Podcast: Why is wellbeing important?

This is episode 4 of the Wholegrain Leadership Podcast.

Wellbeing is on everybody’s mind. Who doesn’t want to be well, healthy and happy, after all? In this episode, I’m talking to a real expert in this field, Dr. Anat Itay-Sarig.

We discuss what well-being means, why it’s more than just the occasional yoga class or a latte macchiato in the morning, and why you as a leader should pay attention to the issue. We cover the spheres of public policy, where wellbeing has been discussed for quite some time now and is part of the official government policy of countries such as New Zealand, but we also talk a lot about what this means for businesses.

Finally, we connect the dots between wellbeing, which can be a fluffy concept at times, and the hard world of numbers and statistics. My guest Anat is a data scientist, after all.

Dr. Anat Itay-Sarig
Anat Itay-Sarig

Dr. Anat Itay-Sarig is an expert on planning and measuring wellbeing, progress, and happiness – particularly incorporating them into strategy and policy for the public, private and third sector. She was the chief scientist and co-founder of BBetter, a data analytics start-up acquired in 2019.

She holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and conducted a substantial part of her research in UCL, the University of London. She is teaching at the Government & Sustainability program at the IDC Herzliya, and at the MBA program at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo.

She is a consultant to international organizations, NGOs, governments, and businesses on how to apply wellbeing prism into their strategies. Anat passionately advocates for using wellbeing indicators to better plan success.

Matthias Catón: [00:00:00] Wellbeing is on everybody’s minds who doesn’t want to be well, healthy and happy. After all, today I’m talking to a real expert in this field, Dr. Anat Itay-Sarig. We will discuss what wellbeing means, why it’s more than just the occasional yoga class or a latte macchiato in the morning, and why you as a leader should pay attention to the issue.
My name is Matthias Catón and today we will be talking about wellbeing, and I have a great interview guest here today. Her name is Dr. Anat Itay-Sarig. She is an expert on planning and measuring wellbeing, progress, and happiness. Particularly how to incorporate those things into strategy and policy for the public, the private and the third sector.
She was the chief scientist and cofounder of be better a data analytics startup that I think recently got sold. She holds a PhD from the Hebrew university of Jerusalem and she has done research. At UCL in London, and she’s also teaching right now in the government and sustainability program at IDC in Herzliya in Israel, and also at the MBA program at the academic college of Tel Aviv Jaffo.
She’s a consultant to international organizations. NGOs governance businesses on how to apply wellbeing into strategy, and she’s a passionate advocate for using wellbeing indicators to better plan success. That was a long introduction, but you’re doing a lot of things. Welcome to the show, Anat!
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:02:01] Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure to be here. Great. So let’s start off with a definition. When we’re talking about wellbeing. What exactly do you mean with that? Ah, that’s a very good question and a very tricky question as well. I think the main point is that wellbeing differs from being happy, important as it is or from being healthy.
Important as that is, or being safe, uh, having proper infrastructure and other aspects of life that we all need to have. I think it’s beyond the, what we would like to have. It is an additional layer to that, but I’d say that wellbeing is having what you need in different life domains that every person needs, and also attaining the possibility to prosper.
So it’s having those basic things that you’d need in life, but also having possibilities to prosper. So it’s more than just being healthy. Isn’t that how you could say that? Absolutely. I mean, how many people are. Perfectly healthy, but not happy or do not have a job or, which is extremely important for wellbeing, to give one example or feel that something in their lives is not going as they had planned.
It’s becoming, I think more and more common knowledge that health is only one aspect of wellbeing. Probably most people would agree that being well is something that is very important to oneself personally to the family and so on and so forth. But why do you say that this is actually a wider topic for society?
It is important for governments and it is also important for businesses. Why should businesses even care about how well someone is. We’ve come a long way from thinking that we understand everything. Let’s start with that. Yeah. I mean, we used to have indicators or proxies or ways of understanding the market that are becoming.
More and more. I don’t know if I dare to say that you relevant, but if you aspire as a strategy only to increase growth for your company, but you neglect to think about the wellbeing of your employees, you have a problem. And if as a country you aspire for higher GDP, gross domestic product, and you neglect to think about how that GDP spreads across different populations, how.
It spreads across health and education, and again, infrastructure and safety and other aspects of life, which are important for everybody. Then you have a very big problem. And when looking at policies, I mean, look at these sandinistian countries. I think they are. A wonderful example for countries who acknowledged to start with that.
