Ever since the rise of ‘wellbeing’ as an area of hot interest central to organisations’ performance, coaches and HR professionals have been calling out for more comprehensive ‘real world’ measurements in order to capture the full breadth and depth of wellbeing for specific targeted populations in the workplace. Existing large scale surveys lack the cultural and contextual ‘lived world’ nuances of important bearing on wellbeing, and many if not most of the existing wellbeing measures are either too narrow or conversely too global, or too academic in their exploration. In 2012, Dan Haybron, a leading voice in the wellbeing world, determined that ‘the next big thing’ in wellbeing needed to be a focus on creating more granular and sophisticated instruments to measure wellbeing accompanied by an associated demise in the use of simplistic or single-item wellbeing measures.
Put simply, EEK & Sense agreed with this direction and to cut a long story short, MEWS was conceived! With MEWS, our goal was to create a ‘gold standard’ measure for executive wellbeing, for four key reasons:
- There was nothing else specifically for measuring the wellbeing of senior populations in organisations. Existing wellbeing at work surveys tended to be general – for all levels of employees/ followers/ subordinates; our MEWS research shows there are aspects of wellbeing that are specific to people in senior roles that existing tools do not seem to address or may not have credibility. MEWS is intended to offer the choice of a more relevant and granular tool to assist in identifying senior managers’ levels of wellbeing as well as valuable insights about what form of support or change would be most useful.
- Employee wellbeing programs to date have tended to focus on the physical domains of health alone, taking a highly medicalised approach. There are wellbeing programs for senior executives, but these tend to be oriented strongly towards physical health rather than wellbeing, perhaps with the more enlightened referencing mental health, but that’s as far as most seem to go – social wellbeing, spiritual wellbeing, intellectual wellbeing – these seem to have been somewhat overlooked.
- There is scope to use MEWS as an educational, developmental and feedback resource for managers and executives i.e. to help inform them of the factors that might be enhancing or detracting from their wellbeing; to give them insights and encourage them to look at wellbeing in a holistic way. Providing feedback and development opportunities to senior leaders assists them to self-monitor their wellbeing more effectively, by providing a robust and detailed diagnosis with which to identify and measure the factors of most relevance to their unique wellbeing needs.
- To provide comprehensive data and insights necessary to develop policy and management practices around wellbeing, promoting healthier, more socially inclusive, supportive, emotionally sustainable, connected, meaningful and rewarding work environments that will help to ameliorate the debilitating pressures on executives. MEWS assists organisations to identify potentially appropriate and tailored interventions and/or changes to policy, management practices, team and individual leadership behaviours.
A broad conceptual model was created comprising two main sections: Working Well and Living Well using existing wellbeing definitions and clinical knowledge of typical factors likely to impact executive wellbeing. Within these two sections, 6 subcategories were identified, 4 of which were felt to hold relevance both inside and outside of work sections, as shown:
A large item pool was written to reflect the 6 constructs in the model outlined above and were derived from previous published research on wellbeing and a review of other established wellbeing measures. The draft items were developed using an iterative item generation process based on:
- Relationship to wellbeing (i.e. what is the relationship between the response to the question and the respondent’s wellbeing)
- Clarity of content and construct for question (i.e. will target respondents relate to what is being asked?)
- Differentiation from other items (i.e. measuring something discrete).Link to the model as above and categorising into broad clusters (does it map onto foundational elements in the proposed wellbeing model above?)
- Likelihood of respondents giving honest answers (social desirability or self-deception responding to sensitive items)
- Suitability for use with the proposed rating scale
- Suitability of language for the intended target audience
A panel of ten subject matter experts (comprising registered clinical and organisational psychologists, psychiatry and psychotherapy experts, human resources and leadership development professionals and executive coaches specialising in wellbeing) reviewed the pool of draft items and provided critical feedback on the questions and any missing constructs, as well as advice on the choice of rating scale and general design of the questionnaire.
Using this expert panel’s detailed feedback, the items, rating scale and general design of the survey were refined and expanded. The beta version of the survey questionnaire comprised 150 items, split across the 2 sections and corresponding subcategories of the conceptual model – Working Well (85 items) and Living Well (65 items) presented above. Following statistical analysis based on a sample of 100+ executive respondents, the items were refined and reduced to 125 items for the final version. For more detail on this trialing process see MEWS Research Findings. The items are presented in a randomised order under the two broad section headings of ‘Working Well’ and ‘Living Well’. The questionnaire is securely hosted and uploaded on the platform of an established psychometric test publisher used globally to administer 35,000 assessments annually. The security of the respondents’ information and data storage is guaranteed by the provider: Qualtrics.
MEWS was to be designed to help individuals, teams and organisations identify and understand the detailed spectrum of factors both inside and outside of work that are the positive and negative drivers of executive wellbeing. Our development criteria were to ensure:
- Comprehensive coverage of the physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing components of wellbeing, contextualised to the ‘lived life’ of senior managers and leaders
- Suitability of content for an executive population (i.e. face validity in language, administration methods and instructions and outputs)
- Applicability to an organisational wellbeing context (i.e. reference to work-related wellbeing enhancers and detractors)
- Relevant and useful supporting resources for use by respondents (i.e. quality of reporting, advice and support)
- Robust design of the tool (i.e. item design, validity, ongoing research)