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Work life balance : Flexibility first. The X factor.

Happiness in the work environment is fundamental to sustained business success

If we are to believe current research, the idea of ëhappiness' at work is totally alien to the majority of the working population.

When stressed-out by managers, bullied by colleagues and threatened by short-term contracts and other forms of uncertainty, one wonders, How on earth could work possibly make us happy?

But it doesn't have to be like this. Gibran said: Work is love made visible. While Sir John Harvey-Jones put it: The work we do for money must be complemented by the work we do for love. To be happy at work, vision and strategy should be aligned, a deep sense of inner success and purpose cultivated, strong relationships must be built ('walking the four corners') and it must be fun.

A happy worker is a productive worker. Enabling employees to enjoy their jobs and find meaning at work is a more effective method of improving performance than the use of incentives such as wage enhancement. Happy workers are more open-minded, tolerant and trustworthy. They are also more likely to contribute to team spirit and social harmony.

If you love what you do, then it won't matter so much if you work harder and longer hours. The 'long hours' culture is here to stay, so to get more from employees, employers must ensure they are a part of the growth process of the company, that their contributions are appreciated and that they are needed and valued for what they do.

A life consumed by work will make GDP increase, but at the same time it will lead to far less happiness. Constant work will result in the demise of family life and, in time, the demand for greater efficiency and productivity will serve to dehumanise society.

A successful attitude

What is the link between happiness and success? To be successful you really have to enjoy what you do. The happier what you do makes you, the more you will want to do it and the more successful you will be.

Happiness at work is fundamental to success. If you are happy you will try harder, work longer and be less inclined to get ill. That's good for you, as well as for the company you work for. Happiness at work
is a basic ingredient of success, for both individuals and businesses, and a fundamental business driver.

Successful businesses understand the essential link between job happiness, effectiveness and profit. Happy employees are engaged, committed and productive. They are also creative and focused on achieving the best outcomes, and they don't waste their efforts complaining. This serves to inspire and encourage others.

Being paid a fair rate for the job we do is important to all of us, but when it comes to achieving genuine happiness at work, money is surprisingly low on the priority list. 'Creative' fulfilment, good relationships with colleagues and the knowledge that we are doing a 'meaningful' job invariably outrank mere salary packages on the job satisfaction wish-list.

Unleashing potential

Inspiring people is not easy. For most of us it takes time, effort and persistence. Few people have the outstanding qualities of inspirational figures such as Martin Luther King Junior or Nelson Mandela, but we all have the ability to inspire employees in small, yet meaningful, ways.

When people are inspired, they become more enthusiastic, motivated and engaged, which invariably improves their performance. Inspiration is not a management tool that can be readily manipulated. It results from the creation of a positive psychological and emotional connection with an individual - it is about winning hearts as well as minds.

Management has to buy into 'inspiration' as its impact may not be seen immediately. It is far better to coach someone to do a task than to tell them - this will have longer-lasting results that stand the test of time

Developing leaders

Organisations need to encourage employees to reach beyond their fears, by understanding and relishing their role and the positive contributions they can - and will - make.

Understanding the importance of work-life balance and how to achieve this is a key management skill. Work-life balance needs to be implemented as part of an organisation's legal framework and company policy, as does building resilience.

New ways of working

Flexibility is the key to success. Organisations often lose valuable talent because of an unwillingness to be flexible or to alter work patterns to cater for particular needs (such as those of the disabled).

Home-working and buddying schemes - where new recruits are provided with an informal mentor - are two examples of the sorts of new approaches that companies should consider.

Corporate image

A business's corporate image, internally and externally, is a key element of sustainable success and means far more than just having an attractive logo.

Demonstrating a commitment to society isn't just about social conscience or doing what's right, it makes good business sense. Not only does it help to attract and retain the best employees, it influences customers and buyers, and powers long-term success.

Happiness at work has many facets. We have to use the wisdom we have learnt from the past and take it into the future. Legislation alone will not be enough to attain this healthy culture.

The only way to get to it is through people, because motivated equals inspired, which equals involved teams that grow successful businesses.

The Author
Carole Spiers is a motivational speaker and business stress consultant

16th July 2007

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