A goal for most of us is to lead a happier life. Our mood affects so much of our lives, from our relationships to productivity and our outlook and motivation. But what makes you happy? And how does increasing happiness impact your career?

The PERMA+ Model can help you flourish in life, and it can benefit businesses too. In this article, we’ll examine what The PERMA+ Model is, where it originated and how it can be an advantage to businesses.

What is the PERMA+ Model?

Revered psychologist Dr Martin Seligman developed The PERMA+ Model, characterizing what he believed to be the essential components required to live a happier, well-rounded life. These components are:

  • Positive emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishments

Research suggests that there are positive associations between the PERMA components and satisfaction in life, work and our physical health, and that it can also encourage greater commitment within organizations. The Plus (+) in the acronym represents physical activity, sleep, nutrition, and optimism – elements that work in tandem with our psychological health and are just as important to our wellbeing.

How does it impact businesses?

PERMA is more than the building blocks for achieving a happier, more balanced life, but it can also serve as a predictor of psychological distress, such as burnout and anxiety.

For businesses, this is a huge benefit, since burnout and mental health problems can impact productivity and morale among employees. Increasing PERMA among colleagues can help to improve their experiences at work. Well-being is founded on the ability to access a wide range of emotions, and being able to identify positive emotions is essential to fostering better relationships with other members of the team, increasing retention and finding meaning in the work you do.

Sometimes, it takes time and effort to notice those emotions, but PERMA encourages staff to notice them when they may be hidden under the demands of a busy workday, creating better experiences for colleagues in the workplace and more positive outcomes for the business overall.

When you have a more optimistic outlook and can find meaning in your work, you can create a better connection with your teammates and with clients and customers. It enables staff to deliver better performance by inspiring engagement and encouraging people to take more chances, which is better for individuals but also for the organization as a whole.

“Overwork is a main cause of burnout”, says LuxuryRehabs.com, “even if you’re not personally going through burnout, the numbers indicate that most people work with those who are. By compensating for your colleagues’ exhaustion, you may be at risk of developing the same condition”. By increasing happiness and wellbeing among staff, businesses can help to alleviate stress, burnout and anxiety, creating a happier and more efficient workforce.

How can individuals put PERMA+ into practice?

There are several ways that individuals can achieve PERMA+ in their lives. Setting goals is crucial to help you not only stay on track but understand what it is you’re working towards. Document the accompanying emotions you feel when you achieve these goals, as you want to note the activities you enjoy and that put you in a flow state, as these are the tasks that will make you happiest over time.

Doing the things you enjoy, day after day, will boost positive emotions, lower stress and keep you engaged, but they’ll also be tasks where you’ll value your accomplishments because you’ll be working on things that truly matter to you. Keeping a gratitude journal can also help you to note down the positive emotions you feel throughout the day and the tasks or relationships you value that make you feel good in yourself and your abilities.

When applying PERMA+ to your relationships, focus on cultivating authentic relationships with colleagues. This can create a happier association with work but also helps you to cope more effectively with stress. Arrange lunches or coffee breaks regularly with your colleagues and reach out to see how they’re doing.

You also want to get meaning and purpose from the work that you do, which provides greater professional satisfaction and is your drive to get up and come to work every day. This can be achieved by stepping outside of your comfort zone and identifying the values you’re aligned with at work. You can also get value and a sense of purpose from helping others, whether that’s working on team tasks more often, mentoring people or reaching out to help people you can see are struggling.

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How can managers support staff?

We’ve discussed the benefits of PERMA+ in the workplace, but how can managers and leaders support teams with their efforts? Creating positive emotions and a sense of wellbeing is centered on equipping staff with the tools and the systems to help them move through their workday more positively and constructively. There are several ways that employers can assist staff, such as providing flexible work hours, understanding the challenges that employees face, such as balancing childcare with work responsibilities and developing more inclusive workplaces.

Leaders should also focus on talent development to map out what makes each member of the team flourish and come to work motivated and encouraged, rather than stressed and overwhelmed. Everyone is different, so tailoring the way tasks are designed to suit individuals and how they work best can effectively boost engagement and make it easier for staff to accomplish their goals. Check-in with your team regularly to understand their motivations and help them feel valued, but also to identify the areas where they feel negative so that you can work together to make changes.

Businesses need to articulate their mission and the targets they’re working towards, to help staff understand what it is they’re working for and to foster a collaborative culture in the workplace. Communication is critical to creating a healthy, happy work culture. In fact, research has shown that when mutual respect, honest feedback and openness was encouraged at work, staff were 80% more likely to cite higher emotional wellbeing. Leaders can also do more to focus on the Plus of The PERMA Model, such as allowing flexible hours to help people to balance work and home life more easily, implementing wellness programmes and encouraging exercise through workplace initiatives.

Role-modelling and positivity

Leaders can lead by example, providing a role model for other team members when it comes to making wellbeing a focus. It’s very difficult to foster your staff’s wellbeing if you’re not focusing on your own, so consider the ways that you can put the proverbial oxygen mask on first before helping others. For example, are you making time to exercise by walking to meetings and making sure you take a full lunch break to eat a healthy meal rather than snacking at your desk? Are you setting clear boundaries between work and home life, leaving the office at a reasonable hour? These examples are important for staff to see in order for them to feel that they can implement them in their own life.

It’s also important that leaders make space for the positive in every day, whether that’s creating space for positivity and celebrating the successes in their own life and the lives of the people around them, or focusing on solutions to situations rather than simply jumping to blame and victimizing. Is performance in the team focused on celebrating achievements and encouraging employees to aim higher? Are the strengths and skills of the team focused on, rather than areas that need improvement? These actions can help to create a culture of positive wellbeing within the team and encourage everyone to consider how they can implement the principles of PERMA into their lives more regularly.

The World of Work Project View

Each of the pillars of The PERMA+ Model contributes to greater wellbeing in both your personal and professional life and each should be pursued for its own sake. By focusing on each component independently, you’ll benefit more widely. For leaders, considering the PERMA+ Model when managing staff can help in creating a more positive and engaged team.

About the Author

Chris is a passionate mental health and well-being writer, focusing on sharing his experience and improving the lives of others. When Chris isn’t researching the latest holistic and well-being therapies, he’s spending time with his two cats, usually curled up on the sofa reading a book. Find Chris on LinkedIn: @chrisharley0

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