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Happiness in the workplace

16 Oct 2017 | Benedict Clark

Love What You Do

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 else.

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 reality.

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.

Happy Team At Work

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 priority.
  • 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 suspicion.
  • 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 emerges. 
  • 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 relied on.

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. 

Happy startup school 2


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.



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