Happiness in the workplace
16 Oct 2017 | Benedict Clark
Most of us are destined to spend around a quarter of our adult
life at work, a figure surely set to increase as retirement ages
get stretched into our seventies. Add to that the third of our time
spent sleeping, and that doesn't leave a whole lot for anything
With that in mind, it is clear that the workplace needs to
contribute towards our wellbeing rather than detract from it. This,
sadly, is too often not the case. Why else would we live in a world
focused on living for the weekend, Monday morning characterised as
the epitome of being brought crashing back down to a bleak
Though, psychologically, working is good for us in general, we
find people treated like machines working far over capacity to
increase the output. People are not machines. It is an unfortunate
truth that people have been commoditised, driven by the need for
productivity until they are broken and replaced. This does no good
for anybody. Organisations need to step up and take responsibility
for the mental as well as physical wellbeing of their staff.
The level of commitment many employees are expected to display
is huge. Now, increasing connectivity has allowed the workplace to
creep further and further into our private lives. This issue has
therefore become even more pressing. Organisations exercise a huge
amount of power over our lives, and with that power, as is said,
comes great responsibility.
Human beings inherently need to belong. In a work context, this
can be harnessed and used for the good of both employees and the
organisation. Respect and care works both ways. When in harmony,
this means a sense of loyalty, and contributes to a more positive
working environment. With this, the employees, and therefore the
organisation, are happier. After all, a company can only ever be as
happy as their staff.
The approach taken by an organisation should focus on people as
well as process, something all too often ignored or simply not
understood. A shift in attitude and the will to take a new
perspective, could make the world of difference.
These changes could include:
- Better communication - communication can be
seen as the foundation of all good relationships and the one
between organisation and employee should be no different. A two-way
conversation means higher levels of trust and a greater
understanding of what is being striven for together.
- Showing care for employees - work can bring
great stress and life outside of work can too, so an understanding
of their situation should be taken into account, offering support
and flexibility where appropriate. Something as simple as asking
how they are can make employees feel valued.
- Meaningful Wellbeing Programs - too often
wellbeing is seen as something to tick off a list. A company may
offer free massages, gym discounts and the like, but more focus
should be directed on the psychological. De-stigmatising reaching
out for help, whilst working towards an environment that encourages
sharing and offers a real system of support, should be a high
- Give employees thinking time - we are not
machines. The obsession around productivity has fostered an
unhelpful attitude that without immediate output, time is being
wasted. Providing employees the freedom to think gives them the
chance to come up with novel new approaches and ways to innovate,
pushing the company forward.
- Understand motivations - by taking the time to
understand individual motivations, an organisation can create a
more engaged employee, rewarding achievement in a way that is
meaningful to them. Too often companies think that throwing money
at people when they can will make the difference. In reality there
are many more factors at play.
- Trust Individuals - allow a level of autonomy.
Having a sense of freedom and responsibility means people feel a
greater sense of commitment to the cause. Enabling individuals to
make decisions and determine the course of action engenders a
feeling of empowerment and a belief that they make a tangible
difference. The default position should be one of trust not one of
- Provide opportunity - don't assume that
promotion equals progress. Allow individuals to engage in learning
for their personal development as well as their professional
development. It will be greatly appreciated. In turn they will
become a more rounded individual and be able to contribute to the
organisation in different ways.
- Provide the bigger picture - feeling like a
tiny cog in a giant machine can be demoralising. Employees should
have a sense of how they fit into the overall plan and understand
that what they do is important in achieving this. Through
understanding other roles, how their work impacts on these roles
and on organisational goals, a clearer sense of purpose
- Encourage collaboration - there is nothing
wrong with a healthy competitive spirit but far more can be
achieved through collaboration. Working together to reach goals
makes things more efficient and much more fun in the process. This
taps into our desire to belong and be part of something, helping
create a cohesive shared spirit and knowledge that others can be
It must be remembered that work forms part of a person's life
and not the be all and end all of it. A balanced life is needed for
a healthy and thriving mind, which in turn means the organisation
gets the best out of the employee.
Benedict Clark is an Action for Happiness
supporter studying a masters in Occupational Psychology. After
working for a decade in digital marketing, he left to pursue an
interest in improving the workplace for employees and to free up
time for his love of writing.