Engagement and Wellbeing at Work

Wellbeing is a highly personal and subjective experience for which there is no single optimal mix of ingredients. The field of positive psychology looks at subjective experiences of wellbeing, past satisfaction, hope/optimism for the future, and flow and happiness in the present. The PERMA model of wellbeing developed by positive psychology pioneer Martin Seligman contemplates balancing multidimensional, abundant positive and negative factors, and myriad sources of potential satisfaction and fulfillment across key human experiences of positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. Achieving wellbeing in the workplace involves structuring work to optimize the possibility for the experience of each of these factors.

Promoting workplace engagement can support wellbeing. Rather than being simply a source of stress, it is possible to reframe the intense time, attention, concentration and pressure management required by most jobs as a source of potential engagement. A sense of engagement can arise from deep involvement in something that creates investment in a goal for its own sake with concentration and effort, resulting in a stronger and more complex self that comes from the enjoyment, confidence and satisfaction from the mastery of the relevant tasks. At work, engagement is most associated with, and best predicted by, jobs that involve using a variety of complex skills with some degree of self-determination, require resolving challenging problems and expressing creativity and the presence of job-related resources including autonomy, supervisory coaching and performance feedback. An engaged employee is in a positive, fulfilling cognitive state, focused, invested in and psychologically present on the job. Engaged employees have been found to be more creative, productive and willing to go the extra mile than less engaged employees and have resilience in the face of setbacks and other challenges. Cognitively engaged employees are absorbed and attentive, put energy into their work, and experience a higher cognitive state that can translate into higher work performance that can increase a desire to remain at the job and lead to improved employee retention. And, engagement has been positively connected to work satisfaction, which is positively correlated with work performance.

Employee engagement can positively impact business and performance outcomes including less turnover and absenteeism, higher productivity and profitability and customer/client satisfaction and can potentially increase an organization’s competitive advantage.


Bakker, A. B. & Demerouti, E. (2008). Towards a model of work engagement. Career Development International, 13(8), 209-223. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13620430810870476.

Bakker, A. B., Schaufeli, W. B., Leiter, M. P., & Taris, T. W. (2008, July -September). Work engagement: an emerging concept in occupational health psychology. Work & Stress. Vol. 22, No. 3, 187-200.

Fullagar, C.J. & Kelloway, E. K. (2009). ‘Flow’ at work: An experience sampling approach. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82, 595-615.

Gallup. (2015). Employee engagement in U.S. stagnant in 2015. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/188144/employee-engagement-stagnant-2015.aspx g_source=EMPLOYEE_ENGAGEMENT&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles.

Ho, V. T., Wong, S. and Lee, C. H. (2011). A tale of passion: Linking job passion and cognitive engagement to employee work performance. Journal of Management Studies, 48 (1). 26-47.

Macey, W. H. & Schneider, B. (2008). The meaning of employee engagement. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1, 3-30.

Nakamura, J. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Flow Theory and Workplaces. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 195-206). New York: Oxford University Press.

Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.5.

Wright, T. A., Cropanzano, R., & Bonett, D. G. (2007). The moderating role of employee positive wellbeing on the relation between job satisfaction and job performance. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(2), 93-104.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *