If you google ‘happy staff’, surprisingly what comes up are websites for ‘happy staffies’. These are for rescued Staffordshire bull terrier dogs which made me smile as some of the photos were just lovely. Some of the websites were promoting the attractive nature of the much misunderstood Staffordshire breed. Being a dog lover myself, I must admit to having spent far too much time looking at photos and reading the heartfelt stories of neglect and wanting to rehome rather than focusing on this blog! I therefore had to share a photo of the adorable Dexter who is a key member of our family and loves to please, giving us endless love and happiness – a very good stress buster!

Dogs need comfortable surroundings, good diet and regular exercise. They respond to positivity, happy and encouraging instructions and love – is this not the same for us humans?

Now this diversion has really taken my train of thought to a different place so please just go with me…!

Most of us spend more time in our workplace than we do with our family, therefore if we are not happy, we will be less productive and may look for another job as a result. The latter two points; presenteeism and retention are key issues for employers and can have a significant detrimental financial impact.A workplace should provide us with a safe working environment, we should be treated with respect and ideally have a good working relationship with our boss and colleagues and should enjoy what we do! I wonder how many of us actually experience all of this!

Sadly, we live in challenging and stressful times with the typical UK employee working an average of 43.6 hours per week, which is longer than the European average of 40.3 hours (https://www.tuc.org.uk/). The importance of a good work life balance is vital as long working hours can lead to stress and ill health which will inevitably affect your family.

Comparing other countries, for example, Denmark has, according to the OECD Better Life Index report achieved a better work life balance than any other country surveyed. (read the report here)  The report highlights that the Danes themselves prioritise life over work. Their employers trust them to carry out their work effectively and this is reflected by the flexibility offered to them. Their terms and conditions are good and many can broadly choose their working hours and there is often a fixed lunchbreak encouraging social interaction and ensuring a break. They work shorter hours but are very productive. Research has shown that working long hours can result in loss of productivity thus increasing presenteeism. Denmark was voted the happiest country in the ‘World Happiness Report’ in 2013 and again in the update in 2016.

Looking at Denmark it would appear that in the UK we have a lot to learn about ‘working to live’ rather than ‘living to work’! Arguably some people make the choice that career is their priority and are happy with this. For the rest of us we want our job to be fulfilling but not taking over the rest of our lives. I love this YouTube video which I believe succinctly captures what is important in life!  Watch the video here.

There is one word which I believe is important in the health and wellbeing journey and that is ‘culture’. The Danish culture is ingrained in their work ethic as is the UK’s culture of working long hours. We need to change this for ourselves and the seeds of change are happening already. Enlightened employers are recognising that investing in their employee’s health and wellbeing is money well spent. Happier employees are more productive employees – it is a win win all the way! A great example of a collaborative approach to this is ‘The Workplace Challenge’ which encourages both employers and employees to get involved. An example of one initiative within the challenge is the ‘Flexible Lunch Break Manifesto’ which I think is fantastic. Check out the website for more information.  Visit the website here.  The only downside at the moment is that it is only operational in England!

In summary, it is our responsibility to make change happen. Take your health and wellbeing seriously. Consider your working environment, recognise what is good and what could be improved upon by your employer. Look at what positive changes you could make and consider what could be achieved in partnership with your employer and colleagues. Make it fun, get physical, laugh, share ideas and find your own lightbulb moment! Be happy it’s good for you…