Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Art of being Satisfied

Wellbeing is important in ATC. How much do you agree with that statement? What ideas do the word wellbeing bring to your mind? In 1946, the World Health Organization (WHO) used the word in the preamble to its constitution; "health is a state of complete physical, social and mental wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".  The simplest notion of wellbeing is that it is a holistic state of being well. It is a state that is dependent upon several aspects of wellness. What is the link between wellbeing and work? How can we define wellbeing in the context of ATC?  How important is it to understand the concept of the satisfied contoller? What contribution can ATCOs and their assistants make?

Since 2001, WHO has associated mental wellbeing with productivity.  Workplace wellbeing is important since we spend at least a third of our life and at least half of our waking hours at work according to the Blackdog Institute, one of the prominent organizations devoted to the research of workplace wellbeing.  
How can we describe our wellbeing at work? Kahneman (1973) made a link between happiness and productivity. Kahn (1990) postulated that for an employee to feel engaged to her work she must have meaningful, safe and available psychological resources for purpose, self-growth and support. Seligman (2011) explained that when we are engaged in a task, we enjoy it; we are in a state of flow. Based on those concepts, how will you explain wellbeing in the ATC unit?
To illustrate the role of wellbeing at work think of yourself as a chain with links. From the diagram above, each link in your chain represents an aspect of wellbeing that is subject to your past and present experiences as well as your hopes for the future. 
At the workplace, there are a collection of these chains to make a bigger chain. Imagine if one of your links were broken due to the culture of management style or physical work environment, what do you think will happen to the organizational chain?
The theme of this year's IFATCA conference is Satisfied controller = safe sky.  For an ATCO to produce a safe sky, all aspects of  her wellbeing must be satisfied. This means that we will  strive to develop the concept of wellbeing within the context of ATC if it is important to us.  Before I left for my studies abroad, I explained my research interest to 2 senior managers, one with an ATC background and the other without ATC experience. Both were of the view that my research was irrelevant and my studies were not suitable for ATC.  Today, those  sentiments remain unchanged even though there is a new senior manager. Hopefully, recognizing the importance of wellbeing is the consensus of the majority of ATC units.

If you are engaged in ATC, you will enjoy  it, you will be in flow.   Apart from the actual process of ATC, what  feature of your ATC unit makes you feel engaged ?

From a national survey across the United Kingdom on workplace wellness by Nuffield Health Organization, 87% of the companies with more than 1000 employees discussed wellbeing at a board level. 41% of these companies viewed it as a strategic priority. Companies that were concerned about workplace wellbeing performed 10% better than those who were not concerned. What can we say about ATC units across the globe? 
To validate the statement that job satisfaction is equated with safety performance, we  need to carry out a study or data analysis. This requires evidence. We need to collect evidence of the organizational behavior across ATC units and to collect evidence of  individual behavior in each unit. We need to measure, compare and make inferences from the evidence to know if our speculation is correct - that the more satisfied controller produces a safer sky. The most effective way to collect the evidence is via data collection. If the data collected is insufficient, then we will not have enough evidence to verify our claim. For the conference, I will incorporate a data analysis to test the evidence from ATC units and to compare the results with those obtained from outside the domain of ATC. 

Each day we make inferences by analyzing data, we must do the same to validate our claims in ATC 
This is the second study on wellbeing in ATC. The first was a preliminary attempt which I will talk about in the following post. ATCOs and their assistants can make a contribution to this research by either clicking here to fill out the inventory or by clicking on the blue writing at the top of the blog which also leads to the inventory. I will try to include a counter. If it is not possible, I will simply post the total number of respondents once a week. 

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