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Self-efficacy matters for workplace wellbeing

New research from the UEA Workplace Wellbeing research team focuses on the topic of self-efficacy and how it was an important personal resource during the pandemic. Professor Roberta Fida led a team of researchers who investigated self-efficacy in almost 400 UK workers from January 2020 through to January 2021 to investigate its effects.

Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s beliefs about their own capabilities. It is linked to how individuals perform and learn, but also how they cope with challenges, including natural disasters and traumatic events.

While most studies on self-efficacy at work focus on performance, the UEA team argued that it should be thought of in a broader way, especially when investigating wellbeing. Their study focused on self-efficacy for tasks, social skills and emotions. Relationships remained an important feature of work even if the pandemic made these virtual or more distant. Social support can mitigate some of the challenges of remote working so social self-efficacy could reduce negative wellbeing. There is also an assertive dimension to social self-efficacy – for instance feeling able to set boundaries and defend their own space would allow people for example, to say no to a request to do some extra-work when feeling overstretched.

The research identified three different potential self-efficacy profiles for people at work:

  • A group of people with high levels of general and emotional self-efficacy (66.9%)
  • A group of people with high levels in assertive and task self-efficacy but with the lowest levels of emotional self-efficacy (20.9%)
  • A group of people with the highest levels of empathic self-efficacy but also the lowest levels of general and assertive self-efficacy (12.2%)

It matters to workplace wellbeing which group a worker is in – profile 3 had a higher risk of short and long-term lower wellbeing compared to profile 1. High empathic self-efficacy may not have a protective function when combined with low assertive and general self-efficacy, even with medium emotional self-efficacy.

Profile 2 also had a higher risk of long-term lower wellbeing, compared to profile 1. This profile may be exacerbated by the prolonged nature of COVID-19: vulnerabilities usually compensated by other resources may be insufficient over time. Hence, the protective effects of certain types of self-efficacy may be short-lived if there are deficits in other areas and an ongoing negative work context.

However, this is not just an individual problem. From a practical perspective, assessing individuals’ self-efficacy profiles could help individuals and organisations determine and target interventions to support wellbeing.

Organisations make choices in how they implement working practices and shape the work context; there is much to be learnt from the experience of the pandemic and how the trends in changing work practices it has accelerated should be implemented. The team’s research underlines the importance of understanding work self-efficacy and applying it in organisations for better wellbeing outcomes.


The full academic paper is available at:

Fida, R., Paciello, M., Watson, D., & Nayani, R. (2022). The protective role of work self-efficacy on wellbeing during COVID-19 pandemic: Results from a longitudinal year-long study. Personality and Individual Differences, 111760.

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