Happiness at Work

Everybody wants to be happy, even at work! It's where we spend most of our time, after all. If we are happy at work, we are likely to be happier in other aspects of our lives. 

In recent months, both employees and employers have been faced with dealing with a crisis, with the focus being on survival. 'Normal' went out the window, and the hot topics of social distancing, quarantining and self isolation became the ones dominating our online staff meetings. Worry, fear, anxiety and uncertainty have come to the forefront of our brains, none of which are good for the happiness we want to feel at work. 

So what is the best way to keep positive and stay focused? We caught up with a good friend of the brand, Jo Tocher. As an experienced well-being coach and an EAM mentor, she was able to provide us with some wonderful advice...

Hey, Jo! First things first - in a digital age, how does technology impact happiness and well-being at work? How can the company help employees find the balance between mindfulness practices and nature vs constant tech stimulation and distractions that seem to consume us? 

It’s really important to have the balance, as being online constantly, can cause fatigue.  Scheduling pauses between meetings, so employees can take a break, stretch, walk and breathe and be in the moment, helps.  We need downtime and time out to let your brain relax.  Zoom fatigue is a thing! During this pandemic we have become so reliant on working online.

Flexible working and changes to regular office arrangement have come into play massively as a result of the recent pandemic. Now that companies are operating very differently, what types of things should employees be doing to look after their own well-being now they are away form 'normal' circumstances? 

Take pauses in their day.  Make sure there is plenty of water at their desk.  Get outside for a walk, take a decent lunch hour use the downtime to stretch, walk, and keep off technology as much as possible during the breaks. Do deep breathing, - take a deep breath in and hold for the count of 3, and release for the count of 6.  Do this 5 times.  It’s great for releasing the cortisol and adrenaline which builds up during stressful periods.  We have to do this more than ever, as we are spending so much more time online rather than face to face.

Many people who were used to working daily in large teams could now be suffering from feelings of isolation due to home working. How can employees maintain strong relationships with others? 

Team meetings are always good,  Keep in contact via text or even better phone calls!  Arrange to meet for coffee, lunch, dinner where possible. We spend the majority of our time online, that a phone call is a welcome change!  Taking the time out to arrange meet ups in person, can help with feelings of isolation.  A socially distanced walk, with a colleague or pal, can work wonders. Walking and talking is great (free) therapy!

Where do communication barriers break down that tend to make work life difficult and unpleasant and how can these be avoided? 

This is usually around miscommunication between staff members and managers. Often things have been taken out of context.  In this instance if it is getting unpleasant and difficult, schedule a meeting to talk about it, and reach out to HR.  There are HR Communications people who come into an office and work through these issues.  Often it needs someone from the outside to come in and assist.

Finding the perfect 'Work-Life Balance' is widely spoken about, but something many of us fail to achieve. Does such a thing exist, and if so, how to we get it?! How can employees learn to reflect on compromises made that allow them to stay happy, even if not all the typical work-life balance boxes are ticked? 

It exists, but we have to make a conscious effort to do it.  Deciding when you’re going to break, rather than pushing through, eating properly in the breaks (not just grabbing a chocolate bar and coffee).  Schedule in the breaks, put an alarm on to remind you to stop and do some deep breathing, and stand up and move your body with a good stretch, or some cross crawl.  Everything is life is a choice - we can choose to be unhappy and dwell on things or we can choose to be upbeat and see the possibilities in everything.  It’s  a conscious decision to flip your thoughts and find positives. Finding gratitude in the smallest of things can help our mindset.

How involved should a company be in people's happiness? As a society, it is very common for us not to ask for things that make us happier or more productive at work, but should we focus on being more self aware and articulate our needs to our managers? 

I think it’s key to ask for help.  Ask for what we need. It’s not always easy, because we usually try and plough through.  When we are aware of how something can change for the better, we can speak to our managers and ask.  Managers can only help, if they know what the issue is.   

As the common saying goes,'money doesn't buy happiness'. How much do you believe that money = happiness at work? 

People often value their self worth on how much they earn and see themselves as successful when they’ve earned a certain amount.  Sometimes, they’ll stay in a job, which they don’t love, but the money is good.  I think that if you’re not happy in your work, that it impacts your entire life.  Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it certainly goes a long way to providing the things that make humans happy, ie our basic needs and some uplifting treats/bags of joy!

Many companies introduce ad-hoc initiatives to create instant, but short lived, happiness within their teams. Does this work, or does consistency beat initiatives? 

Personally, I think that anything that is short-lived only works for so long.  In my opinion it’s better to be consistent. I think, constantly dangling a carrot, only works for a period of time before people become disenchanted. However, everyone is different and for others it could work.

More and more corporations are introducing 'well-being programs', such as having fitness centres, providing lunch or healthy snacks, employee assistance programs and some companies even introducing nap times! Do these types of things really work, and should we, as employees, be getting involved?

 I think they really do work.  Taking short naps during the day produces better output from each individual.  Ariana Huffington, introduced it to her staff at the Huffington Post, and says it made a remarkable difference in productivity.

In light of the current situation, many people who are unhappy at work are too scared to speak up as they feel more at risk than ever. What support is out there for people feeling this way, and what would you advise is the best approach to take? 

This is a difficult time and I would advise anyone who is desperately unhappy to talk to someone professional. There are people who specialise in this, and seeking the advise of a Career Coach is always useful. A coach always helps you see the wood for the trees! 

If there is a union in place, they should approach the union and ask them to represent them anonymously. If there isn't, then it's about getting advice from ACAS and they do a telephone helpline and there may be a way that they can help. 
I think also that if you complain or report something then if there are any repercussions you may well to be able to use this against the business, but you would need full written records of what has happened, dates and times to show a diary has been kept. 
I would also say consider some of the mental health charities like Mind for support on coping mechanisms.  https://www.acas.org.uk/contact