Re-inventing our workplaces by integrating and applying interdisciplinary sciences to achieve worker health and psychological well-being. We do this by focusing our activities around four roles:
How We Operate
We build relationships with researchers, practitioners, policy makers, service providers and corporate representatives by holding conferences, meetings, workshops and other gatherings in order to learn about the ways health and well-being issues are addressed and the barriers to achieving greater progress. We review and evaluate research studies for their quality and scientific-soundness and add those we believe meet established scientific standards to our knowledge repository. We also review and evaluate interventions, programs and practices to identify ones that hold promise for improving employee health and well-being. We support new research and case studies to further our understanding of this area. We write about and communicate our findings and recommendations for the public through various channels: conferences, publications, presentations, social media, public workshops, and our website.
Elaborating our understanding of the role of need satisfaction in healthy workplaces, we have extracted from the scientific literature nine basic needs that, when satisfied, contribute positively to health and well-being. Likewise, when satisfaction of these needs is impeded, the employee avoids that environment or it contributes negatively to health and well-being. The basic needs are: positive emotions, belonging, meaning or purpose, autonomy, competence or mastery, engagement or achievement, personal growth, safety, and physical well-being or vitality. The Healthy Workplaces Model is a novel extension of existing needs-based models. Christina Maslach and Cristina Banks published their findings connecting psychological needs to health, well-being and productivity in the Routledge Companion to Wellbeing at Work (2017).
The Model inspired us to develop a framework for identifying qualities in work and the work environment that “drive” need satisfaction. This means that the presence of a particular quality in the work environment creates an environment where an employee’s need can be met. For example, having flexibility in the workplace (e.g., where and when tasks can be performed) provides a sense of control over work demands and resources, and feeds the need for autonomy. We identified seven such qualities (called “drivers” of need satisfaction): comfort, connection, predictability, flexibility, security, equity, and privacy. The importance of these “drivers” is their ability to translate the satisfaction of needs directly into specific things—physical objects, workstation design, compensation and benefits, programs, policies, practices, and cultural attributes—in order to create a work environment that satisfies important employee needs. The “drivers” also enable the development of assessment tools for evaluating the degree to which a work environment meets employees’ needs.
How We Started
The Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces (“HealthyWorkplaces” or ICHW), founded in 2012 by Cristina Banks, Senior Lecturer at the Haas School of Business, and Sheldon Zedeck, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Psychology, was created in order to respond to the growing health crisis among members of the US workforce. Both independently observed through their work with hundreds of organizations over the years that the workplace was making people mentally and physically sick, and there did not appear to be clear and effective approaches to addressing this problem. They believed that by gathering all known science across disciplines regarding employee health and well-being, they could create an integrated, holistic solution for employers to implement in their organizations that would result in improved employee outcomes. With $15K from Graham Fleming, the Vice Chancellor for Research, and space within the Haas School’s rented offices off campus, they began the hard work of creating something out of nothing.