Thriving Together Series

Thriving Together Series: Workplace Improvement Goals

This edition of the Thriving Together Series is adapted from The Well-Being Lab 2020 Workplace Report, a collaboration between our center and The Well-Being Lab (a Michelle McQuaid program). The report is based on two surveys of more than 1,000 workers each, throughout the United States.

Our levels of well-being naturally ebb and flow as we experience the ups and downs of life. Thus, the goal is not to achieve the highest amount of well-being. Rather, it is to use our well-being scores to help ourselves and others to become more intelligent and active agents so that we can effectively engage and function well at work, regardless of what life throws at us. How can we be more intelligent and active agents? Our findings indicate three ingredients: ability (“way power”), motivation (“will power’”) and psychological safety (“we power”).

Way Power and Will Power

Workers who reported higher levels of confidence in their ability to care for their own well-being were statistically more likely to be consistently thriving, or living well, despite struggles, than other workers. Put simply, they have the “way power” to effectively care for their well-being, with the knowledge, tools, or support they need.

Given the challenges of the current environment, it is perhaps not surprising that workers’ perceived ability to care for their well-being fell from 61.9% in 2019 to 49.0% in 2020.

Ability is necessary but not sufficient for well-being. Thriving takes ongoing effort. Workers who reported higher levels of motivation to improve their well-being were statistically more likely to be consistently thriving, or living well, despite struggles, than other workers. Put simply, they have the “will power” to do what they need to care for their well-being, such as purposefully engaging in health-promoting activities and learning new strategies that can be helpful in times of struggle.

“Way power” and “will power” provide workers with the tools they need to be more intelligent and active agents in caring for their well-being. They can also be sources of support for others who may be struggling with their well-being.

The Importance of We Power

Beyond “way power” and “will power”, social aspects of the workplace also matter. A growing number of studies – including ours – find that workers experience greater well-being and better performance when they feel psychologically safe to bring up problems, talk honestly about mistakes with each other, and trust their co-workers.

Workers who reported higher levels of psychological safety were statistically more likely to be consistently thriving or living well, despite struggles than other workers. Unfortunately, only 42% of the sample reported that they felt psychologically safe at work.

“Way power”, “will power”, and “we power” were impacted by feelings of safety at work, trust in management to make sensible decisions about issues that affect the future of workers, and being able to rely on co-workers to not be careless.

These findings suggest that workplaces need to prioritize building and maintaining trust and supportive relationships as a key strategy for supporting their workers’ well-being and performance.


Caring for our well-being requires “way power” (well-being ability), “will power” (well-being motivation), and “we power” (psychological safety). To support thriving, workplaces need to prioritize training, tools, rituals, and norms that help workers to feel confident, committed, and connected.

As the need for physical distancing will continue to demand new ways for working safely with others, workplaces need to continue prioritizing responsible well-being choices, clear communication, and transparent guidelines for workers to ensure high levels of trust for management and co-workers is maintained.

Do your workers feel psychologically safe enough to talk honestly with each other about caring for their well-being?

Additional Resources

Learn how to apply the science of well-being to your leadership, in our Leading to Well-Being certificate programs.

Measure your well-being through the free PERMAH Well-Being Survey. See how you’re doing when it comes to your levels of thriving and struggle, and your abilities and motivation to care for your well-being. You can even create a free personal well-being plan, drawing on more than 200 evidence-based well-being actions. You can also use this tool for teams or entire workplaces.

Write one of these Thriving Together Series features! We’re looking for contributions on all topics related to well-being. Read other Thriving Together Series articles here and contact us at for guidelines. Thank you for helping our Mason community thrive together online!