Work and Well-Being

Work and Well-Being Project

Well-Being and the Workplace

The Well-Being and the Workplace project aims to study how work and workplace policies contribute to flourishing, and how individual flourishing in turn affects work productivity, engagement, and turnover. 

The project seeks to collect and organize the best social science literature on the topic of work including (i) effects of work on flourishing, (ii) interventions to provide and promote employment, (iii) interventions to enhance the work experience, (iv) effects of flourishing itself on work, and (v) relations between social science research on work and the philosophy of work.

To accomplish these goals, the Program has been collaborating with the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to measure and study well-being in the workplace. The Program’s flourishing measure has been used for this purpose in collaboration with Levi Strauss & Co., Allegacy Credit Union, Owens Corning, many major airlines, and also a new 5-year research collaboration with Aetna.

Publications on Work and Well-Being

Hanson, J.A. (2021). Work in the Platonic Tradition: A History of Labor and Human Flourishing. Bloomsbury.

Frederick, D.E. and VanderWeele, T.J. (2020). Longitudinal meta-analysis of job crafting shows positive association with work engagement. Cogent Psychology, 7:1,1746733.

Weziak-Bialowolska, D., Bialowolski, P., Sacco, P.L., VanderWeele, T.J., and McNeely, E. (2020). Well-being in life and well-being at work: which comes first? Evidence from a longitudinal study. Frontiers in Public Health, 8:103.

Bialowolski, P., McNeely, E., VanderWeele, T.J., and Weziak-Bialowolska, D. (2020). Ill health and distraction at work: costs and drivers for productivity loss. PLoS One, 15(3):e0230562.

VanderWeele, T.J., Węziak-Białowolska, D., Białowolski, P., and McNeely, E. (2019). Re: A comprehensive approach to problems of performance measurement. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A, 182:797-798.

Frederick, D.E. and VanderWeele, T.J. (2019). Supported employment: meta-analysis and review of randomized controlled trials of individual placement and support. PLoS One, 14(2):e0212208.

Im, Y. and VanderWeele, T.J. (2018). The role of first-year maternal employment and paternal involvement in behavioral and cognitive development of young children. Infant Mental Health Journal, 39(4):449-465. 


The Aetna Well-Being project is a collaboration between Aetna Inc., the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, and the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to measure and study well-being. The project consists of (i) the development by Harvard faculty of a well-being metric for use in the Aetna employee population; (ii) the measurement and tracking over time of well-being measures for the Aetna employee population; (iii) the use of this data for research purposes to understand both the life and work determinants of well-being; and (iv) the use of different interventions and services to improve well-being.

Philosophy of Work

The Philosophy of Work project seeks to organize the first comprehensive history of Western philosophical attitudes about work. Even in our own day it could be argued that work, which dominates so much of human life, has still never received the quantity and quality of philosophical attention that it richly deserves. The Philosophy of Work project seeks to rectify that failing by providing a historical framework for re-energizing potential future reflections on the meaning of work for human flourishing. The project will also furnish rich questions for social science investigation, thereby relating a variety of philosophical possibilities to existing and future empirical research for the Well-being and the Workplace project.