What guides us?
Although our research program is divided into three project areas, all of our work will address three core questions:
1) What are the signature characteristics of well-being at work?
One of our main objectives is to gain greater insights into what distinguishes work experiences that are life-enriching, meaningful, and positive from work experiences that are life-depleting, empty, and negative. Our research will explore two kinds of well-being. The first, what we might call happiness at work, focuses on what makes work fun, enjoyable, and deeply satisfying. The second, what we will call flourishing at work, explores work when it is a life calling, something that is spirited, deeply purposeful, and profoundly meaningful. We are also interested in how both forms of well-being are related to outcomes like career fulfillment, reactions to work stress, and the quality of work-family balance, as well as more traditional outcomes like work performance and creativity.
2) How does well-being evolve and change over a lifetime of work?
For most people, work is a central part of the adult life. People work for 40 years or more, and even if they stay with the same organization for most of that time, they hold a variety of jobs, work with a myriad of people, and occupy many different roles. We know very little about how a person’s experiences of work change over their lifetime. For example, are the factors that make work satisfying when we first enter the workforce the same as those that satisfy us as we near retirement? Currently, there is very little research to answer questions like these. We will explore what makes for enriching, satisfying, meaningful work at different stages of life. Our research will, for example, yield important insights into issues like how much does money really matter for satisfaction at work? What leads someone to find work that is a life calling? And, what would make even the most trying, arduous work more life-giving?
3) What conditions foster happiness and flourishing at work, and what conditions inhibit them?
Finally, we want to learn more about how individuals can find happy, flourishing work and also how managers & organizations can foster well-being among their employees. We will explore the role that individual factors such as personality, life choices, and career decisions play in well-being at work. We will also study how social relationships such as family dynamics, friendships, and the characteristics of work community influence work experiences. Other important factors include how leaders, management policies, and organizational cultures influence well-being. Our goal is to find out what individuals can do to find enjoyable, meaningful work and what organizations can do to create work experiences that are conducive to high levels of happiness and flourishing.