Human Flourishing and Work

‘The experience of life going well involves both feeling good and functioning well.’ Felicia Huppert

The State of Wellbeing Science (2014)

Human Flourishing, being a very old topic with a wide tradition, is a convoluted and complex concept. Where happiness was once preferred, the term itself is now used as an appropriate English expression for the Greek word eudaimonia. Yet, it appears our notion of whether we flourish or not combines the two, our sensations of pleasure and happiness expressed in feeling good (hedonic), and functioning well (eudaimonic).

My interest in Human Flourishing is primarily linked to how we might flourish in the workplace. It was originally piqued by my own experiences – negative and positive – of work, then deepened by my discussions with others and through my own research. Indeed, I began to believe that, as we spend much of our lives working and it is a place where much of our interaction within society occurs, work ought to be seen as a central component of an enriching, flourishing life.

Yet the prevalent experience of work is seemingly the opposite; with confining, unfair, or simply mediocre organisational processes and practices ostensibly the norm. Personal anecdotes and organisational surveys reveal a litany of disengaged staff, toxic bosses and limited growth opportunities. The result, I suggest, is a palpable knock-on towards organisational efficiency, effectiveness and creativity (in Western Europe only 10% of staff are actively engaged in their work), and more widely to personal relationships, families, and society.

Surprisingly in the civil society field, where one might expect organisations that epitomise more enlightened work practices, one can meet a similar divergence from the values I believe the community should hold – an ‘elephant in the room’. It has led me to understand that this needs challenging. So that work and workplaces will provide experiences that help us to explore our potentials and to fully develop our personalities; that we might be said to flourish whilst we work.

Indeed, orientating the concept of human flourishing with my work, as a convenient label, has led me to propose what I’ve called Enriching Organisations. Something of an organisational ideal inspired by the civil society milieu in which I operate, but an ideal that rather serves to scrutinise what organisations might really stand for in relation to their people.

The following pages present more of these developing ideas. Ideas that I am looking to promote further and that I hope to build into the work I do with my clients:

Connect with me if you are interested to investigate these ideas for your own organisation.

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