By Chris Sheppardson, CEO EP Innovates (www.epinnovates.com)
It’s International Day of Happiness today but how far does this celebratory day of smiles stretch when it comes to the current working environment? The harsh truth is, many of us are reportedly unhappy at work, add to this the increase in mental health issues and depression, the demise of strong working cultures and teams not to mention record numbers of people leaving their jobs every year – and the picture looks rather bleak.
Much has been written over recent years regarding the growing decline in productivity and lack of trust in leadership but truthfully, the problem is widespread and complex and it affects many people today. The burning question is, is it just about behaviours and campaigning for greater visibility of stronger leaders or is there more to it?
Arguably behaviours are far more improved today than they’ve ever been, but something isn’t right from a cultural perspective and the problem is spiralling. One can almost feel the increased aggression in the air and the alpha behaviours in every day life, which is odd given the increased focus on avoiding scenarios that may be deemed to be crossing the line in society today. Social media continues to cause anxiety for some and people have become more guarded and fearful as a generation today.
All aspects of life translate to business and the working environment so it’s probably no great surprise that so many of us are unhappy at work and not just the workforce, increased pressure on leaders makes for an unhappy workplace too.
Interestingly many people argue that we have already seen one of the happiest and rewarding times in the business, but that this generation grew up in a time when the young were arguably freer to express themselves. The late 70s and 80s were the period of CND marches, great political debate, of university grants and of being given accountability at a younger age. Many leaders held roles of genuine responsibility by the age of just 25, which would rarely happen today. They were exposed to life in a broader sense and most importantly they were happy, they had fun and they had friendship at work.
A guarded culture
Fun is not a word we often hear associated with business success, it’s usually all about profit, bottom line, KPI’s or processes, yet fun is probably the one ingredient that helps to make everything else operate as it should. Fun inspires happiness, passion, drive, determination, compassion, creativity, team spirit and much more; all attributes of any successful team culture.
There is also a school of thought that argues that as people become more guarded in society today, so they that are less inclined to take risks, make mistakes or to show their vulnerability to even the closest of friends and of course the knock-on effect is that they will not enjoy intimacy and relationships to a level that past generations have.
In the 1980s, and 1990s the younger generations could enjoy life, make fools of themselves with no expectation of anything being widely known beyond a certain social circle. Then, people would meet, enjoy a drink and have a giggle over their follies. Friendship was bound through adventure and experience in the workplace. We learnt about life together and we lived. The result is that we grew as people, both in our understanding and in our empathy for others and we had friendships that were fun and real.
Purity of friendship under threat
The concern today is that the purity of such friendship is under threat. Trust between people is one of the most special things in life. Having adventure and fun is equally as important in work and in life.
How do we solve this and bring greater happiness into the workplace again? Is there an argument that we need to go back to basics, to learn from generations past and to place a much greater focus on people? We need to create different work environments that are more positive, one where people engage with others socially, take lunch breaks, enjoy healthy debate, share opinions, make mistakes and take risks in order to develop and grow as individuals. Having outside interests from work (which place people outside of their comfort zones) also translates to greater success in business.
We can all argue over the reasons as to why people are unhappy at work and why culture, productivity and team spirit are diminishing but the hard truth is they are. Part of the reason is that life is more pressurised and stressful, many of us don’t even take the time to have a proper lunch break anymore and we need to find new ways of elevating that stress and make being part of a team fun again; this is just plain logic.
People at the heart of business
Let’s place people back at the heart of business and life and let’s show them that the work environment can be exceptional. Culture should be natural. Great service and culture is about a mind-set but great service and culture will increase productivity and profit and reduce stress and mental illness in turn.
If social media is changing our psychology and is a threat to people making mistakes and taking risks, maybe it is time for a change or to redress the balance? Throughout the ages, society has progressed through the courage of individuals – those happy to take on the rules and to say “you are wrong” or “I’ve made a mistake”. We need this as much today as ever. Without doubt, the strong and true emerging leaders of the future will have at the heart of their development, happiness, friendship, trust and of course, mistakes.
About EPinnovates (www.epinnovates.com)
A shop window for entrepreneurial innovation, EPinnovates has been created to showcase exciting innovations, new products, services, concepts and businesses for larger companies to discover and explore. Designed to recognise and support the innovation that entrepreneurs and smaller businesses bring to the future economy, EPinnovates tells stories about entrepreneurs; each has a different tale, adventure and overcomes diverse obstacles, but all are looking to improve business and create value. Accessing these ideas and innovations can be difficult for businesses to truly discover so EPinnovates acts to bridge that gap and help to engineer the future for the better by introducing larger companies to entrepreneurs through the principles of trust, community and relationships.