By Neil Hourston, chief creative officer, Grey.
Is happiness at work a luxury in a climate where many of us are just grateful to have jobs? I don’t think so. In fact, I think that happiness at work is more important than ever.
I’m prepared for the wave of scoffing that will inevitably pour forth from the cynical? Campaign/Financial Times readership, but at Grey, we consider it so important that we’ve sent everyone who works here on three-day energy courses.
The idea of these courses is to assess one’s happiness and lifestyle, and then to get advice on how to improve the quality of work and life.
As well as these courses, which we’ve been sending people on for the past 12 months, we also have an agency appraisal form - which puts health and happiness front and central to staff development. We’ve run also respect and diversity courses over the last six months - again for everyone - to improve the quality of culture.
The concept of work and career has changed so much even in the ?? years since I graduated. While my and most of my contemporaries’ fathers pursued careers with the aim of getting a steady job, hopefully with some prospects for promotion and a decent pension at the end.
By the time I was starting out in my career, good prospects and a pension were still something to aim for; the idea of a job for life seemed a bit archaic; but we were looking for something more elusive: job satisfaction.
Now we face the prospect of careers that are likely to last, depending on your age, for as long as 50 years, and what we want out of work is completely different. That, combined with the fact that “teleworking” is now a fact of life for so many people, it’s become quite artifical to have a firm delineation between “work” and “life”.
Work IS life, life is work. We form close relationships with our colleagues, we spend vast amounts of time in our places of work; and if you’re still thinking about your job in terms of nine-to-five, Monday to Friday, you’re probably starting to be seen as a bit of a dinosaur.
Perhaps that still sounds all very well and good, but why bother making sure that your staff are happy when there’s an army of people out there to take their places if they’re not?
The answer is quite simply the overwhelming evidence that happy workplaces and happy workforces are more productive and run more efficiently.
The 2007 Happiness at Work research report by Chiumento HR, for example, found that staff who said they had good working relationships, received proactive career development and were made to feel valued by the organisation they worked for, especially in times of change, are the staff who are likely to be contributing the most to a business, and will act as ambassadors for the company as well.
An earlier report, carried out in 2005 by the communications consultancy CHA, found that 90 per cent of employees who are kept fully informed of business decisions are motivated to put in extra effort in their work.
The trend to take a proactive approach to staff happiness also has a serious business imperative. Preventing problems is always better than sorting problems out, and I’m sure there are many managers out there who will feel that the most stressful part of their jobs are not to do with making decisions about creative work or coping with client relations.
It’s often those moments when you have take a member of staff aside and query them on why their performance has been slipping, or tell them colleagues have complained about them, or any number of problems that can arise in a workplace where negative emotions are left to fester and grow.
The other thing to remember is that this business is cyclical. Tough times now, but as sure as a mobile phone ad will have a whimsical folky soundtrack, agencies will one day be fighting each other to win the best talent again.
And if you’ve spent the recession building up a reputation as an agency that takes its working practices from Roman slave drivers, word is going to spread pretty fast.
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