We asked Professor of Organisational Behaviour Helena Cooper-Thomas five questions about her research at the time of her Inaugural Professorial Address.
I enjoy working with others and since most of my work is collaborative – with colleagues and postgraduate students – it’s hard to pick a favourite.
However, in terms of impact, the project that has had most media exposure in recent years is on the importance of evening recovery activities for feeling positive and motivated at work the next day. If people use their leisure time well, for example taking part in activities that help them relax or learn new skills or express their creativity, they come to the work the next day feeling energised and ready for the day ahead. One way to think about it is replenishing your energy reserves – what activities are you doing outside of work that are re-energising you?
Fundamentally, progress depends on being discontent with the status quo! I enjoy learning and trying to improve the projects I’m working on, overcoming challenges, and finding different ways to approach problems. Being involved in collaborations means I’m motivated to make sure I’m contributing my share.
Find a topic that provides a range of exciting possibilities and enables you to do research that contributes to society. Be resilient as there are always obstacles to overcome. Seek feedback so that you can improve.
It means both recognition and responsibility. Recognition of your journey so far, and responsibility to help lead and coach others so that they can achieve their potential. I would also emphasise that it is not a solo journey – my family, friends and colleagues have all contributed, as well as a host of wonderful postgraduate students whose insightful questions and ideas continuously push me to improve.
There is a lot of great research being done in organisational behaviour and organisational psychology that casts a light on how to improve employee wellbeing and performance. However, it has less impact than I think it could and should. We need to improve our dissemination to maximise the benefits for society. Perhaps this also means changing how we do research, to involve stakeholders from the outset in designing the research, as I’m currently doing with a software company. Specifically, we are designing survey scales that will be an integral part of their software measuring and tracking new employees’ perceptions of their new roles. It has been a long, challenging and highly iterative development process, and I’ll be interested to analyse the data once we go live.