Is work still working for you? Wellbeing and happiness drive business success
The influx of new digital technologies is exposing us all to an unprecedented flood of information and emails that we feel compelled to read and respond to at all hours. And, with demand for our time increasingly exceeding our capacity, we’re struggling to bring our skills and talent to life. Did you know that the average employee is distracted once every 11 minutes and needs an average of 25 minutes to refocus on tasks? As a result of the ‘anywhere, anytime’ workplace, there are often too many choices and too much information. Usually we compensate by working faster and longer (but not necessarily more effectively). As a result, we experience more stress and higher levels of frustrations, reducing our wellbeing at work and productivity.
Only 13 percent of employees around the world feel engaged in their day-to-day work, and in response, many organizations are making a conscious effort to increase motivation and wellbeing amongst employees. According to researchers, we are happiest at work when four needs are met:
- Physical – through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work
- Emotional – by feeling valued and appreciated for our contributions
- Mental – when we can focus on our most important tasks and have the flexibility to define when, where and how we get work done
- Spiritual – by doing more of what we do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work to make a difference
The University of Warwick revealed that employees are 12% more productive when they’re happy. Our brain works better when we are feeling positive, and we tend to be more creative and better at solving problems. While technology is perhaps the biggest influence on our increasing need to be ‘always on’, it is also being used to help reduce stress and increase wellbeing at work. Mood recognition technology, also known as affective computing, is tipped to be a fast-growing market, from just over $9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020. It looks for hints such as widened eyes, faster speech, a raised voice and crossed arms, as well as a faster heart rate or skin changes. Using artificial intelligence, big data, image recognition and sensors, the technology can be used to detect moods, make lighting or room temperature adjustments, and play calming music and sounds that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction.
So where in Europe are people happiest with their jobs? Here, we explore a number of factors…
According to a report from the European Commission, residents in Austria’s second-largest city, Graz, are on average happier than anywhere else in Europe. In fact, 85% of the city’s workers described themselves as “satisfied” with their jobs. Despite its small population of around 310,000, Graz has a booming economy, particularly across culture, science and education. At the other end of the scale, we see lots of cities in southern European countries – that remain in the grips of the Eurozone crisis – with some of the lowest scores. In Athens for instance, 41% of workers said they were “not at all satisfied” with their current role.
Some companies in Sweden are piloting a six-hour working day in a bid to increase productivity and give people more time to enjoy their private lives;, French workers recently secured legal rights to avoid work emails outside working hours, in a new law known as the “right to disconnect” that came into effect at the beginning of this year. Going one step further than this, in 2014, German car manufacturer, Daimler, set up an optional service for workers going on holiday that automatically deleted new emails while they were away.
New parents’ rights
While most European workers are entitled to much more parental leave than their counterparts in America, Swedish parents can enjoy one of the most generous benefits in the world. New parents can share their leave equally, and are entitled to a total of 480 days, while receiving 80% of their salary.
According to official figures, citizens in Luxembourg had the highest average salaries in 2016, at €57,765. Switzerland (€53,605), Ireland (€50,041), Norway (€47,897), the Netherlands (€47,896), Denmark (€46,569) and Belgium (€45,164) also appeared in the world’s top 10 countries. But do high salaries still motivate European workers as they did for previous generations? In contrast to baby boomers, millennials find that the dream of a comfy, middle-management job, with a guaranteed solid salary and employment stability, is firmly outdated. Instead, they want stimulating, meaningful work with purpose that chimes with their values, and they want to be rewarded for success rather than time.
I will be exploring the changing workplace, the impact of new technologies and the importance of wellbeing and happiness for business success in our Future of Work series over the next few months, so look out for our blog posts and our full report that examines how the ways in which we work are changing forever.