For years work was regarded as a loveless pursuit, a spiteful diversion from the joys of life outside the nine-to-five constraint, but in a society that seemingly values happiness in the workplace, it can be hard to know whether it’s time for a change or if you’re just hard to please.
“Happiness [at work] is actually a new concept… in previous generations they didn’t have the privilege or luxury to think about it,” says Eileen Chadnick, principal life and business coach at Big Cheese Coaching.
Today “happiness” is front and centre in the nine-to-five narrative and Canadians, or at least half of them, seem to be disappointed in their workplaces.
According to a poll by specialist recruitment firm Hays Canada, only 47 per cent of Canadians are happy with their jobs. In fact, of the 2,500 Canadians surveyed, a meagre 30 per cent of professionals say they’re well matched with their current employer.
“The majority (86 per cent) of Canada’s working population believes fit is important but when we investigated further, we learned that few actually know what that means,” Rowan O’Grady, president of Hays Canada said in the press release. “No one intends to be unhappy but one-in-two Canadians spend their working lives that way because they disregard fit – we can no longer afford to have such a relaxed stance on the value of strong connections between people and where they choose to work.”
Happiness isn’t forever
Chadnick notes that while happiness and the pursuit of meaningful work are critical to our overall well-being, Canadians might be getting a bit spun about what that actually means.
“Happiness is not a destination or a permanent fixture, it’s really a state of being that can shift,” says the lifestyle and career coach. “As an employee seeking happiness they need to understand it’s a very dynamic process.”
Part of that, says Chadnick, comes down to taking a career pulse check form time to time and asking yourself what your values are and whether or not your current career aligns with those values.
“You need to recalibrate,” she says. “The mistake people often make is not doing the work to think about that, to understand their needs and the shifting nature of happiness – there’s no such thing as a perfect career forever, career satisfaction and priorities may shift, landscapes may change.”
When to consider a change
There are red flags, like waking up every morning dreading the thought of your workplace, feeling your health wavering as a result of your work environment, feeling abused or unheard, or watching your work-life consume your time at home – an increasing challenge in today’s constantly connected environment.
“Even if you’re in a job that is really an ideal fit, you may still not be happy if you haven’t mastered the habits associated with positivity and well-being,” says Chadnick. “Choices you make like how you lean in to your job, the requests you make and even the mindset you choose from a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis (matter).”
But as happiness becomes a social construct tethered to workplace reality, employers will also have to play a role in stepping up to keep their employees happy.
A recent survey on workplace satisfaction by human resources and payroll services behemoth ADP Canada, had 83 per cent of working Canadians say their satisfaction level at work would significantly improve if employers made and effort to raise spirits.
“If an employer wants to be an employer of choice, then it is very important that they create an environment that attracts, retains and grows talent because today’s employees want to know that (their workplace) is a positive culture,” says Chadwick. “(But) in this environment that cultivates positivity and trust, a lot of organizations haven’t mastered that… and they may not know how yet.”