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Unhappiness Is Injurious To Company's Health
Happiness as an input for company’s productivity is gaining recognition. A new survey identifies what makes Indian employees unhappy at workplace
Happiness and wellbeing were peripheral matters for most workplaces for long. Those who could not cope with pressures and politics suffered silently, vented out frustrations on hapless family or on juniors, and finally fell by the way side or retired bitter. Those rare individuals who dared to shun a toxic workplace to look for a more harmonious place were labelled mavericks for having shunned a stable job, and those who took a break to rejuvenate themselves were dubbed unstable and unreliable. But there is an increasing realisation that happy employees translate into productive workplaces, and organisations are proactively trying to provide that enabling work atmosphere.
At workplaces, happiness could mean a sense of fulfilment at great work done, gratification in the form of promotion or pay raise, fairness in systems and absence of biases, time for vacations and ‘me time’, a thought given to ergonomics, including even creative spaces for coffee break. Covid has been a catalyst in this changing emphasis and even laggard organisations have been forced to change track to encompass employee wellbeing and happiness in their agenda. A recent survey titled ‘Happiness At Work: How Happy Is India’s Workforce, 2022’, published by happyness.me, sheds light on multiple dimensions of workplace happiness, and comes out with some expected, and some surprising findings. The survey reinforces four premises: happy employees are more productive, they provide better services, they are likely to stay twice as long, and are generally healthier, ie they take fewer sick leaves.
A total of 1,360 employees in India were surveyed to study variables like general wellbeing, mental health, stress, work-life balance, turnover intent, sense of belonging and innovation at work. The survey included male and female genders, different marital status, full-time, part-time and self-employed status, different levels of job, work tenure and work experience, education and income levels, different geographies, and 18 sectors. Data was collected between December 2021 and January 2022.
The biggest finding that emerges is that 59 per cent of the workforce is not happy at work. The report says that “there is a strong urge to prioritize happiness but it is not met with a satisfactory level of the same”. It also reveals that personal happiness and workplace happiness are distinct. This is borne by the figure that 65 per cent of persons surveyed reported high levels of general well-being and happiness in general.
The survey was done at a juncture when the “protection of the psychological needs for self became central”. Hence psychological factors figure high as contributors to happiness or the lack of it. During Covid, the need for emotional well-being and work-life balance took front seat, and made people take decisions accordingly, including opting for jobs that give them a sense of purpose. The report also finds that a high-stress level, associated with higher level of work-personal life interference is taking a toll on workplace happiness.
A related aspect of workplace happiness is that men were found to be happier than women. As against 45 per cent men who said they were happy at workplace, only 37 per cent women said they were happy at workplace. The report points out that gender roles put an extra pressure on women to multitask.
Three key factors of workplace happiness that emerge from the survey are:
1. Job autonomy, that is the extent to which employees can control decisions, which has a bearing on job satisfaction. Trusting employees and giving them control over work rather than micromanaging is a key to workplace happiness, raising their morale and also developing a sense of responsibility among them.
2. Belongingness or interpersonal attachments and social connections. This is a big shift from the earlier work ethos of discouraging workplace bonding
3. Flexibility of working options, which is closely related to autonomy. Fifty-nine per cent of employees prefer remote and hybrid mode of working, as revealed in the survey
An interesting finding is that work from home and the sense of belongingness can co-exist and that physical presence is not necessary for developing social connections. The report suggests that hybrid mode of working will be “more suitable for promoting a more adaptable work environment, facilitating higher productivity and better worklife balance”.
While much has been written about gig economy, a surprising figure was that only 25 per cent part-time employees are happy, versus 44 per cent full time employees. This was to a great extent due to job insecurity and pay cuts during Covid, but also due to lack of belongingness and forming of bonds with colleagues. Only 49 per cent parttime work force had a sense of belonging towards colleagues, in comparison to 78 per cent full-time work force having a sense of bonding.
Some Sectors Are More Satisfying
The survey, conducted as the country was opening up after two years of varying lockdowns, reveals sector-wise differences too. At one end of the spectrum was healthcare and pharmaceuticals which had been at the forefront of Covid response, and 51 per cent employees responded they were happy (50 per cent men and 53 per cent women). Some other sectors where employees were relatively happy were automobiles (56 per cent in the case of men, 30 per cent for women, total 45 per cent), banking and insurance (52 per cent men, 39 per cent women, total 47 per cent) and education and ed-tech (50 per cent men, 44 per cent women, total 47 per cent). The survey report states that the healthcare employees had “lower likelihood of layoffs and sector shrinkage”, “a sense of validation for the purpose and meaning in life” and “a high sense of belongingness”.
At the other end of spectrum were retail and e-commerce, which had only 25 per cent happy employees (36 per cent men and 11 per cent women) and fintech, which had 28 per cent happy employees (27 per cent men and 30 per cent women). Attributing the low figure in e-commerce and retail to high pressures and expectations from the industry, and the “need for employees to deliver perfectly and speedily”, the report says, “With 55% of the employees feeling highly stressed, the data indicate an undue amount of pressure that is taking a toll on this sector.
The difference of figures in male and female employee happiness in some sectors was striking: In the IT and technology sector it was 52 per cent for men and 34 per cent for women, and in FMCG, 51 per cent for men and 27 per cent for women.
Seeking Stress-free Pastures
The report makes an interesting observation that it’s people who are satisfied with their personal aspect of lives, but who are disconPhotograph by CANVA DATA POINT BW PEOPLE AUGUST 2022 26 WWW.BWPEOPLE.COM tent with their jobs, who seek to leave unhappy environments. That is, if their personal front is secure, they can lean back on it during work crisis. “They, hence, feel a sense of confidence in revolting against the professional part of their life….”
The following figures emerge from the survey: 58 per cent men and 62 per cent women have the intention to leave their jobs. Age and having fewer children influenced men’s intent towards leaving their job, and not in the case of women. In their case, it was high stress level that influenced this inclination. Work interfering with personal life is possibly more distressing for women, the report reasons out. However, the intention to leave the current job does not differ much across generations, contrary to popular belief. The figures were 22 per cent for Gen Z, 21 per cent for Gen X and 22 per cent for millennials.
The report recommends enabling greater work-life balance for the workforce by ensuring well-defined work hours, regular breaks, time-off. It talks about work cultures “that accommodate adequate family time and social interactions, and that value engagement in activities beyond work”. It also recommends paying attention to the individual needs of employees and talks about the need to address the difference in workplace happiness between men and women, in particular. Working further on flexible working models and “revolutionising” part-time jobs to address the needs of different cohorts is another recommendation. Covid provided a springboard for the world of work to take a leap into the flexi working mode, and we need to capitalise on this positive fallout of the pandemic.