Is Work a Happy Place?

We spend so much of our time at work, and yet many of us are unhappy. Stress in the workplace is an increasing area of concern, costing UK businesses £40 billion last year in stress-related issues; accidents, absenteeism, poor performance. Whether we’re working for ourselves or for someone else it’s becoming increasingly important to find ways that support work being a happy place.

What is it that’s questioning if work is a happy place? Is it the actual work itself or are there other significant factors?

25% adults report suffering from insomnia on a Sunday night. Some of that is due to the dread of a tough Monday morning commute; the prospect of traffic jams, parking issues, crowded buses and trains all make for a less than pleasant start to the week. Increasingly companies are happy for staff to work from home on occasion or use a more flexible approach to their day by maybe starting earlier or later, so avoiding rush hour and minimising the stress of the journey to the office. Would a car sharing initiative or subsidised car parking nearby also help staff arrive at work with a more positive mindset?

– Few people anticipate holding the same job for life. It’s a rarity as more employees seek variety, want to experience different companies’ methods and gain a wide range of experience. In order to retain good staff and keep them happy at work it’s important for them to be challenged, given responsibility and be able to take a pride in their work. Ensuring they’re sufficiently trained and qualified supports their ability to undertake their work and also protects the company’s reputation. And having a dedicated project or regular responsibility can improve a staff member’s confidence, commitment and happiness at work.

– With so many businesses experiencing uncertainty about their future any undercurrents filter down through the ranks, causing staff to wonder how secure they are; should they be looking elsewhere, is there any point in working hard, what about their financial position? All can make for a shaky, less than enthusiastic team. Being open and honest whilst maintaining regular channels of communication can ensure that employees remain loyal and stay on board.

– But equally, rapid growth can be disconcerting too, especially if there are signs that the company culture is changing or relocation may be featuring on the horizon. Regular briefings and staff appraisals can identify areas of concern and enable good staff to voice requests for additional training or discuss how they envisage their future in the business evolving.

– Staff grievances can be a key factor in the happiness levels of staff. Is there a culture of bullying, nepotism, unfair favouritism and, if so, how is it handled? Some people may always seem to have one grievance or another, it’s how they operate. But if there seems to be increasing levels of dissent and unrest it’s time to investigate what’s going on and going wrong, or risk losing excellent key staff members. Big organisations often rely on section leaders, managers and department heads to deal with staff issues, but what if they are part of the problem? Having regular anonymous staff surveys, an open door policy, bringing in an independent external consultant to talk to staff and find out how they feel may help introduce effective procedures and nip staff unrest in the bud.

– Equally, old-fashioned, outdated ways of operating can turn people off. ‘We’ve always done it like this’, ‘if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’, can dissuade enthusiastic staff members from suggesting new ideas and push them to eventually leave. Successful MD’s will go and speak with shop-floor workers to get their feedback on what works and what doesn’t, quiz them for suggestions on improvements and discover better ways of doing things. Pretending to be your own customer can be a useful exercise too. How do your staff treat difficult or challenging customers? How invested are they in doing a good job? Happy, satisfied staff care about customer service.

– Communication should be a two-way exchange, but in some companies there can be fear or apprehension at voicing anything that may be perceived as negative, not coping or unhappy. As adults, staff need to accept responsibility for being appropriately assertive about their situation but a structure has to be in place where they feel confident about doing so. Sometimes mangers are also under pressure and have little capacity for taking on more problems. Is there a place where troubled staff can go with their issues?

– Stepping back from the business occasionally is a key component in assessing how happy your workforce is. Look at your sickness statistics, absenteeism, staff turnover, grievances. Appreciate that staff have lives away from work. They may have relationship tensions, health issues, children, elderly relatives, financial concerns, or they may be happy and simply want to have quality time with their children, partner or pursue a hobby. Demonstrating that you respect and understand that will make them feel valued and happier.

Maintain a happy workforce by investing in relevant training. This results in staff satisfaction and their improved ability to do a good job. Praise, recognition and appreciation make all the difference when people care about their work. Committing to a happy workforce pays dividends and supports your business and its successful future growth.