Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Are You Happy at Work?

We predicted this year the economy would not be doing so well with China slowing down and Europe going in slow-motion implosion.

And so instead of turning to productivity rates, a recent report in Hong Kong has looked at how happy employees are.

The Happiness at Work Index is the first for the city and was a survey jointly conducted by the Productivity Council and Lingnan University and it found people were marginally less happy at work than overall.

On a scale from zero to 10, the average work happiness of the 1,328 people who participated in the survey was 6.7 points, 0.2 points below the general happiness score.

A score of seven is considered "happy", and anywhere between four and six means neutral and below that is unhappy.

So for the small sample of respondents, 6.7 is pretty decent.

For some reason Hong Kong surveys have such small numbers of participants... surely in a city of seven million people they can get more data...

But I digress.

The survey defines work happiness as looking forward to going to work every day.

What's interesting is that the results showed that respondents with higher education were not necessarily happier at work, while those with secondary school education or less were happiest (6.7), followed by university graduates (6.6). Those with diplomas, high diplomas or associate degrees were the least happy at 6.5.

"This must have something to do with their level of societal recognition," said Lingnan Professor Ho Lok-sang, lead researcher of the study.

Another reason may be university graduates not being able to find jobs in their preferred fields and are stuck doing menial or low-paying jobs they are over qualified to do.

The survey does not indicate a link between the type of industry and the degree of employees' happiness.

Productivity Council general manager Raymond Cheng said: "This means a particular enterprise's culture matters more than which industry a person is in."

He suggested companies should take greater measures to encourage staff to learn from mistakes and involve employees more in business decisions -- methods that cost nothing and could bring staff closer together.

Another observation in the survey was that among small and mid-sized companies, the larger the workplace, the more its employees tended to be unhappy. And in Hong Kong these companies make up 98 percent of all local employers.

Meanwhile in large companies that have 100 or more employees, "more resources and better-defined systems" result in happier workers, said Ho.

He said it was worrying that most top-level managers interviewed in the survey had no regard for communication. It's perhaps because of their belief that they need to assert authority and the way to do that was to issue commands rather than involve staff to formulate better solutions for doing things. This is even more prevalent in mainland Chinese companies.

Nevertheless, Cheng noted that: "The happier your staff, the better the company's performance will be."

Wonder how many Hong Kong companies are actually going to heed these words of advice.

But in what may be the beginning of a rough patch, perhaps now would be a good time to implement some changes.

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