Sunday, June 3, 2012

Well-being in Air traffic control (Atc)

What is well-being? Is it health? Is it happiness? Both are correct. The textbook approach tells us that well-being is multidimensional because it is the interaction of different elements of health: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual as well as our environment and our culture. Is the workplace linked to our wellbeing? Yes, it is. What we want to know is how the linkages are made, what affects what. 
Think of well-being as a chain with links. Each link represents an element of health or environment or culture that interacts with another element and so on. The interaction of these links can be strong like a metallic chain or weak like paper decorations. We can call this the sum effect of our well-being which will either improve or diminish our happiness, outlook, social interaction and health.

How do you describe your well-being as an air traffic controller?

like a paper chain
like a metallic chain


or like this?

You may say, okay Rachel, well-being is subjective and its not just about the job. Then I might be tempted to use the 2 word phrase I learned in my first undergrad economics class: ceteris paribus. In the world of ceteris paribus, economists hold everything constant except the calculation of utility and the learning of the Greek alphabet. But that answer is too easy. Instead I prefer to abandon the idea of ceteris paribus until a later post where I'll  write about utility in Atc and I will counterargue that atcos provide a 24 hour service using highly specialised skills to safely guide aircraft from point A to point B so the job and well-being are related or as my fellow economists will say that the relationship is monotonic. 
This means that if my well-being is not good, it will have a negative effect on my productivity at work. Organizational psychologists love to talk more so they will say that if elements of work are not good, then my well-being will be negatively affected and my productivity is lowered and this affects the organization. Behavioral economists are fervent supporters of utility so they will compare the workplace to a market and say that if the bundle of utility of well-being is low, the welfare gains to the worker is low and the gains to the market economy or the job are even lower and bam! show you some graphs and equations with  strange greek letters. In this blog I will do all 3 approaches. Please accept my humblest apologies.I could bore us all by repeating my classroom lectures and posting utility equations about atcos and intrinsic gains. But instead of the classroom approach, I will use short stories from around the world, videos, slides and fictitious Atc anecdotes to give life to terms that we perhaps  heard very little about but we experience everyday in Atc and take for granted too.

Approaches to Atc well-being

      Organizational psychology approach                Behavioral economics approach

I chose to study how the well-being of a controller is defined by Atc in the context of psychology and economics not just because I spent a decade in the profession but I have always felt that occurrences in the workplace, good or bad can be justified by a behavioral economic or psychoeconomic explanation and I realised 5 years later, that these thoughts were true. The preliminary surveys were closed because I revised them. A professor who is a walking encyclopedia of well-being sent me a link to read and I realized that I could add a few more items to compensate for the fanciful social research methodologies of analysis and computation. I also found a survey site that performed data exports for me for free. I could not have afforded to pay for the exports on the previous site. I will use the preliminary surveys to write a memoire (for a grade) by the12th of June.  What you see on my prior posts are the revised and updated versions of the suyverys. Feel free to fill these surveys and pass them on to our fellow atcos. 
So far, I have received 139 responses from controllers. I thank you all. I also would like to thank IFATCA and EUROCONTROL for cooperating. A correspondent from the latter encouraged me to be innovative in giving the study as much exposure as possible and this blog was born. I also tweeted the surveys. They will remain open until mid-December.  I am hoping to receive responses from about 1000 controllers. I am in the process of writing other agencies to have them posted on their sites and online journals. 
I have learned that ideas can blossom. I have been going to work, reading the aviation publications, ICAO reports and nursing my idea. It was my motivation for going to university and then coming to Paris to do graduate studies. In my research year, I finally saw the steps that I needed to take to work on this idea. The first step was more like a ladder. I never knew that designing a survey was such a mammoth task. I had to take what I learned in 1 semester and apply those principles to a real organization! Designing a survey is like drawing a plan for a house, tomorrow I tell you about this house plan and I share my first story that will explain a behavorism in well-being; stay tuned! 
8 pm and the sun is brilliant....

Designing a survey is like drawing a house plan

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  1. Hi, am sorry to say that I did not complete your questionnaire as I couldn't answer section II - there was no guidance on whether 1 or 12 should stand for "most important", brgds.

  2. Thank you for your feedback. I edited the question to include 1 (most important) - 12 (least important). I hope that you will be able to finish the survey.