Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

View more articles from Fiona Smith

You get paid and you want to be happy, too?

Published 13 June 2013 00:46, Updated 13 June 2013 07:23

+font -font print
You get paid and you want to be happy, too?

However worthy it may be, the idea of being happy and fulfilled at work is a relatively new one.

Not that long ago, some would have sneered at the concept people should expect to be happy at work.

You were not paid to have a good time. You were paid to work.

And there are still plenty of managers today whose hackles rise when they get a whiff of laughter or banter under the fluorescent glow of office lighting.

They are slow learners.

Everybody else knows that happy people work more productively, are more creative, more collaborative, less likely to resign and more likely to recommend their employer to their friends.

Happy staff also have a better relationship with customers, who spread the word.

While all this is common knowledge, employers do find it hard to know how their people are feeling at any given time, which makes it hard to do anything about it.

An employee engagement survey may be done once a year, but people can only tell you how they feel on that day, not how they were the month earlier. They may also have forgotten how miserable (or elated) they were at another time of the year.

Employees may know they are trying to survive a toxic work environment in their department, or organisation as a whole, but their bosses may well be oblivious.

But thanks to the development of new software, there may soon be new ways of dealing with this issue.

The UK’s Centre for Well-Being is working on an app that can give employers and workers real-time data on the levels of happiness in an organisation, pinpointing teams and divisions that may be having problems.

This will give managers the chance to understand what external factors can move the mood of their organisations, allowing them to act before problems become entrenched. Workers too will have the opportunity to track their own emotional wellbeing and will be helped to try and take some control.

Founder of the centre, Nic Marks, says it is too early to talk in detail about the app, which launches in September and is now being trialled by a company in a beta version.

In Australia, a similar “tool” (the Mood App) has been developed by software company Atlassian for its own use. It asks a targeted question each day through a series of iPads scattered through the building.

The Centre for Well-Being’s app, like Atlassian’s, will offer instant feedback on the questions, so that employees (and their managers) can see how the organisation is tracking as a whole at any given time.

Marks says the app will help workers change their situation and job into something they can enjoy.

“I obviously think it is a hugely innovative way for organisations to become more adaptive and flexible,” he says, on the phone from the UK.

“The tool is really useful for opening up a conversation about what is going on at that time in the organisation.”

The centre already has an online survey, Happiness Works, which is free for individuals and can also be used by organisations.

Marks says online hosting company Peer1 Hosting in the UK has developed its own barometer, using a daily email question.

People are given 24 hours to respond and those who have the blues get a phone call from managing director Dom Monkhouse to see if he can help.

“Some people press the [sad] button to see what happens,” says Marks.

Monkhouse says the reasons for unhappiness can be varied: work, personal, overwork, or problems with an interpersonal relationship.

“Sometimes their mother has died and they haven’t got enough money. In the past, we have flown people to South Africa for funerals. Even people who don’t reply are neutral. Not participating is also a danger sign in terms of engagement,” he says in an online interview.

Marks says that just having an opportunity to talk about how you are feeling can help: “Strangely, just naming things really, really helps. Talking about it helps.

“Measurement becomes an intervention itself. It allows people to discuss things in a different way.”

Nic Marks will be in Australia to speak at the Happiness and Its Causes conference in Melbourne on June 19.

Topics:

Comments