The fixation on economic growth could be harmful because as every fixation, it’s only a fraction of what is really important in life. And so they’re a great example of countries who said, yes, economic growth is wonderful. It’s a great strategy position, but it’s not everything. Wellbeing is everything. So it’s how we spread that economic growth across the nation and et cetera, et cetera.
And that, and that’s just one example from the policy sphere. I think that we see more and more of wellbeing strategy towards different markets. You gave this long introduction and I, and I’m going to add one layer to it. I recently joined a company named Ment.io and it has a product and the product is a discussion platform.
It’s an AI platform that reads discussions and gives you smart analytics. It reads discussions, and it gives you smart analytics to make better decisions. Now, how does wellbeing fall into that picture? Every product that we see nowadays. Needs to or is already considering your wellbeing as the customer.
It’s not even employees anymore. It has moved from policy to strategy towards employees towards, let’s think about the customer in these terms. It’s not just about what they buy. It’s about whether what they buy serves their wellbeing. So that’s a lot of information in capsulated into one answer, but it’s just to give you the, uh, the gist of things, I guess.
Matthias Catón: [00:06:23] Yes, thank you very much. We’ll break it up for listeners a little bit more in the course of this podcast. Before we get there, I want to move onto something a bit different because I like to have like the personal motivation of people. So why are you so interested in this? Topic and wellbeing. And how did you originally get involved in it?
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:06:41] When I started studying, I somehow knew I wanted to study political science and I somehow knew that the thing that is most fascinating for me is how do we know that society is progressing? How do we know what progress is. I was sitting in different classes on ideologies. It all started from ideologies.
And I heard these fascinating topics, and I was reading marks, um, and I was reading other philosophers who wrote about the perfect or the utopian future that you could get to if you. Would only do things right. And they all seemed like lovely stories to me, but there was such a huge gap between these beautiful stories and how they rolled in reality.
Think of the Soviet union. It was anything but. The Marxist vision. And it’s the same for fascism. And it’s the same for liberalism. None of them rolled out to be what the original thinkers of these philosophy had had in mind. And so it really bothered me. And so I found myself delving deeper and deeper into, okay, so how do we know if we’re headed in the right direction towards a utopia or towards a complete disaster?
How do we know? And I found myself. I’m in a journey with lots and lots of other fascinating, really smart people from around the world, busy with, especially with policy, especially with policy issues of how do we know that the country is actually going where we wanted it to go. Um. So for me, it started in academia, and I think it’s, it’s kind of a reflection of how it rolled out across the world.
So it turns out to be that it starts with academia, with scholars who ask very big questions, um, quality of life questions, well being, questions within philosophy, within psychology, within sociology. Um, economics was kind of lagging behind, but it was all. Asking these questions and then it moved to the realm of policy.
So I moved with it to the realm of policy, working with the OCD and with other scholars around the world. And since then it had moved to strategy and to corporates. But yeah, I think for me it’s always about how do we know that we’re doing better, that that’s the gist of it, really. Let’s talk a little bit about the sphere of public policy, because I think there, the topic of wellbeing has been.
Discuss the or is being discussed for quite some time. It’s maybe a bit, you were in the world of business, so I’ve got to ask you the question that always comes up now. How is this any better than traditional measures? Let’s touch us. GDP per capita, for example, or others and aren’t they? In the end, very much correlated in the sense that more GDP means better wellbeing so that we don’t really need any other indicators and so on and so forth.
Matthias Catón: [00:09:34] What, what do you say to these kinds of criticisms that I usually. Any sort of discussion about wellbeing? Well, I’ll start with the, I’ll start with the short answer, which is GDP doesn’t always correlate with other good measures. So we see how the United States is life expectancy rates are actually decreasing or actually in a worse state than it used to be.
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:09:58] Um, it’s a recent development, but it is happening because the investment of what GDP is bringing is not being spread across the health system in a way that keeps life expectancy in its best, best state, and even growing. We see it in health, but we also see it in other things as well. I mean, there are two aspects to criticisms regarding the GDP.
One is the GDP doesn’t really count what it’s supposed to count. Even in that area, it’s very problematic. So it counts. Everything that we buy. It doesn’t care whether I buy something that is positive for me and is increasing my wellbeing or that is negative for me. I don’t know if I have to buy water because the water in the tap are not good enough, then that’s good for the GDP.
