psychology can find the intersection between skills, interests and strengths and are better able to build a rich team of engaged, connected and motivated employees. The impact of this is seemingly contagious as others feed off the energy from the workplace and their colleagues.
Supports mental wellbeing
Reports show that three-quarters of Australian employees say a mentally healthy workplace is important to them when looking for a job. Heads Up in partnership with BeyondBlue have shown that organisations that take an integrated approach to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace are being rewarded with happier, healthier employees. This supports the idea that when employees feel energised by their work and supported by their colleagues, everyone benefits.
Individuals benefit from having a healthy work-life balance and are less susceptible to fatigue or extreme stress. Similarly, organisations with a positive approach to mental wellbeing benefit from highly engaged employees with increased productivity and are better able to recruit and retain talented workers.
Alternatively, the long-term consequences of a negative working environment may include signs of burnout, mental exhaustion or employees expressing a negative attitude. These factors may further influence employee satisfaction, productivity and staff turnover.
Drives prosocial behaviour
In the context of the workplace, prosocial behaviours are those intended to help or benefit other people. This might look like cooperation, punctuality, helping coworkers or effective time management. Driven by factors like empathy and compassion, a positive workplace environment can influence the attitudes of employees and drive these important prosocial behaviours. The evidence further reveals that those who exert prosocial behaviour benefit from more social connections, decreased stress, strengthened job performance and are less susceptible to the effects of loneliness.
How can leaders apply positive psychology in their workplace
There are many different ways that leaders can implement positive psychology in their organisations. PERMA is an evidence-based model created by Martin Seligman demonstrating strategies for achieving wellbeing. The acronym stands for Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment and they each offer easy techniques you can use in your organisation.
While businesses can’t force their employees to be happy, cultivating an environment of gratitude and support can denote similar positive emotions. Businesses might consider innovative ways to highlight achievements, celebrate successes and support colleagues in their professional journey.
Advocating for positive initiatives in the workplace is key to creating a positive employee experience. This might look like team building exercises, coaching, work functions or maybe even mentoring. Extensive research has shown that work engagement can be considered a mediating factor between emotional intelligence and job satisfaction. So organisations that foster a positive psychological environment can expect to attract highly engaged employees who love where they work.
Further reading: 5 tips for improving employee engagement and empowerment in the workplace.
The quality of positive relationships at work matters not only for employees to flourish as individuals but enhance work culture and the connection of the teams within an organisation. Positive psychology can help facilitate collaboration, reduce conflict, develop problem-solving skills and build resilience at work. Prioritising organisational culture including team-building initiatives is an easy way businesses can put this into practice.
It is important that employees feel connected to the meaning and purpose of their work – beyond their day-to-day tasks. In the context of PERMA, meaning and purpose are interchangeable and it is connected to the idea that employees want to feel like they’re making a positive impact. Organisations can achieve this by harnessing the strengths of high-performing teams with a shared purpose, clear objectives and meaningful mission.
Lastly, to maximise staff engagement and motivation, allowing employees to utilise and apply their strengths at every opportunity is key. Focusing on strengths – and not solely weaknesses – impacts employees’ intrinsic motivation and appeals to their sense of purpose and offers feelings of accomplishment. One easy way organisations might implement this is through celebrating and reflecting on achievements as a team. Think: monthly town hall meetings or getting together over lunch to highlight recent individual wins.
Where do I start?
From the initial concept to measuring the impacts post-program, we partner with you to seamlessly deliver learning experiences that address the specific needs of participants and your organisation. We have expanses of evidence-based learning content, tools and approaches, informed by the latest research in psychology and behavioural science. You choose what will work for you, based on your organisational culture, your aspirations and any constraints you need to work within.
Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we partner with organisations to deliver tailored DEIB, Leadership and Capability Development experiences.