Thriving, Struggling, and Suffering in Well-Being

Directly following the plenary talk from Brandon Busteed of Gallup on May 24, his colleague Jade Wood facilitated a workshop around well-being in the higher education context, introduced by Joan Riley as part of the yearlong Engelhard workshop series on Educating the Whole Person. Wood, an expert on implementing holistic approaches to well-being within organizations, intended the workshop to be a continuation of the ideas presented by Busteed and, in particular, how they can be implemented in a university domain.

The workshop began with a question period, with faculty members wondering about how to be better mentors, and bringing up particularly how the role of mentorship in online courses may look different than on campus. There was also concern expressed about how to best guide students who are focused more on traditional indicators of success, such as grades and GPA, to adopt new metrics of success that take well-being into account. Another point of concern broached by multiple faculty was new information about student debt from the Busteed talk indicating that average college tuition is 250% higher than in 1998, and that student loan burden is inversely correlated to a sense of well-being.

Various activities were presented to attendees, who worked in small groups at tables with the goal of articulating their practice domain and their personal and professional role in cultivating well-being. Wood also went deeper into the data on lives well-lived Busteed referred to in his plenary, presenting five natural breaks in the data: purpose (how you occupy time), social (relationships and love), financial (economic security), community (engagement and involvement with area of residence), and physical (health). She suggested that “in the future we may look back on the current unwillingness to have wellness and well-being programs in the workplace as similar to the workplace safety mechanisms that weren’t used during the industrial revolution.”

Wood ended the presentation with her holistic approach to driving organizational well-being, which involves alignment between leadership, values & rituals (unspoken rules), human capital, structure, and performance (behavioral incentives). She stressed the importance of a culture around invitation to well-being rather than a top-down mandate, and suggested that individuals can personally model the well-being change that they wish to see in the organization by answering the question “What is the most doable and impactful action you can take now to enhance well-being in your domain?”