he national working environment in Japan has become so unpleasant that death by overwork now has its own word, ‘karoshi’. The hours in Japan have become so long and the situation so severe that the government has even had to step in, recommending that bosses let their staff go home at 3pm on the last Friday of each month. The initiative should not only lead to happier, more productive employees, but is also anticipated to deliver a boost to the economy in the form of consumer spending (£860m each Friday to be exact). Ref
Employee satisfaction and overall productivity are inextricably linked; the happier employees are, the better their performance will be. It doesn’t matter how large your salary or how big your bonus if you wake each morning with a sense of dread at the thought of having to drag yourself into the office. Can you really put a price on your health and wellbeing?
A healthy work-life balance doesn’t just mean surviving the working day and then enjoying whatever leisure falls either side. With the working day getting progressively longer as we become more senior and take on more responsibility, it’s important that employees understand the value of a good work-life balance early on in their career, and know how to achieve it.
The self-determination theory
The self-determination theory dictates that we’re most content when three factors are fulfilled: competency, autonomy and a feeling of relatedness. Your boss and your working environment have a huge impact on each of these. Here’s a breakdown of how these two elements can feed into the self-determination theory, allowing you a happier and healthier career:
It’s a simple fact that the more confident you feel about your ability to do your role the happier you’ll feel. The best bosses are those that make their team members feel able by teaching them. Research conducted by Stanford’s School of Business found that the most important ingredient to “effective supervision” was indeed teaching.
Your boss should be supporting you by taking a keen interest in your learning and development, whether that’s paying for you to attend an external course or just sitting down with you once a month to work through challenges.
Being delegated adequate responsibility is another huge contributor to your overall satisfaction, and again something your boss is largely responsible for.
This doesn’t mean ostracising yourself from the group, but instead owning and becoming the contact for specific tasks and responsibilities.
Relatedness refers to the feeling of kinship and connection you feel with your fellow employees and the organisation itself.
The most pioneering, innovative organisations are usually the ones who invest the greatest amount of resource in making sure their employees feel part of a greater whole. They do this by creating open and collaborative spaces, organising social activities and encouraging cross-departmental teamwork.
It’s no coincidence that the companies we usually find listed near the top of the FTSE and NASDAQ are also the same organisations that regularly feature in articles with titles such as, ’12 of the Coolest Offices in the World’.
Moving on up
Your worth is not determined by the number on your pay cheque, and neither is your satisfaction. The most satisfied, productive and high performing employees are those who have been afforded a great work-life balance through a combination of having a generous, instructive boss and a convivial work environment.
Consider your own working situation against the above three factors to help determine how likely you are to fall victim of karoshi, and then make adjustments to your career accordingly. Acting now – whether that means consulting with your boss, pursuing more opportunities for learning and development or even seeking out a new job – can help steer you down the right career path before it’s too late and you’ve become too stuck in your ways.