By Olayinka Opaleye
Going by the definition of work, which states that – any activity or task that involves the use of mental or physical efforts in achieving a result, outcome, or purpose is work, everyone works! However, what sets serious work apart from any other type of work is a career. Since work is anything, an individual engages in with achievable goal(s), a person can carve out a career from any activity called work. Therefore, what makes work a career is the amount of time spent over the years mastering and perfecting the act of doing the work. Career brings consistency, mastery and, credibility to whatever activity we call work. Hence, a job is any work or work-related activity we spend 2/3 of our daily waking hours on for about 12 years. Based on this definition, any work/activity can also become a career: all it takes is setting the correct parameters and achieving the set goals, but that is a topic for another day.
So, circling back to the definitions, inferences, and deductions alongside other scholarly findings, an average worker will spend 1/3 of their life at work or on work-related activities. As such, there is a need to continuously find ways to improve the quality of life on jobs as they hugely impact the overall health and happiness of workers and other stakeholders regarding productivity, profitability, and organizational health. So, let me ask you to briefly assess your workplace wellbeing by answering the following questions: Yes or No.
(1) Do you always know what is expected of you at work?
(2) Do you always have the appropriate materials, tools, and equipment to do your work?
(3) Does your opinion count at work?
(4) Do you get the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
5) Does the vision and mission of your company make you feel the importance of your work and your role in the grand scheme of things?
(6) Have you received recognition or praise for doing an excellent job in the last month?
(7) Does your supervisor or someone at work look out for you?
(8) Do you feel supported at work enough to allow for a balance between family and personal life?
(9) Does anyone at work encourage your growth and development?
(10) Has anyone at work spoken to you about your career progress in the last six months?
(11) Have you had opportunities to learn and grow at work in the last year?
(12) Does it feel safe to ask questions, seek feedback, report mistakes/problems, and suggest new ideas without fear of negative consequences at work?
(13) Would you say your work environment is characterized by trust, honesty, and fairness?
(14) Are interactions and communications amongst colleagues, customers, clients, and the public always considerate, civil, and respectful?
If you thought critically about those questions, you would have noticed that some of the perceived problems may not be out of your control. By that, I mean because no organization in the world is perfect, it is understandable to have a few Nos in your responses to the 14 questions even if you own the company. However, the level of cooperation and desire for change amongst workers can determine positive change to encourage retention and growth, thereby needing management for support and buy-in only. For example, because people make up an organization (hence the culture) and not vice versa, organizational culture exists without being expressly stated or written. What intrigues me most is how corporate culture often takes after the behavior of the founding members (especially the leaders). The beauty of this is that, regardless of how bad or short of expectations it may seem, ordinary employees who are determined to see the organization succeed can gradually and systematically change the narrative of unwritten practices.
In a nutshell, changing jobs may not necessarily be the solution to being happy at work. I dare say that turning passion into a portfolio or being self-employed may not also be the answer. However, one thing workers can anchor on is relevance. Being relevant in the grand scheme of things is the most accessible place to start while working one’s way up.
Let me wrap this up with a short, true story of a janitor at NASA. During President J.F. Kennedy’s visit to the NASA Space Centre in 1962, he noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He briefly stopped his tour to talk to the janitor. Walking over to the man, he introduced himself and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: “Helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President.” The janitor understood the importance of his contribution. He truly felt he was a valuable part of something bigger than himself, and his attitude created a feeling of self-confidence, relevance, pride, and happiness in his mission. He didn’t see himself as a mere janitor but as a 1962 NASA Space Team member.
Every worker has a story; your story should also make you happy at work.