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IHC workplace happiness

Don’t let the faces on the bus queue fool you. Britain is home to an above-average level of happiness. Some 71.8% of adults in an ONS poll said they rated their life satisfaction at seven out of 10 or higher, while the EU average stood at 69.3%. Germany had a similar score with 72.3% and France also did well with 71.6%. But imagine how smiley the people of Denmark must be, with 91% saying their life satisfaction was seven out of 10 or more.

However, another set of statistics are perhaps a clearer indication of what is going on in the minds of the people at the bus stop – particularly if the bus going to be getting them to the office early or taking them home late after a long day’s work. According to a snapshot survey but the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), 47% of employees worked an additional 7.5 hours or more, while 13% worked an extra two days on a weekly basis.

Almost two-thirds felt pressure to put in overtime, with nine out of ten (94%) saying they worked over and above their contracted hours. The survey, which questioned more than 1,000 members, showed that overtime is a firm part of British working culture. More than three quarters said they worked late the office or at home, and almost half worked through their lunch time. More than a third worked during weekends, and over half said they felt they had to work long hours to complete their workloads.

More than 60% of people said the pressure to work longer hours came from their organisation, and 44% said they felt the pressure came directly from their boss. But a large part of the problem was self-inflicted, with 60% admitting they put themselves under pressure.
Smartphones also came in for their share of the blame, aiding and abetting an always-on mentality. Some 60% said they use their personal phone for work matters, while 86% said they regularly check their emails on evenings and weekends. A fifth said they spend over an hour per day sending emails on smartphones.

Commenting on the findings, Charles Elvin, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management, said: “When you add up all the skipped lunch breaks, early morning conference calls and after hours emails you see just how widespread the extra hours culture is within UK business we asked workers at the start of 2014 what their work New Year’s resolutions were, and nearly a third said they wanted to improve their work/life balance. It is sad to see that this is only being achieved by a small percentage of workers.”

He added: “Of course, all organisations face busy periods when employees will feel motivated to work above and beyond their contractual hours. But excessive hours are not sustainable – there are only so many times you can burn the midnight oil before your performance, decision making and wellbeing begin to suffer.”

IHC is committed to helping clients improve the health, wellbeing and work/life balance of their staff at all levels. Putting into place sensible policies is crucial, whether they relate to limiting work done outside work, common sense rules around driving and messaging or encouraging greater productivity within the workplace to ensure a better chance of switching off once the workload is completed.

Paul Roberts, consultant at IHC, said: “The ‘always on’ generation needs to be considered against the Health and Safety Executive causation of harm at work. Simple fixes can include ensuring all drivers on business do not text or mail. It is a known risk and easily managed with policy improvements.

“‘Mindfulness’ – being present and ‘in the room’ – or lack of it, is a bigger problem today than ever before. Keep meetings to time, agree the protocol for calls and mail beforehand. Should employees be allowed to bring technology to work, put measures in place to help to manage the negative effects of continuous distractions.”

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