Why do we work?

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Olivia Hill is Head of HR here at the AAT. Recent research carried out by AAT told us that Britain’s workers value companionship and recognition over a big salary. Olivia talks us through the stats.

Earlier this year we decided we wanted to explore the reasons that motivate people to go to work. As work is such an important (and big) part of most people’s lives, we wanted to understand in this day and age what are the big ‘things’ that keep us happy in the workplace. Or to summarise in a sentence “why do we work?”

The research was carried out amongst  2,000 workers from across the UK and the results showed that people ‘colleagues’ are the most important factor in work happiness, along with enjoying their role and getting on with the boss.

Here’s the key findings:

1.    Three quarters of those surveyed said they would struggle to accept a job that gave them more money if they knew it would be a lot more stressful

2.    Over a quarter had said no to a promotion or a better paying job opportunity because it would have meant less time with the family

3.    Eight in ten Brits would not want a job that paid more if it meant they didn’t get on with their workmates.

4.    The study also found a third had left a job despite it being well paid – mainly because they didn’t deem it worth the added pressure

5.    Having a manageable commute was also deemed more important than good pay

My pennies worth

I personally was not all that surprised by the overall theme portrayed in the results throughout this study.  Work-life balance is becoming more and more important to people. This of course does vary depending on what stage in their lives people are at and if they have families.

Another factor that has probably changed in more recent years is the awareness of the link between stress and general wellbeing. Working in a high pressured job which causes an individual stress will have a negative impact on their health, and the survey shows that the majority of people are not prepared to take that risk.

Here at AAT to help our employees manage the demands of life and work, AAT offer our employees a number of options including flexible working, an employee assistance advice line and quarterly employee ‘wellbeing weeks’. During the wellbeing weeks we run different workshops, such as ‘Making stress your friend’, ‘Stand up, get moving’, and ‘Positive mindsets.’ We also have an open office policy and hot desking is the norm. We have found that this has had a very positive impact on building relationships amongst all levels of staff members from the most junior to the most senior.

Our research told us that just 15 per cent of the 2,000 workers polled actively disliked their current job. When asked why they were unhappy, respondents were more likely to feel the nature of the work was dull and unfulfilling or that their boss didn’t appreciate them. These two reasons came up higher than perhaps the more obvious choice about the salary being deemed to low. Again, perhaps a reflection that people want to be stimulated by the work they do and with the colleagues they do it with.

Although this figure of 15 per cent could be considered as a small minority, those 300 people actively spend or eight hours of their day in work, a place they don’t currently like. There are different options available to people who find themselves in this predicament, but doing nothing is likely to result in becoming demotivated and unsatisfied very quickly.

Raising issues with your manager is a good place to start. Sometimes an honest conversation can resolve matters straight away, however,  if it is unlikely that any changes can be made then it might be that a new role is the only option, whether that’s within the same organisation or elsewhere.

The state pension age is rising and people are working for longer so I believe the research overall to be positive. It’s important that we keep developing and nurturing talent so people enjoy coming to work and more importantly are engaged with the work they do. Due to the advancements in digital technology, people are now able to work from many locations and talent from within can be retained. People spend such a long time in the office, it’s crucial that they feel valued and employers large and small should look to other ways to incentive and keep staff happy and to ensure a happy working environment.

Catch up on the full story on the news section of the AAT website here and share with us your thoughts.

Olivia Hill is AAT's Chief HR Officer.

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