In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Work Well-Being

  • Introduction

Psychology Work Well-Being
Annabelle Roberts, Ed O'Brien
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 February 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0237


Only one third of the 100 million full-time employees in the United States feel engaged at work, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report. Engaged employees are enthusiastic, productive, and feel good about their job and their lives outside of it. Alternatively, disengaged employees are unhappy and feel psychologically detached from their everyday work and leisure experiences. Understanding how to improve workplace engagement would help enhance individual well-being and also help improve organizational productivity and retention. Why is the experience of workplace well-being so difficult to achieve? We take a psychological perspective on this issue: how people think about work and leisure, when and why these judgments and intuitions can be mis-calibrated, and in turn understanding how to help people make better-informed work and leisure decisions. Indeed, both employees and managers hold beliefs about everyday work-related choices (such as how to prioritize leisure time and meet deadlines) as well as major career decisions (such as striving to make more money or attain a certain status) that are built upon mere intuition rather than empirical data, which can affect work well-being in unanticipated ways. This literary guide contains four sections that discuss the misconceptions people have in their thinking about work, both on an everyday basis and throughout their career. Thinking about Tasks includes articles both on the errors people make and the processes they should strive for on a daily basis while trying to accomplish their work. Thinking about Fun includes articles about the misconceptions people have about the order and amount of leisure time they should engage in. Thinking about Colleagues draws from the basic psychology of perspective taking to understand how to work more effectively with others. Finally, Thinking about Career Decisions draws from the basic psychology of prospection and thinking about the future to understand the decisions people make over the course of their career trajectory that they (sometimes mistakenly) believe will lead them to a happy and successful work life.

Thinking about Tasks

When thinking about accomplishing tasks at work, people make several types of errors. People engage in the Planning Fallacy and Procrastination, which negatively impact their ability to meet deadlines. Additionally, people multitask (see Multitasking) while working, which creates switching costs and decreases performance. However, there are other ways of thinking about work with more positive consequences. People should focus on finding Flow, experiencing Agency, and establishing intrinsic Motivation.

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