It’s very bad for me and not to mention crime that is very positive for the GDP. It’s very bad for people’s wellbeing. And so on and so forth. The second type of argument is that how can we only look at money as if it’s the only thing that tells us something about our lives? There’s something seriously wrong with that perception because it’s not correlated with everything that we care about.
It doesn’t care at all. Whether I spend time with my children. And I could have so much money and wore it from day to night and never see my kids. And so how does the GDP in that way indicates anything about my wellbeing?
Matthias Catón: [00:11:25] Isn’t that in the end, a matter of personal choice, for example? I mean, any individual could theoretically decide whether they want to earn more money or spend more time with their kid.  People might, yeah. Want to get filthy rich. Others may want to spend more time with kids and friends and family.
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:11:42] I wish it was, I don’t think we live in an ecosystem that enables so much choice. There isn’t as much choice as we’d like to think. The new liberal conception of, I decide my own faith and I decide, I mean, it even goes as far as you can be happy regardless of the circumstances you live in now.
That’s. True to some extent. I mean, you could live in a extreme poverty and still be happy. It is possible. I think we would all agree it’s not advisable. And so the circumstances in which you live determine quite a lot of how you conduct yourself in life. And there’s a whole industry of happiness trying to argue towards the amount of choice that we have within.
How happy we are, but we cannot neglect, and this is a policy question from head to toe. We cannot neglect the circumstances in which we live in. And it’s very difficult to get to a position where you can choose your job and you could choose your hours that you spend at the office or you spend at home.
Most people have to go to work because they have to earn money, and if they don’t supply, let’s say the. And amount of hours necessary for that job, they will be fired. And so no, it’s not just their own personal choice. Sorry to be so blunt, but yeah, there’s something to it that is extremely, uh, I feel very passionately about it, obviously.
Matthias Catón: [00:13:15] No, that’s okay. Absolutely. I think that’s, that’s great to hear that you’re so passionate about it. So the, the concept of wellbeing has spread and it is also part of the sustainable development goals and figures there in one of the goals. Could you explain what is meant by that in the context of the sustainability development goals.
Which by the way, for those listeners who are not familiar with, they are just set of goals set by the international community through the United nations on how we should develop until, what’s the year, the deadline for the girl, supposedly 2030 and they’re the successes of the millennium development goals.
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:13:52] I think it’s quite obvious that they are the successors of the millennium development goals because the wellbeing part of this, of the SDGs, sustainable development goals is very. Narrow. I mean, I love the SDGs. I think they’re great. I think that once all nations and all and the market will adopt such goals, it will.
I mean, they have, but I mean practically make, um, more and more substantial steps towards them, then that would be wonderful. But in the true, the prison of wellbeing, I’d say two goals. Correlate or correspond to wellbeing. One is the third, the third goal, which is about health and wellbeing. In that sense, I mean with within that goal, it is very much focused on health.
So it uses lots of objective indicators that are correlated, that are measuring health. It’s not even correlated. It’s measured. It’s measuring health. And the other goal that might be. Related to a wellbeing is SDG 17 which talks about partnerships. We’d, how do we as, as a community, as a global community, aspire to achieve the goals.
And so within that goal, you can hear nuances of. This is something that we’re doing together towards the wellbeing of the planet, the people of the planet, and all partners. These are, these are great goals that if we can meet them in a timely manner because time is pressing, right? Uh, if we can meet them in a timely manner, then, then that should make a world of difference. But it’s very, but in the sense of wellbeing, it is more limited.
Matthias Catón: [00:15:36] What, what other concepts. I think the most famous is probably the one used by the government of potassium, the gross national happiness indicator, and I think New Zealand also has something called the living standards framework or those broader concepts.  What do they entail?
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:15:53] I love the New Zealand initiative. I love what they do. I recommend following the prime minister. She is a real inspiration. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the fact that she’s a female because there’s a, there’s a really nice, uh, there’s a really nice Ted’s by the first minister of Scotland, which is also taking part in the wellbeing initiatives.
And she mentions the fact that all three prime ministers. That are engaged with wellbeing initiatives are females, and she gives it to the audience to decide whether that has anything to do with it. I think it’s an interesting detail. Um, the revolutionary thing that New Zealand had done was to attach wellbeing indicators to its budget, to the national budget.
