A good day at work

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It is now revealed that 10 per cent of people feel that they don’t have any good days at work.

This statistic was highlighted in recent research undertaken by business psychology company Robertson Cooper. Under the title What is a Good Day at Work?, the report, based on a survey of 1,500 adults in the private and public sector in the UK, also found that the average person has about 3.7 good days at work each week, and that only 18 per cent of people have a full five-day week of good days.

The really interesting thing is that the research also established that people reporting good days at work are 31 per cent more creative and 28 per cent more productive, which really helps to support the business case for the development of workplace wellbeing programmes. Imagine what could be achieved if 10 per cent of the staff in your workplace could become 28 per cent more productive!

The concept of wellbeing is one that still doesn’t sit comfortably in many organisations. It’s not easy to define, and people tend to approach it with significant preconceptions. 

For the research, Robertson Cooper  chose to focus on the concept of ‘a good day at work’ as something that is more tangible and easier to define, but still flexible enough to take in personal factors and changing circumstances.  While the factors that make up a ‘good day’ will be different for each of us, the end goal is something that we are able to define, and therefore also assess and measure. This means that we are better able to identify areas for improvement, take action to address them and make positive changes for the better.

Many leaders and managers are concerned that focusing on workplace wellbeing requires the organisation to adopt a parental approach, allowing workers to abdicate responsibility for their personal health. Interestingly, the research suggests that workers have a very different view, they are keen to take personal responsibility for their wellbeing but don’t feel empowered to do so.

This means that relatively minor changes in workplace culture, systems and approaches have the potential to empower workers to make positive decisions about their own wellbeing, and become significantly happier, healthier and more productive.

The research examines the factors that workers feel are significant in delivering a ‘good day at work’. Surprisingly, these are not linked to benefits, initiatives or health promotion, but are actually much more focused on the ability to do a really good job and to be effective. 

Three factors were identified in the research as being very important in achieving a good day at work. These are: task attainment, workplace relationships and lack of barriers to getting the job done.

So, the key to unlocking a 28 per cent improvement in productivity lies in the development of a really good workplace culture, effective systems, efficient processes and a sense of empowerment for workers. It is, of course, still a big ask, but it’s probably an easier concept to sell to senior leaders than that of a general wellbeing programme.

Of course, people can only work effectively if they are healthy, well rested and well nourished. So, a good work-life balance, access to healthy food, fresh air and exercise are also important, but the research suggests that people who are experiencing good days at work are much more inclined to take personal responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

So how can you promote more good days in your business? It’s all about leadership, competence and culture. The research report sets out an approach to building a good day at work culture, and emphasises that this is not a piece of one-off project work. To be effective and deliver real benefits it is necessary to adopt a long-term strategy that reaches into every part of the business.

People are at the heart of every successful business, and the world of work is changing. Jobs are increasingly focused on knowledge, skills and service delivery rather than repetitive manual tasks. Developing and retaining a flexible workforce of skilled individuals is a real priority for successful organisations.

Many businesses are starting to focus on wellbeing as a key factor in delivering this, but the Robertson Cooper research proposes a different approach. Perhaps we will see ‘good days’ becoming a leading indicator for workplace wellbeing in the future.

Louise Ward is director of policy, communications and standards at the British Safety Council


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