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Interestingly–if strangely so, among the synonyms for “well-being” my WordPerfect word processing thesaurus provides is: “Has Types: fool’s paradise.”  Of course, the basic point of this blog is that museum worker well-being is certainly NOT any kind of “fool’s paradise!” Rather, I believe it is in fact a realistic and attainable goal supported by practical applications such as the web site described here.

The new Exploring the Well-Being of Museum Professionals web site is a resource that focusses on the unexamined relationship between museum worker well-being and the ultimate ability of museums to attain their goals to impact their visitors significantly and successfully. The site has been created by Andrea Michelbach (2013) who carried out her M.A. thesis research on museum worker well-being previously reviewed at Recent Research on Museum Worker Well-Being: Are Museum Professionals Happy? on this blog.

Speaking to the significance of her new well-being web site, Michelbach states: “As organizational psychology holds, the effectiveness of an institution is influenced by the well-being of its workers. Put quite simply, “happy” workers are good business.” In the view of this blogger, every museum institution, professional organisation, and worker in our field needs to understand and begin acting upon this fundamental real world operational truth.

Usefully, the web site provides a platform for summarising Michelbach’s research to date, a comment section aimed at starting conversations on the issue of museum worker well-being, sharing successful strategies, and providing links to relevant resources as well as related social media.

It also has a link to the “Happiness Survey” that is a world-wide initiative of the Happiness Alliance.  If you complete the survey, it will immediately generate an assessment of your own personal well-being compared to the pre-existing large sample of respondents.  Of course, although relatively small, Andrea’s thesis project sample points to the hypothesis that museum workers are happier than the general opt-in sample–except in the critical dimension of time balance (Michelbach 2013: 45).

Michelbach Samples Comparison ChartTime balance, or “time poverty” resulting from task saturation, obviously is the central concern of this blog and I argue is a critical issue for the physical, mental, family, and social health of a majority of paid & volunteer museum staff.

In the lamentable absence of a major study dedicated specifically to museum workers, a recent iteration of Canadian longitudinal research comes as close to a representative study sample for the museum field as we have at this point. More than 50% of 25,000 working Canadians in the research sample belong to the same “knowledge worker” category as those of us who work in museums. In brief, this research demonstrates that the quality of Canadians’ work and non-work life is declining.

Linda Duxbury & Christopher Higgins (2012a) have repeated their research on working Canadians in 1991, 2001, and 2011.  Findings graphically presented in the following figure (Duxbury & Higgins 2012b: 12) show stress levels are increasing while life satisfaction is declining markedly.

Duxbury Health Outcomes

The upshot of all this is museum “knowledge workers” must begin to think about and then act to solve the problem of rising expectations, limited resources to meet ever-increasing demands, resulting task saturation, loss of time balance, and stress.

Andrea Michelbach wisely provides her web site viewers with an important practical example of how to preserve one’s own well-being in the following:

Disclaimers
Sanity
You can get in touch with me through the contact page, Twitter or LinkedIn. I’ll respond as soon as I’m able, but part of my own well-being strategy involves limiting time online so I have space for downtime, outside time and face-to-face time [emphasis added]. Thank you for your understanding, patience and interest.

This Exploring the Well-Being of Museum Professionals web site will be well worth following.

References Cited:

Duxbury, Linda & Higgins, Christopher. 2012a. Revisiting Work-Life Issues in Canada: The 2012 National Study on Balancing Work and Caregiving in Canada. Ottawa: Carleton University & the University of Western Ontario. http://newsroom.carleton.ca/wp-content/files/2012-National-Work-Long-Summary.pdf (accessed 19 May 2014).

____________. 2012b. Key Findings. Revisiting Work-Life Issues in Canada: The 2012 National Study on Balancing Work and Caregiving in Canada. Ottawa: Carleton University & the University of Western Ontario. newsroom.carleton.ca/wp…/files/2012-National-Work-Key-Findings.pdf (accessed 19 May 2014).

Michelbach, Andrea N. 2013. “Are Museum Professionals Happy? Exploring Well-Being Across Domains and in the Workplace.” A thesis . . .for the degree of Master of Arts. Seattle: University of Washington.

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