And that is a true revolution because by, I mean, in the last. 10 years. Most of the countries around the world have adopted wellbeing indicators. However, there’s a huge distance between adopting indicators and actually using them for the purposes of policy. And another step forward is using them as part of the national budget.
And so the fact that New Zealand is doing that. I think that’s the, that’s the great revelation regarding Bhutan. I love the, the Bhutanese index, and I think it’s really interesting to note that it’s called the national gross happiness, but it is actually a wellbeing index. It does not only look at personal happiness of the individual or of the nation or the assembly, you know, the aggregation of the nation.
It actually looks at wellbeing. It’s health and safety at community reward other aspects that are all wellbeing. So I think this also highlights the fact that there’s a confusion very often and very understandable one between happiness. That words that is supposed to encapsulate everything for us. But actually it’s a word that refers to the mental state.
And wellbeing, which refers to the mental States and physical States and every other aspect, including happiness and including health into our wellbeing.
Matthias Catón: [00:17:59] But it’s been very slow, I think the adaption, right. So I mean, Wu-Tang has been doing it for a while now, but they are, after all, no disrespect for, they’re tiny and to rather remote country.
New Zealand is also pretty remote. It’s a bit bigger, but they are the only ones, at least that I’m aware of, who have rolled something like this out on the national scale. Why is there this reluctancy? Why is it so difficult to move it from the aspirational sphere of international organizations and lofty goals to the practical or more practical world of really public policy in a country.
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:18:34] I love that question and I wonder if I want to answer it in a politically correct way or in the honest way,
Matthias Catón: [00:18:42] I’d rather have you go for the honors way that makes them offer interesting podcasts.
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:18:46] I think economists are the last to adopt these new initiatives and they have tremendous influence on how policies are being carried out.
And so. I’ll quote you, no disrespect to two economists, but I think it’s a, it’s a, it’s a huge obstacle in the sense that it’s really difficult for the economic theories to accept that there is such a huge failure in the market in the sense that the proxies of the use might not be the right ones. So that’s one way of answering this question.
The second way of answering this question, which is again, very honest. Indicates towards or points at change agents. I think that in the past 10 years, yes, it has been a slow change, but it has been a slow change because the OCD. And other international organizations have acted as a network and network of networks for this adaptation that needs to take place.
And different agents have been performing, have been doing their thing in their places to make that change happen. And it’s slow and it takes a while and it goes against every instinct of the traditional. Economists, but it is, but I think it is happening. Okay. That’s good to hear that these efforts of many years in organizations such as the UCD are finally slowly paying some fruits and let’s hope that maybe more women as heads of governments will push this forward.
Matthias Catón: [00:20:22] Although I have to say as a counter example of we’ve had a female head of government for quite some time, and I’m not sure. If she is truly interested in these kinds of topics. So maybe it’s not only about gender.
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:20:34] Then in the end, I will say on her behalf that she has been leading some efforts on, uh, public participation in the definition of what wellbeing is.
Angela Merkel has done some extensive work. I mean, she had people in her office, but sitting in her office doing work on how do people in Germany. Define wellbeing, which is an incredibly important step towards getting good indicators to reflect that wellbeing.
Matthias Catón: [00:21:03] Okay, that’s good to hear. I’m glad to hear that Germany is also involved in these kinds of initiatives.
Now, we’ve talked a little bit about way wellbeing is obviously important to you as an individual, and that’s, that makes sense. We’ve talked about how this is important in the realm of public policy. Let’s now move on a little bit to the world of business, and that I think is. Much newer in the terms of the, of the concept and uh, yeah.
Let me start again with a very open question. Why on earth should a business care about wellbeing as a concept? Why is that important?
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:21:36] Businesses would like sustainability and they would like to grow. They all like these two aspects. They don’t want to go home tomorrow and they don’t want to stay as they are in order to do that.
If you look at the money. You miss out only at the money. Yeah. You miss out on too many aspects that are crucial for your bridge, for your business. So let’s take the most obvious one, which is employees. Employees might get high salaries, but every research shows that it’s, it’s not what makes them like their jobs or perform them to the best possible way.
And so if you’d like your employees to be more engaged, and every. Every manager needs their employees to be engaged. So if you’d like your employees to be more engaged, then you have to consider their wellbeing. It’s not just about the money that they take home. It’s not just about their salaries. Um, so that’s one aspect of it.
