Why wellbeing should not be summarised into a single score.
One of our specialisations at Be Well Co is our scientific approach to measuring the wellbeing of individuals and organisations. Wellbeing measurement is a topic of interest for a lot of people who contract us for workforce wellbeing projects, so we decided to give some insight into our approach and share some of our learnings over the years. We will be publishing this as a blog series so follow us on social media to stay updated.
Let’s start with the most basic principle to our measurement and reports: We do not summarise our results into a single wellbeing score. Not for individuals. Not for organisations.
This comes down to one of our core principles: we do not believe* that wellbeing is a singular concept that can be captured by a summary score (*believe is probably a terrible choice of words, you will see that in a second). Feeling well and feeling mentally healthy consists of many different aspects: our emotions (which is an endless list by itself), feeling satisfied with life, self-acceptance, having purpose, feeling connected, not experiencing worry, feeling able to cope with stress, not too much rumination, not feeling fatigued, experiencing vigour and so on.
We will all differ in how we score on these various parts of our mental health. The importance we place on these different aspects with also differ as we all have unique needs. I may score 3/10 in loneliness, 9/10 in stress and 8/10 in anxiety, while you may score: 10/10 in loneliness, 6/10 in stress and 4/10 in anxiety. Although the combined score may be the same, we would differ in what we need to get ourselves to a better place.
Sure, we can group various aspects of our mental health together in bigger buckets (e.g. anxiety, wellbeing, resilience), but going further is really not a good idea and doesn’t tell you or your organisation anything on what to do next. This last part is important because let’s be real, you aren’t measuring wellbeing for the sake of it or to feel warm and fuzzy: you do it because you want to know where to invest energy to get you and your people to a better place (or at least you should).
Luckily scientific measurement – one of the things that makes Be Well Co different - simply does not allow us to reliably group your mental health into a single score if we truly want to do justice to measurement. Could we technically come up (i.e. make something up) with a single score: sure. Would that be meaningful and scientifically sound: highly debatable. It is unlikely to be reliable and it is unlikely to be valid, which means that organisations may start making decisions based on measurement results that don’t really exist – more on reliability and validity, and why you really shouldn’t just make up questions in a future instalment of this blog series.
For us, measurement has the important role to identify areas for action. This is why we have a core measure that covers varying key domains that influence how well we feel; domains that are universally accepted as important parts of the mental health of any individual.
Using this core measure allows us to benchmark, to date we have measured over 15,000 individuals across varying industries.
However as mentioned earlier, individual and organisations have unique needs. No organisation is the same, which is why we tailor our measurement to organisational contexts. Our core measure can be supplemented with a bunch of different scientifically reliable measures. Do you think burnout is a problem: let’s measure it! Do you think your staff have problems coping with stress or change: let’s measure it! Do you want to investigate optimism: let’s measure it!
Let’s measure it scientifically, so you know that the actions you will take in the future are responsibly data-driven.
The next instalment of this series will consider other strengths of our approach and will discuss different aspects of measurement. We will also cover learnings as well as weaknesses of relying on subjective evaluations and point-in-time measurements for example. Ultimately, this series will set the scene for some key innovations to our own approach from 2022 onwards.
Learn more about how you can use the Be Well Tracker as part of your organisation’s wellbeing strategy.