Empowering Well-Being: The Comprehensive, Research-Based Approach of the Wells Program

In an era of increasing workplace stress, the Wells program stands out with its rigorous, research-based approach to enhancing employee well-being and productivity.

Developed by Dr. Henna Asikainen and Dr. Nina Katajavuori, WELLS program combines standardized questionnaires, focus group interviews, and plans for biophysical measurements. This article will explain these research methods in plain language, highlighting their role in providing comprehensive and reliable insights into mental health improvements.

In a world where employee mental health is increasingly under pressure, the Wells course stands out with its research-based  approach to fostering well-being and productivity. Developed by experts and continually refined through scientific methods, this course isn't just another wellness program – it's aims to facilitate better workplace well-being. But what does this evidence- and research-base actually mean? 

The Wells course has been developed since 2017   by Dr Henna Asikainen and Dr Nina Katajavuori, who had grown increasingly concerned over the decline in university students’ mental health and its subsequent effect on their study skills. During the course development process, data from students who took the course was continuously collected in order to scientifically investigate its potential effects on different aspects of well-being, study skills, as well as developing the course content (Asikainen & Katajavuori, 2021). Currently, we are doing the same with the Wells Research to Business project with a modified version of the course made to fit working life contexts. So, what are these research measures, how do we use them and what do they mean?


The first and main type of measure we utilize is a self-assessment measure, questionnaires. Questionnaires are one of the most widely used measures in psychology and social sciences, because they are easy to administer and intuitively make a lot of sense; if you want to know something about someone, why not ask them directly (Grassini & Laumann, 2020; McDonald, 2008). Questionnaires will give participants a proposition (i.e. “I often have feelings of inadequacy”) or a question (i.e. “In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?”) and ask to rate how often they have experienced specific things. Currently, we use questionnaires that assess participants’ psychological flexibility, general psychological well-being, anxiety, perceived stress, burnout risk, job satisfaction, job engagement and time management. 

We don’t just come up with the questions ourselves; we use standardized and researched questionnaires. Standardized questionnaires are questionnaires that are developed by researchers and are administered and scored in the same exact way each time (Boynton et al., 2004). Thus, the results from these questionnaires can be compared across participants and different studies. Standardized questionnaires are also usually evaluated based on research; psychologists will regularly assess whether they actually measure what they are supposed to (questionnaire validity) and whether they yield consistent results over time (questionnaire reliability) (Taherdoost, 2016). Therefore, we have a stronger base for our measures providing credible results.

All questionnaires are administered at the start and at the end of the course. We then combine participants’ answers in each time point and get so-called pre and post average scores for each questionnaire. After that, using statistical methods we are able to assess whether there is a statistically significant difference in the scores before and after the course. A statistically significant difference in psychology research means that there is a 5% or smaller chance that the difference in the scores is a coincidence (Andrade, 2019). Therefore, statistically significant results will have at least a 95% chance that the score difference is not up to chance alone. So, for instance, if we detect a statistically significant increase in psychological flexibility in participants before and after the course, it is almost certain that this change is not just a coincidence.  

We also have a so-called control group, who fill out the same questionnaires at the same time as course participants but are not on the course. As we have the exact same measures from them at the same time points, it means that we can directly compare them with the course participants’ scores. This way, we can be more confident that any changes that may happen in course participants and not the control group are because of the course and not something else. This makes our results more trustworthy.

Focus group interviews

Utilizing questionnaires and comparing pre- and post-scores doesn’t come without their challenges though. Especially when aiming to understand people’s well-being and potential changes in such areas, the rigid and pre-determined structure of the questionnaires and their answer options may limit the insight we are able to get from people (Patten, 2016). Thus, we thought that it would also be important to hear from people who took the course themselves in their own words by interviewing them directly. This helps us achieve a deeper understanding of people's experiences, feelings, and perspectives, as opposed to just looking at their questionnaire scores. 

Therefore, we also organize focus group discussions for a subsection of the participants. Focus groups were chosen because they allow us to collect many people’s experiences at once, making the best use of the time available. On top of this, the group setting lets people add to each other's answers and come up with ideas they might not think of on their own (Acocella, 2012). For instance, in the focus groups so far, people have been able to resonate with each other's experiences on the course, which has even brought new realizations about the effects of the course. 

The interviews are recorded, then transcribed and anonymized. After that, we start looking through the transcripts to identify and analyze common themes or patterns in what people say. We read through the discussion many times, look for repeated ideas or topics, and group these into themes. This helps us understand the main points and insights shared by the group.


In research, combining numerical, so-called quantitative data (i.e. questionnaires) and language-based, so-called qualitative data (i.e. focus groups) is called triangulation. Triangulation is especially useful in psychology research because it makes the results more trustworthy by using different ways to collect and analyze information. So, for instance, instead of only relying on qualitatively looking at people’s personal subjective experiences on the course, we also quantitatively measure their well-being before and after the course through validated questionnaires. This helps us get a better overall picture of how the course may actually affect people's well-being.  Triangulation is especially important for studying complicated topics, such as mental health and workplace well-being, as it combines various pieces of information to make the conclusions stronger.

Future directions in research

On top of this, in the future we aim to also include biophysical measurements, such as electroencephalogram (EEG) in our research. EEG is a test that measures the electrical activity of the brain using small sensors placed on the scalp. It shows how the brain is working by recording brain waves and can help understand how different activities or feelings affect the brain (Cohen, 2017). EEG data can show patterns linked to emotions, stress, and relaxation, offering deeper insights that might not be visible through surveys or interviews alone (Jackson & Bolger, 2014). Through this, we aim to see how the course affects the body's reactions (like brain activity) during stressful tasks. We will also look at how the course influences behavior and performance in these situations, but also how participants' views on stress change and how their perceived stress levels are affected after the course. Finally, we want to examine if improvements in these areas are linked to increased psychological flexibility, a central concept of the course.

By blending self-assessment questionnaires, focus group discussions, and even future biophysical measurements like EEG, the Wells course offers a comprehensive approach to understanding and improving well-being. This multi-faceted method ensures that we not only see the immediate impacts on participants but also gain deeper insights into the underlying changes in their mental health and productivity. In short, the Wells course doesn't just aim to make a difference – it proves it, one evidence-based step at a time.


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