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Aaron Jarden

Introducing Workplace Wellbeing to Organizations: The “Me, We, Us” Model

Aaron Jarden
Senior Lecturer at Auckland University of Technology

The benefits of employee wellbeing are numerous. For example, happier employees are healthier (Waddell & Burton, 2006), have less sick days (Bertera, 1990), earn more (Koo & Suh, 2013) and get promoted sooner (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2008). They are more effective (George & Bettenhausen, 1990), more productive (Page & Vella-Brodrick, 2009), display better organizational citizenship behaviours (Organ, 1988), and inspire customer loyalty (Harter, Schmidt & Hayes, 2002). They even increase the wellbeing of other employees (Christakis & Fowler, 2009), stay in their jobs longer (Judge, 1993), and can increase the organizations stock market value (Edmans, 2012). So why, with with wellbeing providing such benefits for organizations, do organizational consultants find it challenging to introduce comprehensive wellbeing initiatives to organizations?

Although there are various reasons, one element that can aid in abating this challenge is a model that, through its simplicity and language, can easily provide organizations with a rationale for multiple levels of assessment and intervention to maximize performance and wellbeing. This is important because workplace wellbeing programs largely target employees with little consideration of levels of intervention across organizational systems.

When focusing on organizational wellbeing, wellbeing assessments and workplace wellbeing programs can happen at three distinct levels regardless of organization structure or size – at the employee level (Me), at group level (We), and at the organizational level (Us) – as depicted in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Me, We, and Us levels of possible wellbeing intervention.


Employee level wellbeing initiatives include strategies and tasks that employees can do by themselves, such as learning about and utilising their strengths mindfully (Niemiec, 2013), or undertaking a mindfulness program (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). Such ‘Me’ initiatives do not require the involvement of others within the organization, however the organization may provide support or resources to the employee (e.g., subscription to a mindfulness programme).

Group level wellbeing initiatives include strategies and tasks that involve an employee working on their wellbeing with either their manager, their direct team, or other employees who they are in frequent contact with in the work setting. These ‘We’ activities either have influence on a small group or are undertaken in a group format, and cannot be undertaken by employees themselves as they require the cooperation and input from others – such as the employee’s manager or team members. Examples of ‘We’ initiatives include strategies and tasks such as job crafting (Wrzesniewski, 2014) or building high quality connections (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003).

‘Us’ level organizational wellbeing initiatives include strategies and tasks that have an impact over the whole of the organization; they necessarily impact all employees. Examples of ‘Us’ initiatives include strategies and tasks such as creating organizational wellbeing policy (HAPIA, 2009), directing resources towards one-off or smaller scale wellbeing initiatives (i.e., funding ‘Me’ or ‘We’ activities), or whole of organization wellbeing assessments or workplace wellbeing programs such as Appreciative Inquiry summits (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2005).

On the whole, at all levels of Me, We and Us, high wellbeing from a positive psychology perspective is about employees and organizations shifting their perspective from predominately focusing on what is wrong, to building on what is going right and working – to capitalising on the good and building and seeding the enabling conditions for high wellbeing (Jarden & Jarden, 2015; Lewis, 2011). Workplace wellbeing programs across these three levels are about helping employees to use their strengths, enhance their relationships, and find more meaning and engagement at work so that both employees and the organization as a whole can achieve their, and its, true potential.

The main purpose for introducing this model is to elicit feedback and invite debate on this initial pragmatic model. This model has grown out of insight from the large dataset from Work on Wellbeing Ltd (WoW: www.workonwellbeing.com), and from organizational consultants using WoW in organizations. Consultants trailing this model overwhelmingly report positive receptivity from all levels of an organization (i.e., from the CEO and HR manager, to managers, to employees). It is anticipated that the main utility will be to provide organizations with the rationale and reminder that multiple levels of assessment and intervention are needed to maximize performance and wellbeing across an organization. Although the vast majority of research to date has been on the benefits at the Me level, there is still research at the We and Us levels which should not be discounted. Feedback on this model is cordially invited to aaron.jarden@workonwellbeing.com

Implications for practice:

  1. The language used to initiate organizational wellbeing endeavours is important – both for the initial understanding and acceptance from the organization, and from the employees within the organization.
  2. The ‘Me, We, Us’ model provides a simple framework and language that seems, prima facie at least, to be useful for organizational wellbeing consultants.
  3. More debate and research is needed to substantiate the utility of the ‘Me, We, Us’ model – i.e., do organizations and employees find it useful, and how. In addition, investigation of the particular strengths and benefits of interventions at the various levels and their timing, and if the pathways (e.g., from Me to We, or We to Me) flow bi-directionally.

About the Author

Dr. Aaron Jarden is a Senior Lecturer at Auckland University of Technology. He is also president of the New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology, lead investigator for the International Wellbeing Study, co-investigator of the Sovereign New Zealand Wellbeing Index, founder of The Tuesday Program, co-editor of the International Journal of Wellbeing, and Senior Scientist for Work on Wellbeing and Assessing Wellbeing in Education.


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