Work is horrible! Here's what you can do about it

02 May 2017 -

UnhappyBusinesswoman

A significant proportion of your team are probably miserable in their job. Insights reveals four ways to make your staff happier and more engaged

Jermaine Haughton

No one loves their job all the time. Yes, even you. However, a new report by Business consultants Lee Hecht Harrison Penna suggests the problem may be deeper than first anticipated, with many people being severely unhappy with their jobs and/or employer.

The survey of 2,000 workers found that one in 10 people considered their work to be "horrible." Also, more than one third of respondents were negative about their work, with one in seven associating their job with being unhappy. Moreover, women were more likely to be anxious about work than men.

Studies show that employees who feel satisfied at work will be more productive, help recruit great team members, and stay put at your company much longer than employees who simply view their work as a job.

The overriding factor dampening the mood of employees is stress, with 20% of respondents believing their work is causing stress.  Evidence from CMI’s Quality of Working Life research shows managers are being driven to poor health by consistently working long hours, in overworked teams and under immense pressure from senior bosses.

The report found that poor leadership from senior bosses is driving managers to working an extra 29 days every year – effectively cancelling out their annual leave.

Financial constraints are also negatively affecting staff happiness at work. The new year begun with employees experiencing a drop in real pay for the first time in more than two years, as inflation outpaced wage growth, putting an extra squeeze on living standards in UK households.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) report showed total pay growth slowed sharply from 2.6% to 2.2% in the three months to January, and real pay growth – adjusted for inflation – was just 0.7%.

Despite Britain’s unemployment rate falling to its lowest level since 1975, the ONS also found that the number of people on zero-hours contracts hit a record high of 905,000 in the final three months of 2016 -  a 13% year-on-year surge.

Common among young, female and student workers in industries such as retail and hospitality, zero-hour contracts have been roundly criticised by trade unions, politicians and academics for the lack of financial security provided to employees, and its associated stress.

Business consultants Lee Hecht Harrison Penna said its research suggested that workers in London were the happiest in the country, while the least happy were in the South West.

The company’s chief executive, Nick Goldberg, said: "With our working life and private life becoming increasingly integrated, negativity and unhappiness at work can easily spill over and become all consuming.

"While it is encouraging to see that 38% of employees have only positive things to say about work, our research also shows that more needs to be done by both the employee and employer to improve workplace happiness.”

4 ways small and medium-sized employers can make employees feel happier about their jobs

1. Flexible Working

More than one third of UK employees want flexible working at their job, according to a study last year, and it is easy to understand why. By allowing workers to complete tasks from home, or to work at different times, managers are giving employees more control over how they balance their career and personal time.

Studies show employees can be more productive and motivated to work, as they are able to concentrate on their job at times when they feel most ready to do so.

2. Encourage Staff To Take Proper Breaks

The horrible feeling experienced by many people that they feel unable to step away from their desk for a break will only cause further stress and eventually, burnout.  Downtime at work is an important way for the body and mind to rest, recuperate and revitalise, with lunch breaks regarded as the most essential.

One idea to encourage breaks is to ensure your break room is well-stocked and comfortable or provide more compelling incentives like free food, snacks and coffee to encourage employees to step away from their desks.

3. Keep Out-of-Hours Emails To A Minimum

As shown by CMI’s Quality of Working Life report, the ‘always on’ culture is putting employees under increasing pressure to work even when they should be resting.

Constant connectivity is a prime reason for that. In particular, emails!

Dan Schawbel, a career and workplace expert and author of the New York Times bestselling book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, said managers should ensure staff only have to deal with very urgent emails out of the office.

“Small-business employees are getting bombarded with emails around the clock and feel compelled to answer them because they don't want to appear like they are ignoring the sender,” he said. “About half of small-business employees say they receive too much email, with about one-third of those saying that email overload hurts productivity.

“In order to have fewer emails answered after work hours, managers should make messages  that they want responded to as "urgent".”

4. Commit to their professional development

Increasingly, the very best employees are seeking a job that is fulfilling and pays well, especially the much-talked-about Millennial generation. Hundreds of stories appear in the news each year of smart people who quit their lucrative jobs in law or banking to join a startup firm, to start their own enterprise or to career change into lower paid roles such as a teacher.

Therefore, managers today face the challenge of showing staff that their company offers the professional development they desire. You should work to constantly reaffirm that they made the right choice by helping them progress in their careers and develop new skills. Hold training sessions in-house or sponsor extension courses that help your employees develop new skill sets.

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