“Building better job practices and positive leadership culture can be done practically in any circumstances, and without heavy financial investments”
We asked research professor and course leader Jari Hakanen about his research career and interest in positive psychology.
“We need to address both the problems and the endless potential in human beings and organizations”
My background is in social psychology. Before entering the world of work-life research as a burnout researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, I had been studying care experiences of dying cancer patients and worked as a researcher in the Finnish suicide prevention project. After those jobs, I was surprised how negative talk and often cynical attitudes surrounded work-life discourse, and well-being at work was only discussed in terms of stress, burnout, and sick leaves. I then started to do research on work engagement and positive workplace behaviors but not forgetting that many employees also suffer from burnout and boredom at work. We need to address both the problems and the endless potential in human beings and organizations not only to survive but also to flourish.
When I studied social psychology at the University of Helsinki, I was not interested in work-life topics at all. Those topics seemed to belong to more applied fields of science. However, becoming a researcher one day was a dream job already then. But it took eight years after graduation to get to my present research career started. I soon got to know Wilmar Schaufeli who has been my greatest inspirer and support also. He has attended even more NIVA courses than I have and I’m happy he’s lecturing again on our next course!
Highlights, challenges and goals
There are major highlights like the four-hour doctoral defense in 2005 and then there are other types of highlights, for instance, getting feedback from a burned-out employee giving thanks to my work or something I have written or said in media that has touched her/him.
And regarding the challenges, getting funds has become more and more difficult. It takes a lot of effort to write good applications and the result is always uncertain. And of course, lack of time to do everything one dreams or wants to do.
“My mission is zero burn out in Finland and to boost flourishing organizations with engaged leaders having servant mindset and proactive, engaged employees.”
I’m an idealist. My mission is zero burn out in Finland and to boost flourishing organizations with engaged leaders having servant mindset and proactive, engaged employees. Currently, we for instance continue our “How is Finland doing?” follow-up research of the changes in employee well-being in Finland just before, during and now after the pandemic. In addition, we have a project focusing on multi-location work, i.e., in-office, hybrid and remote work, as well as an on-going 20-year follow-up study among Finnish dentists.
The importance of positive psychology
I assume we all agree that different sorts of work-life problems and insecurities will never disappear. What we can do is to build employee and job-related potential and resources. What I have learned over the years is that organizations and employees may be helpless in trying to decrease different demands and stressors. However, building better job practices and positive leadership culture can be done practically in any circumstances, and without heavy financial investments!
Regarding our upcoming NIVA course on Positive Psychology at Work, I hope every participant will enjoy our course and learn and get inspired as much as I have always done on these courses. NIVA courses provide fantastic opportunities to discuss and learn from each other, researchers form practitioners and practitioners from researchers. Welcome!
Course: Positive Psychology at Work: Towards Flourishing Workplaces, 14th – 16th of November 2023, Clarion Hotel, Uppsala, Sweden
More information: Course web page | Course registration | Last registration date: 10.10.2023