Positive Factors at Work

The First Report of the Nordic Project

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Positive psychology investigates the positive aspects of human life. Positive psychologists contend that it is difficult to understand the factors that create health, balance and meaningful lives through studying sickness, dissatisfaction and suffering. Accordingly, positive psychology represents a turn for a more positive approach to psychology. The ideas of positive psychology are also applicable within the sphere of work and organisational psychology. It is a central contention of this report that positive psychology may provide interesting answers to some of the challenges that are confronting the Nordic welfare states in the years ahead. The aim of this report is to give a theoretical and methodological overview of existing Nordic research about positive factors at work. The report contains a series of operationalised concepts that measure positive factors at work. These measures of positive factors at work are brought together in a theoretical model that the authors of this report will use as a starting point for further research into positive psychology at work in a Nordic context. This research has been funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.




It is difficult to understand the factors that create health, balance and meaningful lives through studying sickness, dissatisfaction and suffering (Snyder & Lopez, 2007). Research on work and organizational psychology has been occupied primarily with the strains experienced in the workplace, e.g. stress, burnout, sick leave, turnover, and negative health symptoms. This research hopefully will contribute towards interventions aimed at the prevention of negative events at work, and therefore be of significance for future research. In the previous five years there have been increasing demands for an equivalent focus on the positive factors at work, namely those leading to job satisfaction, engagement, good health, and productivity. A central hypothesis in this research is that job satisfaction, engagement and good health are not simply the opposite of dissatisfaction, burnout and ill health. If one wants to create a good and healthy work environment it is not sufficient just to remove the negative aspects or reduce the workload, one also will have to add something positive. This is also underlined by the global tendencies in work life, where there are constantly increasing demands and changes affecting workers, leading to new challenges and increasing job insecurity, which in turn may have negative impacts on workers’ health. It is not realistic simply to stake a lot on reducing the demands at work. Changes and job insecurity also seem likely to be an ever present feature of our work environment in the future. However, there seem to be good opportunities for different positive factors at work to modify the negative impacts through various positive mechanisms. There has been a need for a corresponding positive change of focus in psychological research. The main aim of the present project, ‘Positive factors at work’, is to develop theory and methods concerning positive factors at work adapted to Scandinavian working conditions. The project started in January of 2006 and is planned to have duration of three years. The project is cooperation between researchers from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Our aims in this report are to give an overview of existing Nordic projects focusing on positive factors, both theoretically and methodologically, and to build a theoretical model for studying positive factors at work. In the second year of the project our aims are to show the psychometric validity of the chosen positive constructs in Nordic data sets and to develop a Nordic standard for the investigation of positive factors in the context of work. In the third year our goal is to carry out a pilot study in at least one of the Nordic countries based on the project’s previous findings.


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