It’s hard to believe that the annual Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference is already over. It’s always a whirlwind. This year was no different. I learned a lot of new and interesting information about wellness trends. I can’t wait to share it with you! Since the conference is mostly full of folks from our field, I’m happy to spread the word to you. So, what did I learn at the conference this year? Keep reading for my top three key takeaways.
Trend 1: Making Wellness More Comprehensive
One of the best sessions that I attended at the conference with regard to wellness trends covered four key content domains in wellness. These domains were: physiological outcomes, financial insecurity, relationships between stressors and strains, and work and family. First, I learned that a lot of our research which includes physiological outcomes (like blood pressure, heart rate, etc.) is less precise than it could be. For example, for blood pressure measures, you could measure them on the wrist or the upper arm. The problem is that each has different properties. So, when you try to find conclusions by looking across studies, it’s unclear how the numbers compare to one another. Just something to keep in mind when we talk about studies that have health outcomes involved!
I also learned that financial insecurity is one of the top stressors that people experience in life. But, there is very little research in our field on the role of financial insecurity on well-being. There is also very little focus on low wage workers. So, we don’t really know how making less money might impact well-being and decision making. This is definitely an area that I’d like to look into further! Finally, I also learned that, even though there is a lot of work out there on work-family issues and on stress and strain, some of the details are still unclear. What behaviors do individuals need to enact in order to actually achieve balance over time? What is the ideal combination of wellness based activities that helps contribute to health? Stay tuned! We’re working on projects that might help answer some of these questions!
Trend 2: Learning More About What Inclusivity Actually Is
I also went to some sessions on another one of the important wellness trends – making workplaces more inclusive. This is important in order to improve employee well-being and the bottom line. However, it’s still unclear what inclusivity actually means. We know a lot about what not to do when it comes to inclusion. But, we don’t know a lot about what you should do. Some of the sessions discussed how we might create strategies for learning about what behaviors are interpreted as inclusive. Other sessions were based on how to create an environment in which employees feel they can be authentic, but which is also respectful to everyone.
Some of the sessions were specifically addressing the role of political affiliation as a form of diversity. Employers were discussing how to create a climate that is inclusive to everyone but also values diversity. It can be hard if some people feel that their identity is implicated in someone else’s politics (e.g., a gay employee feeling upset about a coworker’s lack of support for gay marriage).
It seems that some employers are taking a hard line stance that their employees have to live the value of diversity and inclusion in very specific ways, whereas other employers are more broad in their approach. Feeling included is really important for well-being and I think that this is a complicated issue. Next year’s conference theme is going to be based on inclusivity, so hopefully we will have more answers by then! The Academy of Management conference theme for this year is also inclusivity, which is great news.
Trend 3: Being Transparent About Your Own Wellness Struggles
I was also able to attend several sessions where the presenters were winners of prestigious research, practice, and teaching awards. Something that I noticed in all of the presentations rounds out my list of wellness trends. I noticed that those who had been successful were being really honest about their struggles with being successful and being well. People talked a lot about honoring failures and seeing them as learning experiences, instead of crushing life events. They also talked a lot about struggles with balancing work and life. Finally, they spoke a lot about how mentors helped them to succeed and gave them motivation to continue during hard times.
I think that it’s really important that successful people share not only their wins, but also their losses. Otherwise, their success seems too daunting and others might not try to achieve what they did. I once heard about a famous person in our field who shared their “anti-resume”. They listed every job they didn’t get, every rejection they ever received, and all the big mistakes they made. I thought that was a great idea! I also think that we can incorporate more of this into our website and podcast as well. People should know about tips that we have for wellness but also where we are struggling personally!
We have talked about some of these themes before, like inclusion. I’ve also talked about my experiences at the SIOP conference before, if you want a reminder. What professional associations are out there in your field? Going to a conference can be a great experience. You should try to attend one that is relevant to your work and life in the future!