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Subjective Wellbeing in the Workplace. Kathryn Page Deakin University. What is Subjective Wellbeing?. Subjective Wellbeing (SWB). …a unique blend of affect and cognition that represents the sense of wellbeing we have in relation to life overall

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Subjective Wellbeing in the Workplace

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Subjective Wellbeing in the Workplace

Kathryn Page

Deakin University

What is Subjective Wellbeing?

Subjective Wellbeing (SWB)

…a unique blend of affect and cognition that represents the sense of wellbeing we have in relation to life overall

“How satisfied are you with your life as a whole?”

“How satisfied are you with your life as a whole?”

How satisfied are you with your -----------?

  • Standard of living

  • Health

  • Current achievements in life

  • Relationships

  • Safety

  • Community connectedness

  • Future security




(The Personal Wellbeing Index)

The Personal Wellbeing Index

  • A new systematic measure of SWB

  • Able to track the wellbeing of populations over time

  • Alternative to objective indicators such as GDP

The Stability of SWB

  • SWB ‘set-points’ (70-80%SM)

  • Stability of SWB due to the influences of core affect and SWB homeostasis

  • Core Affect

    • Probably pre-determined (biological)

    • How it is we generally feel

    • Like background music – always there but don’t notice or reflect on it unless directed to.








75 / 100



(Homeostatic challenge)

Homeostatic Theory





The Relationship Between Stressors and SWB

Dominant Source of SWB Control




No stress

High stress


Level of environmental challenge

Hey, wasn’t this supposed to have something to do with work?

An attempt to apply the theory of SWB homeostasis to wellbeing in the workplace

Pre-Prediction Thoughts

  • Differences in how we respond to the question ‘How satisfied are you with your life as a whole’ reflect individual differences in core affect

  • Why?

    • The Abstract-Specific Hypothesis

    • No direction as to what aspects of our life we should think about so just answer according to how we generally feel

Thus, it is predicted that…

  • Hypothesis 1:

    …the evaluations people make about their SWB in relation to work will be less influenced by core affect

  • Why?

    • Because the evaluation is targeted to a specific life domain, people’s answers will reflect what they think or feel in relation to that domain, not how they feel generally.


  • Hypothesis 2:

    …the role of homeostasis will also decrease

  • Why?

    • Homeostasis exists to protect core affect. Thus, if, as predicted, core affect is less influential on work evaluations, homeostasis will also be less influential.

How did I test this?

  • Formed a new construct termed Workplace Wellbeing (WWB)

    • Refers to SWB within the domain of work

  • Measured it in a way similar to the measurement of SWB

    • ‘How satisfied are you with your job as a whole’ and,

    • Satisfaction with work domains

How satisfied are you with your job as a whole?

How satisfied are you with------------?

  • Responsibility

  • Meaningfulness

  • Independence

  • Use of abilities & knowledge

  • Sense of achievement

  • Sense of being valued as a person

  • Recognition

  • Pay

  • Job security

  • Work hours

  • Supervisors

  • Opportunities for promotion




(The Workplace Wellbeing Index)

Workplace Wellbeing defined:

…the measurement of SWB in relation to the workplace, or

…a sense of wellbeing that results from the satisfaction of intrinsic and/or extrinsic work valuesthrough ones experiences at work.

  • Includes both affective and cognitive elements

The Workplace Wellbeing Index (WWBI)

  • A systematic measure of WWB

  • Able to track wellbeing of employees over time (e.g. Before and after an intervention or change in management)

Who did I test?

  • 150 employees of Australian Unity

  • Ages ranging from 16-64 yrs (average 39 yrs)

  • 60% female, 40% male

What did I do to them?

  • Had them fill out an 84-item survey

    • PWI

    • WWBI

    • Core Affect

    • Optimism

    • Control

    • Self-Esteem etc.


1. Preliminary tests – accuracy of my conceptualisation of (a) SWB and (b) WWB

2. Test of hypothesis 1 (The influence of core affect)

3. Test of hypothesis 2 (The role of SWB homeostasis)

4. Test of hypothesis 3 (The relationship between SWB and WWB)

1 (a) Model of SWB

  • Core affect + satisfaction with life domains (PWI) explained 77% of the variance in responses to the question ‘How satisfied are you with your life as a whole?’

1 (b) Model of WWB

  • Core affect plus satisfaction with intrinsic and extrinsic work values (WWBI) explained 77% of the variance in responses to the question ‘How satisfied are you with your job as a whole?’

2, 3 & 4: Hypothesis testing

  • Core affect explained 59% of the variance in SWB but only 28% of the variance in WWB.

  • Self-esteem, optimism and control (homeostatic buffers) explained significant variance in the SWB of the employees under homeostatic challenge but did not explain variance in WWB.

  • There was no relationship between WWB and SWB after core affect was controlled for

What does all this have to do with anything?

  • When our life is relatively stress or problem free, our SWB levels reflect how it is we generally feel (core affect).

  • When life is challenging, our SWB levels reflect our levels of self-esteem, optimism and control as well as how we generally feel

But what does this have to do with work?

  • How it is we generally feel about work also reflects how we generally feel in life but to a lesser extent

    • The Abstract-Specific Hypothesis

  • WWB depends more on whether work satisfies our work values, particularly our intrinsic work values

    • WWB derived more from satisfaction with internal factors such as achievement and recognition than external factors such as work conditions or pay

Would WWB ever affect SWB?

  • Perhaps only in sub-populations

    • Those whose work problems are severe enough to have caused homeostatic defeat.

    • Those who highly value work i.e. see work as important to their identity, life purpose etc.

    • Could represent interesting follow-up studies

Contact me

Kathryn Page

Dept. of Management

Monash University

p: (03) 9903 1313

m: 0401 058 101


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