The second aspect of it is that more and more companies are learning to realize that if they neglect aspects such as. The wellbeing of the communities where they work, then they have a problem. So let’s take for instance, construction companies or retail or really any other business that you’d think of that has factories that are located in different places around the world.
Every once in a while we hear of a company which has a great brand name that suddenly. Suddenly news are exposed that this company, again, which has great reputation, is not taking care of the people working in its factories or the communities around its factories, and that the working conditions and the conditions that the pollution that the factories, uh, produce or, or any other aspect of it that is related to the wellbeing of the people.
Uh, in the communities around these areas, these are all aspects that any company that needs to keep its brand name going has to consider. So it’s not even a question of, do you want to be kindhearted and consider the wellbeing of people? It is about, would you like your business to be sustainable and profitable?
And I, I will add to that, that it is a huge challenge. It’s a huge challenge in the. Practical level of what do you do with an employee that you feel should be working harder, but they say they have difficulties at home and they can’t give their best at the moment. What do you do when everybody’s looking at the bottom line, your profit bottom line.
Why would you add an extra. Uh, what would you spend more money on making the, the factory more environmental friendly? These are all dilemmas that the corporate world is facing every day. Uh, but what I’m arguing is, and it’s not just me, it’s, uh, it’s becoming slowly but becoming more and more common knowledge that it’s the only way to succeed these days.
Matthias Catón: [00:24:44] Wellbeing by its very nature probably is. A bit fluffy, vague concept with probably different definitions. If you ask two people, you will get two different definitions. I know that you are. Passionate about wellbeing, but you’re also passionate about data. You are very hard driven, and I’m very analytical person.
Maybe, I don’t know, can I call you a geek or something like that. So you, you deal with data and decision making and all these kinds of things. How do they fit together? How can I, as a business leader, for example, translate this warm and fluffy feel good, a weld of wellbeing. I’m exaggerating, not a little bit into the realm of business, which after all is driven by KPIs and mostly numerical indicators that also allow me to measure whether or not I’m making progress because it’s one thing being convinced about something and trying to make an impact or have an impact.
Yeah. In the sphere of your influence in other is actually knowing whether or not you are making progress well beyond beautiful brochures that you can put out or nice statements. How can you put this into the heart weld of numbers and data?
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:26:01] Thank you so much for this question and yes, I warmly embrace being a.
Wellbeing geek, uh, and then indicators geek. Definitely. Um, I think that we measure all the time. We measure so many things, and so many of what we measure is staying irrelevant to the decision making at the end of the process. So think about the big data, right? These definitions of, we measure everything.
We don’t really measure everything. You’re absolutely right. That even if we measure lots and lots of things, at the end of the day, we use KPIs. At the end of the day, we use a very small number of indicators that leads our strategy. I believe that in the next years we will see more and more wellbeing consultants advising different entities, different organizations on what type of indicators they have to activate.
Or even assemble, right? Even even collect in order to make better decisions. Let’s think of of the, of the market. The consumer worlds, right? So think of Netflix, which is, to me a very interesting example. It collects data about everything that you do when using Netflix, right? It looks at what you watch. It looks at what you hesitated.
To watch. It looks at what you quit in the middle, right? And it takes decisions according to that. Everything around us into market becomes more and more personalized in that matter in that manner, because it matters to people that the objects and the people and the entities around them will see them.
We’ll acknowledge their wellbeing. Now we have more and more data on these areas on everything that we do. I mean, Google knows everything that I do, whether I like it or not. Right? The thing is that it doesn’t use that type of data to help me increase my wellbeing. Yet I think it will, and I think we’ll see more and more of policymakers and strategy makers and businesses looking.
To see whether a, they collect the right type of data, and B, whether they’re using it, whether they’re utilizing in the proper way. I think data has a lot to do with it, but the sad reality is that we collect lots and lots of types of data. We hardly use it, and we use the ones that we’re used to be using.
Right? I mean, it’s a, it’s a funny sentence, but that’s what we do. So I think we should be, and we are moving snow any from the habit of using the data that we used to use to acknowledging the fact that we have better data to make better decisions by, so you’re saying the problem is actually not so much in the availability of data, but the lack of skills or ways to analyze them and draw the right conclusions?
Is that what you’re saying? I’ll say that it depends on which industry we’re looking at because the policy. Uh, the policy world doesn’t have all the right data, so it doesn’t collect everything that you think and would like to do and everything about what you, how you behave, because it has restrictions.
