How is Wellbeing and the Wellbeing Strategy Defined, Enacted and Experienced in Organisations and Why is this the Case? A Bhaskarian Critical Realist Analysis

  • Laura Amy Byrne

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


For many organisations, there is currently an intense pressure to focus on the development and implementation of an overall wellbeing strategy, which may include several types of initiatives. Whilst a significant amount of research has evaluated the efficacy of individual wellbeing interventions, there is little published about the essence of what people think wellbeing is and how a whole wellbeing strategy should be developed and enacted. Moreover, we know very little about what is influencing or causing organisations to implement a wellbeing strategy and the ways in which this is then interpreted and experienced by employees. A critical realist philosophy and qualitative methodology was selected for the research, and three different organisations were recruited as case studies. A range of wellbeing practitioners were also interviewed, and they were broadly defined as the fourth case study. Sixty-six interviews in total were conducted with a range of leaders, managers, practitioners and employees. Participants were interviewed utilising a responsive semi-structured interviewing method. Data was analysed through reflexive thematic analysis, theoretically driven by Bhaskar’s DREIC process model and retroduction. Findings indicate that the definition, enactment and experience of wellbeing strategy is influenced by a transient interplay of global events, social movements and societal pressure factors, organisational context and individual level reasoning and perceptions. Moreover, there is a conflict between strategic (business case) and community (caring) logics, and it is posited that this conflict is causing some scepticism and cynicism amongst employees. A key contribution is the development of an explanatory theory which includes a new construct regarding authenticity. This theory adds to our understanding of contextually embedded perception in human relations and the role of contradiction and paradox. There is also a methodological contribution regarding how one might identify absence in critical realist comparative case studies.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJonathan Crawshaw (Supervisor), Pawan Budhwar (Supervisor) & Judy Scully (Supervisor)


  • wellbeing strategy
  • organisations
  • Bhaskar
  • critical realism
  • institutional logics
  • morphogenesis
  • paradox
  • authentic 'right' action

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