New CWB Senior Scholar: Lauren Kuykendall


by Whitney Hopler, Communications Manager

Dr. Lauren Kuykendall, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, has joined our center as a senior scholar. Her teaching and research focuses on workplace well-being.

“Lauren’s work has led to important discoveries about what promotes employee well-being,” said Dr. Nance Lucas, our center’s executive director. “She has done amazing research.”

Kuykendall said she is looking forward to working with our center. “I am excited about the opportunity it presents to help put science into practice by providing a forum for sharing insights from the science of well-being with leaders who are interested in promoting employee well-being.”

One of her key research discoveries so far is understanding the role that leisure plays in promoting employee well-being. “My initial work in this area highlighted the importance of high-quality leisure for employee well-being, and subsequent work has shown that high-quality leisure has an important impact on well-being even beyond the effects of good work and family experiences. Projects I’m currently focused on highlight the consequences of work interfering with leisure and show that this interference diminishes well-being, particularly job burnout. I am also examining the nature of high-quality leisure. In this work, I am studying how passive forms of leisure (e.g., watching TV) and more active forms of leisure (e.g., social activities, physically active leisure) contribute to well-being. I am finding that, while passive leisure fulfills the psychological need for relaxation, more active forms of leisure tend to fulfill a wider range of psychological needs (e.g., mastery, meaning). Yet because these more active forms of leisure require greater effort, they are often neglected when employees have highly demanding work and family responsibilities. This points to the need to understand how employees can prioritize leisure roles that benefit well-being and what employers can do to make it easier for employees to do so.”

Kuykendall also studies how employees make decisions about balancing work and rest. “Currently, my students and I are studying the factors that prevent employees from using paid vacation time – a common phenomenon that may impair well-being. Preliminary results suggest that a important factor driving employees’ decisions to forgo vacations is lack of confidence that they will be able to detach from work (i.e., stop thinking about work-related stressors) while on vacation. This points to the need to understand organizational factors that could be targeted to help people more effectively detach from work.”

Our center’s leadership programs for workplace well-being are valuable ways for people to bring positive change to their jobs and organizations, noted Kuykendall. “Leaders play a very important role in promoting employee well-being. Leadership programs such as those offered by the CWB are a great way to learn leadership practices that will help foster employee well-being.”