I think the biggest gap lies in subjective indicators. So lots of decisions are being made based on objective indicators, meaning what I can see that you do rather than, or that you have rather than how you feel about that. Let’s consider it a gap between. Uh, how my physician thinks that I’m feeling.
Yeah. According to my, uh, blood tests, uh, versus how I say my health is how I feel that my health is, regardless of the tests that I did or did not do. Or let’s take another example. I could look at your salary at your, at your rages and say, you earn. I mean, you should be happy. You should be happy with what you earn.
Whereas it would have been much, much closer to the truth if I had asked you. And that’s the subjective indicator. How do you feel about your salary? How do you feel about your job? So these are the types of indicators that we still have a huge gap regarding. And I think that gap needs to be somehow narrowed down.
The private sector in general, when it can assembles every type of indicator that he, that he can. Again, these are mostly objective indicators. How, how often do you click on the advertisement? How often? How long do you spend strolling with your maps until you click, until you double click a purchase?
Right. So they collect all that, but they don’t really ask you. How you feel about these things. That adds a very important layer. So let me recap the definition of wellbeing to adjust to that for a second. Will being used all the different aspects that affect our lives in the sense of basic aspects and those that are important for us to prosper.
But they are, but it is also wellbeing is also about the objective reality and the subjective reality. It’s not just about what we can count. It’s also about how we feel about things. And there’s a common view that you can’t really measure subjective feelings. Now, of course you can because if I ask you, how much do you love your kids from one to 10 and you say 10 I just counted how much you love, you love your kids.
It’s as simple as that. How happy are you? These are indicators that are being used for years and years and they count subjective thoughts. So it is possible. It’s a huge gap in what is being measured. And even when it is measured, it’s not always being used to our, towards our wellbeing. So what does that, I mean, is it entirely within the.
Person itself to define whether he or she is well or not. Or are there also some objective criteria that you could apply from the outside because you’re going to have a person who, you know has a good salary, has healthy kids. It’s doing well. For all intents and purposes, you would say that person that should be doing well, yet, they may feel differently because they still think, you know, my neighbor has a million more.
He drives a Porsche that I don’t have. If that person tells you I’m not well, is that the truth? Because they say it’s entirely subjective and it’s entirely up to the person to define that. Or are there also externally objectifiable criteria that you could apply because otherwise in the, in the workplace, I mean.
Matthias Catón: [00:32:30] You mentioned you’re an employer and you tried to work on the wellbeing of your employees. How could you define who deserves more attention than other people? If it’s only about personal feelings? You know what I mean? It sounds to me it sounds like very arbitrary in a certain way. And, and you know the saying that the squeaky or the squeaky wheel gets the oil.
Have you heard that saying? Is that if you apply that criteria in the end. Those who complain the most will get the most attention, which may not actually be true because you will have other people who don’t complain and they feel differently. They’re more satisfied with what they have. So how did we get around this kind of conundrum when we’re talking about measuring things?
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:33:14] I love that everything that we talk about is really so complex, but yet it is ha, it has such huge influence over our lives. I think you just argued very well towards, um. Subjective indicators alone being somewhat arbitrary and objective indicators along being somewhat arbitrary. People are smarter than we tend to think we are smarter than we tend to think.
If I ask you if you’re doing well and you’re having, well, if you ask me if I’m doing well and. I have work issues. I’ll tell you. Listen. Yeah, I’m fine. I mean, family wise and braids, um, health wise, I’m great, but work, I don’t know. These days it’s not that people encapsulate everything into one aspect, so that’s one.
Type of of a response to that. I mean, we’re perfectly capable of differentiating between the fact that my sisters are having coral, and that affects the quality of life in our family and the fact that everybody’s doing rate in, in all other domains of life. So that is one. Secondly, I’d say that this highlights how you want to ask subjective perspectives.
So if I’ll ask my employees. About their wellbeing? Yes, I will look at objective indicators, but I will give more emphasis to subjective indicators on asking them different questions, reflecting different aspects of these subjective feelings. So for example, happiness, let’s take happiness, which is the most fluffy, uh, sort of seems like a fluffy notion.
So what is really happiness. Happiness is about three factors. One is how generally satisfied you are from something. Could be your work could be your life too. How are you experiencing. Your life in that sense, again, beat your work or beat your life in general. Then I’ll, I’ll explain in a minute. And the third factor is how meaningful this thing is to you.
