We seem to be working longer hours with greater intensity, yet feeling satisfied with our work lives has proven elusive for many of us. While we continue to invest more time and energy into our careers — we somehow remain disconnected from our work. We express that we are pushing far too hard, yet according to recent research we often leave our vacation time on the table. It seems that for every important aspect of our work lives, there is a study telling us that we just aren’t getting it right.
Disheartened with what I read concerning how we feel about our work, I have to ask: What is really going on here and how can we fix it?
As described in this HBR post, exploring how organizations struggle to make sense of “Big Data” — information about our work lives seems plentiful — yet much needed insights concerning how to conclusively solve what is “ailing us” are rare. If we are to impact the larger happiness/ engagement question, it might be the right moment to take stock and pause for deeper reflection.
Let’s hold the presses and concentrate on “connecting the dots” with what we have learned.
Where we might look:
- Accept that our relationship with work is personal. This notion is not rocket science — how we view our work is filtered through our own gifts, personalities and experiences. As such, “One size fits all” workplaces are a thing of the past. Let’s embrace individual needs and stop debating common sense. What constitutes meaningful work is dependent on the individual, as evidenced by the importance of the Psychological Contract — so let’s move forward and integrate this into how we view our own work and how we craft management strategy.
- Re-examine work-life integration. There is little hope of “work-life balance” if we can’t even begin to integrate the two worlds effectively. Although it is well documented that we all require “down time” to stay fresh and focused, many of us simply cannot secure quality time away from our work. Let’s explore realistic options to help employees seek the balance they require, so our work lives can become sustainable.
- Consider that managers might hold the key. Identifying the myriad of problems in workplaces doesn’t seem to be the challenge. However, we may have overlooked that our first line of defense could be the pivotal role that managers play in our work lives. The best news? The puzzle as to what constitutes a great manager may be more easily solved than we might have thought. The real challenge? Moving people out of managerial roles who don’t belong there — and putting the right people in place.
What are we missing in the work-life happiness conversation? What should we do concretely to make Americans fall back in love with their work?
About the Author: Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker. She also writes the The Office Blend, recognized by Forbes as one of their “Top 100 Websites for Your Career.”
Note: This post is adapted slightly from Dr. Marla Gottschalk’s LinkedIn post “Americans Aren’t Happy At Work. What To Do?”