Despite an abundance of organizational research on how contextual and individual difference factors impact well-being, little research has examined whether individuals themselves can take an active role in enhancing their own well-being. The current study assessed the effectiveness of two simple, self-guided workplace interventions (“gratitude” and “social connectedness”) in impacting well-being.
Sixty-seven university employees participated in one of the two self-guided interventions for 2 weeks and completed self-report measures prior to the intervention, immediately following the intervention, and one-month post-intervention. Growth curve modeling was used to examine the effects of each intervention.
Partially supporting hypotheses, the gratitude intervention resulted in significant increases in positive affective well-being and self-reported gratitude but not did significantly impact negative affective well-being or self-reported social connectedness. The social connectedness exercise did not significantly impact any of those four outcomes. However, both interventions related to a reduction in workplace absence due to illness.
The study suggests that self-guided, positive psychology interventions (particularly gratitude) hold potential for enhancing employee well-being. Because the interventions are short, simple, and self-guided, there is little in the way of costs or drawbacks for organizations. Thus, these types of interventions seem like a potentially useful component of workplace wellness initiatives.
This study is one of the few to examine whether self-guided, positive psychology interventions can enhance well-being. Moreover, this is the first study to examine a social connectedness workplace intervention and the first to demonstrate effects on illness-related absence.
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We also conducted all of the analyses coding time as 0, 1, 2 (instead of number of weeks into study). The conclusions from the two sets of analyses were identical. We also examined potential nonlinear effects, but they were not statistically significant.
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Appendix 1: Intervention instructions presented via e-mailed slide presentations
Social Connectedness Intervention Instructions
We would like you to increase your social ties with your coworkers. We are going to provide different strategies to do this.
Log in 3 times a week (you can choose which days you want to log in) and try to do the different strategies 3 times a week.
You can do the same thing three times or choose different ones each time.
Do the activity for 2 weeks beginning NEXT Monday or the first day you will return to work.
Sample Strategies to Increase Social Ties
Instead of e-mailing someone, call him or her or go to his or her desk to discuss the topic you were going to e-mail about.
Do something social outside of work hours with a coworker (e.g., go to dinner, happy hour, and the gym).
Do something social during work hours with a coworker (e.g., get coffee, go for a walk, and take a lunch break together).
Talk with one coworker who you do not normally talk to (e.g., could be work related or not work related).
Start or join a team or group activity with your coworkers (e.g., softball team, kickball team, book club, and road race).
Ask around to see whether you live close enough that you could commute to work with a coworker (carpool or take the public transportation together).
Plan or attend a group activity for your coworkers after work (e.g., a baseball game and happy hour).
Gratitude Intervention Instructions
We would like you to think about the many things in your job/work, both large and small, for which you are grateful. These might include supportive work relationships, sacrifices, or contributions that others have made for you, advantages or opportunities at work, or thankfulness for the opportunity to have your job in general. Try to think of new ideas that you have not focused on in the past.
You will log into the Web site we provide and list things about your job for which you are grateful on three days for each of the next 2 weeks (you can choose which days you want to log in).
Do this for 2 weeks beginning NEXT Monday or the first day you will return to work.
Appendix 2: Study Measures
For all measures, participants reported their well-being (on the measure below) “over the past 30 days,” “over the past 2 weeks,” and “over the past 30 days,” at the first, second, and third survey administrations, respectively.
Indicate to what extent you generally have felt this way at work.
Social Connectedness Measure
I feel disconnected from the world around me at work (R)
I feel so distant from people at my job (R)
I have no sense of togetherness with my work peers (R)
I don’t feel I participate with anyone or any group at work (R)
Job-Related Affective Well-Being Measure (Positive Affect Items)
My job made me feel…
At ease, Calm, Content, Elated, Excited, Enthusiastic, Happy, Inspired, Pleased, Satisfied, Cheerful, Energetic, Ecstatic, Proud, Relaxed.
Job-Related Affective Well-Being Measure (Negative Affect Items)
My job made me feel…
Annoyed, Bored, Disgusted, Frustrated, Gloomy, Angry, Anxious, Confused, Depressed, Discouraged, Frightened, Furious, Fatigued, Intimidated, Miserable.
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Kaplan, S., Bradley-Geist, J.C., Ahmad, A. et al. A Test of Two Positive Psychology Interventions to Increase Employee Well-Being. J Bus Psychol 29, 367–380 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-013-9319-4
- Positive psychology
- Workplace well-being
- Social connectedness