So let’s take life as general, right? I could ask you, imagine a ladder with 10 steps on it. 10 is the best possible life that you can imagine. Zero is the worst possible life that you can imagine. How do you feel? How satisfied are you with your life? These days, what most people do when they reply to this question is they make a general assessment of their lives as a whole.
They take their wellbeing, and that’s why wellbeing uses this happiness question as a proxy in, in many studies, people take their overall wellbeing calculated. They go, okay, I, my health is okay. Job-wise is great. Family, uh, et cetera, et cetera. They also do an additional thing, which is really important.
They say, okay. In their minds, right? We all do it in our minds automatically. We ask, where am I today in comparison to how I thought I will do five years ago? What are my prospects for the future and how do I compare myself to others? So that neighbor with a porch, he goes into this self satisfaction question because it is all in calculation and really, really complex index that our minds do.
So that’s one layer. Of how we look at our happiness. The second one is much more accurate to a time and a place it normally asks you yesterday, how happy were you yesterday? How fearful were you? How anxious were you? How angry were you? How sad were you. And that takes our brains to a different area. It actually takes our brains to the, to the area where I say, okay, which day was it?
Yesterday? So yesterday was a Wednesday. What did I do? Uh, okay. Was I happy was I worried that, that, that, and I give a number from zero to 10 but still I give a number to how I felt, how my experience was, my hedonic experience was, and the third factor is the factor of how important something is. So how satisfied, sorry.
How important is a certain element is for your life? It’s a more. That is an ingredient that goes all the way back to our risotto. And it goes to the eudemonia and aspect of wellbeing. How much meaning do we attribute to our lives and what we do? How much control do we have over what we do? And it’s extremely important.
And so if you have all these three ranking very well, then yes, you are extremely happy. No normal people have one. Being ranked higher than the other, and the third one being ranked mostly correlated with one of the two, but it’s always an assembly of these three aspects. Most people, I mean, I love, my husband passionately loved my husband.
If you asked me about yesterday, it is very probable that yesterday he made me very angry. It doesn’t mean that I’m not, it doesn’t affect that element of being very high satisfied really, but it is still important to my wellbeing. And so all these three elements, if I measure them correctly, I know what to ask.
Again, it goes to why I say that wellbeing advisers will become more and more a common phenomenon because you need to know what to ask in order to make sure that you don’t get the loudest ones to impact policy. You get. The right answers and you conduct better strategy or better policy, you can make better decisions.
Yeah, I, I agree. And I think that’s, that’s probably the beauty, but also what makes it so difficult. That is such a. The rich and very, very complex concept of wellbeing that is inherently subjective. And there are some complications when you try to put it to use in either a societal context. When we’re talking about public policy or in in a business.
Matthias Catón: [00:39:16] So this podcast is about leadership. It’s dedicated to people who are leaders in different contexts or who aspire to be leaders. So we always trying to give our listeners some practical advice. So to, to a leader, what would you suggest? What could a business leader, for example, what could he or she do in practical terms to increase the awareness of the company towards wellbeing?
Anat Itay-Sarig: [00:39:43] The first step that I would take is to have a conversation about subjective versus objective indicators. I think that’s the most practical way of testing the entire notion leading towards let’s learn, leading towards a adoption of better measures of success, which to me means that the measures of wellbeing that are being interacted with the existing ones.
So first step would be, let’s talk about objective versus subjective and look at the obstacles. Look at the barriers, look at the challenges that we find when we consider. Subjective areas. So that’s one thing to do. The second thing to do is have a look at the different frameworks for wellbeing and how they define, I’d suggest, I mean, look at the better life index by the OACD.
It’s a very narrow index in the sense that every domain has between one and two indicators. It’s not. It’s not vast, right? It’s not something that you cannot comprehend when you look into it. When you look at the index, the first thing that you see is that there are different life domains to consider.
Now, let’s think of the leader of a specific organization and they think, yes, I’d like to implement wellbeing. That’s how we look at this index and ask ourselves, am I looking at, there’s a health domain? Am I looking at the health domain within my company? Within my organization, there’s an infrastructure domain.
Am I looking at the infrastructure within my company and at and so on and so forth. So once a, you accept that there is a balance between objective and subjective and B, that there are different life domains to consider wherever you are, and doesn’t matter what you do, which is always true towards the people around you.
