WHAT constitutes a magandang buhay in the Philippines? Insights from a study show that Filipinos evaluate whether they have a magandang buhay based on 11 life domains: housing and quality of neighborhood; employment and quality of working life; savings, wealth and assets; social relationships; leisure and spare time activities; physical health; mental health and emotional well-being; religion and spiritual life; information and knowledge; government performance; and political participation.

There are two lessons from this study. First, designing programs for employees needs to consider a broader psychosocial perspective on what constitutes a good life. Second, we can use this expansive view to reflect on whether our current programs address specific concerns each life domain entails. Some questions may serve as starting points in assessing employee needs: Do our employees have a safe place to live near their place of work? Are they able to spend quality time with people who are important to them? Do they have savings?

Enablers of a good life
One concrete way that business leaders through HR can enhance employees' capability to address concerns in various life domains is to foster collaborative discussions among stakeholders to find ways of providing a living wage while keeping the organization competitive and fast growing. Typically, a living wage is higher than the minimum. It is the amount of income that significantly increases meaningful participation of employees in society and supports a decent life.
In a study conducted by the authors among low- to middle-income workers in Metro Manila (2016-2017), the living wage was computed to be around P23,000 a month. This matches the amount that some nongovernmental organizations recommend for a family of five. While this amount is far from the prevailing minimum wage rates in the country, this is the average income level at which participants feel capable of achieving their valued life domains. With this wage rate, the most vulnerable will not merely survive and subsist, but may be able to go beyond their most immediate concerns of making ends meet.
Aside from wages, organizations can support workers' attainment of a good life through human resource management policies and programs. For example, organizations that adopt a total rewards perspective do not just provide financial returns to the work performed by employees. It also includes nonmonetary benefits tailor-fitted to employee needs. This customization of benefits is more popularly known as the flexible benefits program or the cafeteria plan. This approach provides workers freedom to choose benefits they wish to avail of from a list provided by the organization as long as it is within their benefits allocation.
Taking on the challenge
Perhaps the biggest challenge with this approach is onboarding business leaders or top management, especially when programs are deemed costly. Is it worth it to invest in the promotion of employees' well-being? The short answer is that championing employee well-being is simply the right and humane thing to do. A good and safe strategy is to start with the basics ― provision of compensation and benefits that employees are legally entitled to, fair treatment of employees, meeting and managing employees' expectations often formalized in contracts, safe working conditions, and so on. When the basics are met, the organization will at least survive. But when organizations go beyond the call of duty and invest in the promotion of a good life for their employees, then employees may also go the extra mile for the organization. Employment that enables the achievement of valued life domains does not just create fulfilling work experiences, it also ensures a good and dignified life for Filipino workers and their families.

Mendiola Teng-Calleja is an associate professor at the Psychology Department of the Ateneo de Manila University. She is also the executive director of the Ateneo Center for Organization Research and Development. [email protected] Jose Antonio Clemente is a professor at the Department of Psychology, University of the Philippines Diliman. He is the former director of the Office for the Advancement of Teaching in UP Diliman. [email protected] Donald Jay Bertulfo is currently a PhD candidate at the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. He has an MS in Applied Mathematics from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. [email protected]ateneo.edu. Ma. Ligaya Menguito is a faculty member of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business under the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Human Resource Management and is a licensed psychologist. She obtained her PhD in Social Organizational Psychology and M.A. in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Ateneo de Manila University. [email protected]

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