April 2, 2015
Flexible working and recognition linked to happiness at work
The eternal quest for happiness is the subject of two new reports which conclude that if you want to feel more satisfied with your working life, it’s important to feel as if you are in control of it. New research from Professor Andy Charlwood at Loughborough University claims that government and employer policies that give people greater flexibility to choose the hours they work helps to foster their wellbeing and that overworked people are less satisfied with their lives and experience lower levels of psychological wellbeing overall. A second, less scientific study commissioned by US software provider InLoox claims that one of the most important determinants of happiness at work is an ability to work unsupervised or not to report to anybody at all so, if you must have a job, make sure you’re in charge.
The Loughborough study, published this month in the journal Human Relations, challenges the idea that long hours are automatically associated with lower levels of happiness and wellbeing. While many people working long hours would like to work fewer, the study of 20,000 individuals over an 18 year period found that the most important factor is the ability to work the hours people want to work.
“When workers are overworked – working more hours a week than they would like – life satisfaction and psychological wellbeing deteriorate,” explains Andy Charlwood. “Your risk of being overworked rises the more hours you work, with those who work the longest hours being the most likely to work more than they want.”
The research team found that more than 55 percent of workers who regularly work 50 or more hours a week would like to work less, as would around 40 percent of workers who work between 40 and 49 hours a week.
Professor Charlwood added: “Thankfully, most workers who experience overwork are able to rearrange their lives so that the hours they work and the hours they want to work come back into balance. But around 1 in 8 workers who become overworked are in the same situation two years later, and this appears to be a significant source of worry and unhappiness. To help protect our national wellbeing levels Government and employer policies need to give workers greater flexibility to choose the hours that they work.”
The survey by InLoox claims that employees are less happy at work than their bosses. Based on a study of 200 professionals, the report claims people who do not have a boss are more content with their working life than those who are supervised. Almost all of the senior managers and self-employed people (98 percent) claim they feel appreciated at work, while only 80 percent of employees working for a supervisor feel the same.
The report also claims there is a direct correlation between professional recognition and levels of happiness. It found that around 80 percent of employees who claim to feel undervalued at work believe their job has negatively impacted their private lives. In comparison, only half of those who felt they were appreciated at work felt their job was impacting their personal lives negatively.
“The survey shows the perception of self-determination and acknowledgement makes even high-pressure jobs bearable and even prevents stress,” Dr. Andreas Tremel, InLoox CEO said. “This is a clear signal to managers and team leaders. The human factor is crucial when you want to retain great staff. Employees, however, should not be ashamed to ask for an acknowledgement of their great work.”
Other findings of the survey including:
- A lack of appreciation raises stress levels
- Those who feel valued in their work environment are less likely to feel negative stress.
- 85 percent of supervisors are satisfied with their income, while only 60 percent of employees say the same
- One in two employees feels pressed for time
- Only 51 percent of employees believe they have enough time to complete all of their important tasks.
- Only 5 percent of respondents work on one project at a time; 21 percent of participants work on five projects at once and 14 percent maintain 10 concurrent projects.
- 36 percent of respondents need between one and a half and two hours per day just to manage their emails.
- One out of five employees stated they feel exhausted before the workday even begins, but only 3 percent of supervisors said the same.
- 19 percent of employees and 12 percent of supervisors are afraid of suffering burnout.
- Supervisors are more content with themselves
- About 70 percent of supervisors said they have reached strong professional goals, whereas only 45 percent of responding employees said the same.
- Employees seem to have higher expectations of themselves (as stated by 66 percent of them), whereas only 50 percent of supervisors said the same.
- When it comes to assessing their own performance, employees also are often unsatisfied: 45 percent of them said that they now feel less productive than they felt years ago. Only 30 percent of supervisors have the same impression.
“The survey shows the perception of self-determination and acknowledgement makes even high-pressure jobs bearable and even prevents stress. This is a clear signal to managers and team leaders. The human factor is crucial when you want to retain great staff. Employees, however, should not be ashamed to ask for an acknowledgement of their great work,” says InLoox CEO Dr. Andreas Tremel.