Then these are really good steps to start with. I think it’s a lot about listening and accepting that the world is changing and that being judgmental in the sense that the objective indicators will tell me everything that I need to know about you is just becoming obsolete. It doesn’t work anymore.
It’s a great demand of someone to put aside these conceptions of, I know what I’m doing when I’m running my company. And make a shift towards, I need to listen more. I need to understand more what affects people. The good news are that it is great for revenue because when you listen to your employees, you also listen better to your customers.
It’s a win, win, win across the board, but you have to make that adoption. Great. Listening is always good. It’s always helpful, and you learn a lot. As we slowly move. Towards the end of this podcast episode. I want to come back to the personal level and I want to ask you if you have any suggestions how to improve your personal wellbeing.
So what can the listeners themselves do to become happier? People have more wellbeing. Very practical, maybe from your own experience, how do you deal with these issues yourself? I think it helps to differentiate the three levels of happiness, the self satisfaction from experiences, from meaning. Uh, because as I said, I mean, I use it all the time.
I ask myself when I’m annoyed or sad. I asked myself whether this is of huge impact on my life or whether this is something that is more constrained. I’d say two, two experiences I have to say in this regard that the biggest contribution to my wellbeing has been understanding. That negative emotions are actually a blessing and that they bring, they bring with them so much progress and so much understanding.
I mean, it goes counter everything that I personally believed in and everything that we are used to hearing that happiness is a great thing and we should all aspire for happiness. But what I’m saying is. Happiness goes through acknowledging that as human beings, we feel much more than happiness. We feel a range of emotions that if we enable these emotions to be and we share other people, we share their emotions and we share our own emotions.
The route to actually being happy. Truly profoundly happy, not just superficially, you know, I smile and I say, I feel great, truly happy goes through acknowledging that there’s so much more to our lives than just being happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for happiness, but I’m for profound happiness and not just the type that tells you that if there are people around you that are not happy.
Get rid of them because it’s bad for you or something. No, it’s not bad for you. It’s actually good for you to have people who complain to have people who point out the things that are problematic because if they don’t point them out, how do we improve their wellbeing and our wellbeing and everybody’s wellbeing?
It’s much more inclusive than we tend to think. One main thing that I’d love to, to shed some light on is. How are we, how do we take that wellbeing aspect and projected on different elements around us? And so, um, started with saying, I recently joined a company that has a platform for discussions. You might wonder why I joined the company.
It’s a PLA, it’s an AI platform. It, it’s a wonderful platform. And what it does is it organizes discussions in a way that allows you, enables you to make better decisions. And when I look at that platform, I think it encapsulates so much of what we just talked about because what he does. First and foremost is allow people to express themselves, and once they express themselves and it doesn’t it, it is used for teams, for example, within a workplace.
I also use it when I teach because I’d like to hear what my students are thinking and how they articulate what they learn because it exposes in the best possible manner. How people view things, and once you understand how they view the world, it is a much shorter step towards improving it. As a professor in class, I use men to ask them questions, so they give me replies and I look at those and they, and they discuss.
It’s not just, they don’t answer me. They answered one another and there’s a discussion in the what the system does. It rates different questions as most thoughtful, as most insightful. It helps you navigate your way through the discussion. And so the first thing that it does is it helps everybody express themselves.
The, it does a whole bunch of other things. That is actually, that is incredibly useful for decision makers. But the one thing that he doesn’t do yet. He’s asking you about how you feel regarding different discussions. And so the next step. For me in that product is to make sure that meant as Netflix, as Google, as any other company that has a huge effect on our lives, doesn’t own me, asked me what I think or what I do.
It also cares about how I feel.
Matthias Catón: [00:47:04] Right? Yes. So wellbeing is becoming more and more important. Technology will also help us to measure it better than we currently can. And there are, I think, room for a lot of initiatives such as us, and I’ll put the link to your company in the show notes for those listeners who want to check it out, can do.
So, we’ve covered a great breadth, I think, of topics when it comes to wellbeing from the individual level to the grade, global sustainable development goals and international organizations. To the role that businesses can play. This is something that is in development. I think new, exciting things will come up, but, uh, the topic of wellbeing and happiness seems to be there.
Business leaders and others should pay close attention to what it means for the environment and how they can help shape it for the better, but also, of course, to make a revenue as generate revenues for their company in the future.

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