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Blog : The key to happiness at work


The key to happiness at work

By Caroline White - Client Support Supervisor

I was at a party quite recently when the conversation turned to work. Someone said "No-one is really happy at work are they? It’s just a job isn’t it? The only people who are happy at work are rock stars, wine tasters and food critics!" Surprisingly, and somewhat lovely, about four or five people all shook their heads and discussed how satisfying their actually found their careers.

I say surprisingly, because if you’re a follower of the media, you could be led to believe that most people dislike their jobs, find it a hassle to get out of bed in the morning and are racing for the door as soon as the clock strikes 5pm (that is if they aren’t snowed under thick stacks of paperwork left for them by a Cruella de Vil-esque boss).  An overall happiness score of just 57% in our ‘Review 2011’ benchmarking survey and also a recent Gallup survey stating that over 70% of workers are not engaged with their work confirms this. Not positive news; someone who isn’t engaged is less motivated, productive and thus profitable. They are also a threat in terms of sabotage, influencing the feelings and behaviours of those around them.

So this got me thinking about what made people happy at work?  Aside from the fact that their employers had created a people-centric culture, with values which all were committed to, I realised that the people who had been in the discussion at the party were all really active in their free time; making a real effort to enrich and further their careers with hobbies such as voluntary work, blogging or even arts and crafts. One of them, a sound engineer, is working for free at weekends in a top theatre to gain experience alongside his regular job and another one writes a blog which is regularly quoted in national newspapers; helping her progress in her social media role at the BBC.

My suspicions were further validated by an article in the Harvard Business Review from Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown who have recently written a book called ‘Just Start‘.  They stated that due to the lack of companies hiring new people at the moment, a lot of people have been doing the same job for a while now and although they may not be fully disengaged, they are not coming to work with a fierce determination to succeed either. Their recommendation, rather than disrupting life by hunting for a new position in a tough jobs market, was to see what other activities could give them a sense of self-fulfilment.  

On the outset, people making themselves increasingly busy outside of work could be perceived as detrimental to their career paths but in reality it will probably do the exact opposite. Doing something they care about in their free time not only makes people happier at work,  but also leads them to add a new skills set to their position; giving them a new-found confidence because they have the motivation and ability to succeed at something new.

These activities don’t have to be ground-breaking. Some tried and tested ideas from Jane Sunley’s book ‘Purple your People’ could also be done as a team; learning to dance, studying a foreign language (we’ve had Spanish lessons from a member of our team over lunch!) or starting a book club. Encouraging employees to do something for charity can also be very rewarding for everyone involved; sporting challenges (we’re running the British 10K for Hospitality Action), volunteering at hospices or organising dinners or events.

So what are you and the team waiting for? Don’t take be one of those people who just talks about doing things! Take action now - don’t mind me; I’m off sky-diving in New Zealand!

Do you encourage your people to take part in any out of work activities? Do you have a CSR policy which you’re people can access and do something to help you achieve?

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