Under pressure from the burn-out epidemic, we must urgently dare to work on happiness at work. The first cautious steps are now being taken in Belgium – it is high time to deal with the improvement points and – together – move up a gear in the coming years.
In theory, all companies in Belgium are today actively working on a genuine well-being policy. Due to our predilection for structure and legal frameworks (see also this blog article), however, this theory unfortunately often results in mere paperwork. As Justine Henin rightly stated years ago: “We don’t play on paper, but on gravel.” The question is therefore whether companies dare to take the step towards an effective well-being policy that opens the door to happiness at work and puts a stop to the proliferation of surveys and checklists, meaningless reports and ditto job titles. Of course, every organisation needs a strong plan, but the strength of that plan can only be reflected in its actual implementation. A trial and error story, no doubt.
Well-being at work today is often a narrow concept that is limited by many HR professionals to ergonomics, bullying at work and vitality. However, there is so much more work to be done than just tackling the (psychosocial) risks! By shifting the focus from well-being to happiness at work, this becomes very clear. After all, happiness at work is based on purpose (meaning) and relies on trust and communication. Thanks to these positive fundamentals, we can strengthen the resilience of the working population so as to be able to cope with the tsunami of work-related stress that is flooding many people.
There is still a taboo surrounding work-related stress. Many people are struggling, but few dare to admit it. During our well-being training sessions, we are asked daily if there will be any exercises that participants can do secretly during their working hours. “What would my colleagues say when they saw me working on my well-being?” I have no idea. In the Netherlands, colleagues do not seem bothered by it. Of course, our northern neighbours are opting for a much more positive approach. They talk openly about happiness at work and zoom in on its strengthening factors instead of falling back on a curative approach that is set in motion when people (threaten to) fall ill.
The same as when putting out a fire, smouldering embers require less effort to extinguish than an entire building in blazes. Less effort also means less money. In fact, happiness at work does not entail any cost, but above all offers an investment opportunity. The ROI of that investment is extensive and has been proven several times over. It has also been clearly demonstrated that the cost of inaction will quickly catch up with us.
The moral of the story: we are very cautiously on the right track in Belgium. Many companies understand that it is high time to start working in a constructive way if we ever want to call a halt to the stress and burn-out epidemic. We still have a long way to go, but with a growing group of believers in the lead, the belly of the peloton will undoubtedly and quite soon get the wind in its sails. Hope springs eternal, as they say. And the mechanism of hope is a robust engine indeed to power happiness at work.
Would you like to know more about the undercurrents that determine the dynamics around well-being and happiness at work? Then also read these articles by Griet Deca about the impact of the information revolution or burn-out in the 1950s.
You can of course discover this and much more about happiness at work in the book ‘Van Welvaart naar Werkgeluk’ (‘From Prosperity to Happiness at Work’).