Work is good for our health and well-being in a range of ways – it supplies us with money to enjoy life and provide for our family, it offers us social interaction with colleagues, it enhances our self-esteem through feeling that we add value. In addition, these positives also help us to feel more physically and mentally well. As a result, people in work consult their GP less often and show fewer and less severe symptoms of anxiety and depression than their unemployed counterparts. The caveat to all of this however is that the work has to be good work.
So what makes work good? Good work is not necessarily just about the job we do day to day, although arguably doing something you enjoy is likely to help! Good work is about the culture of the organisation and how that fits with our own values, beliefs and work-life needs. Let’s have a look at some of these aspects of work and well-being in more detail…
Working in a company that has values that align with our own is important in us feeling like we belong and in enabling us to feel comfortable in the workplace. Where an organisation’s values are divergent to our own we feel as though we are in conflict and that the behaviours we are expected to demonstrate are misaligned with our values and beliefs. This puts us in a very uncomfortable position and can lead to stress and anxiety. So making sure that when you look at potential future employers you find out about their core values can help to avoid a mismatch later on. Often employers will have information about company values on their website and checking the media for any news stories about an organisation will also help you get a feel for how their values might align with your own.
It is easy to assume that what people think is most important about work is getting paid (and getting paid well). This is not the case however. Most people want to feel valued in the contribution they make and express that a simple ‘thank you’ for their contribution is a real motivator for them. Interestingly, managers often think money is most important to employees and fail to realise that while it is a factor, authentic recognition makes a big difference to people day to day (between the pay cheques!) It is not just getting recognition from a manager that gives us that warm glow either – getting positive feedback from a colleague also sends us home with a smile, so remember to appreciate your colleagues!
Work-Life Balance & Flexibility
Work-Life Balance is about an individual’s ability to sufficiently balance the demands of work and home life. People in jobs that enable good work-life balance and flexibility report being happier than those in more rigid work environments. Having flexibility around working hours and location is also beneficial and is often reflected in lower sickness absence. These elements of working life are about more than just the physical time you spend in one place or another, and with mobile technology having removed the psychophysical barrier between work and home it can be easy to be physically at home, but mentally at work – whether that is worrying about what needs to be done, or checking emails instead of relaxing at the end of the day. Checking what an organisation’s policy around work-life balance and flexible working is and even noticing when employees contact you from the organisation during the recruitment process can give you clues about how well they enable their people to balance their work and home life. It can also be tempting when you start a new job to work long hours as you strive to impress and to establish yourself, but this can set a dangerous precedent in terms of expectations that you may find disruptive later on. We all have to put in extra hours from time to time to meet peaks in work demand, but the flexibility should go both ways.
We all want to do the very best job we can, and it can be difficult to switch off at the end of the day but doing so ensures that you stay healthy and well. It ensures that you keep up with family and friends, that you maintain your physical well-being by getting to the gym, or your weekly football match. It ensures that you invest in your own mental well-being through socialising, relaxing and looking after yourself. All of this means that you can do the very best job when you are in work because you can focus all of your attention there when it needs to be there.