The World's Happiest Country Is Stressed Out

Illustration of woman racing to work

While as a nation, Australia rates as one of the happiest in the world, that doesn’t provide much solace to the growing number of employees – now almost 50 percent – who say that problems at work are a significant source of stress.

So, as we approach the United Nations International Day of Happiness on March 20, what can we do in the workplace to raise Australia’s input toward global wellbeing?

Two factors consistently appear in multiple reviews of the Australian workforce: Only half of Australian employees report that their employer values their contribution and cares about their wellbeing. And less than half of working Australians say that they regularly receive relevant feedback and recognition for their work.

In other words they’d like to feel cared about as a people and genuinely appreciated for their efforts.

According to a report by Ernst & Young, many Australian workers estimate that simple changes by management to improve wellbeing, engagement, recognition and reward could help increase productivity by up to 21 percent.

If realized, some economists believe this could help Australia deliver up to $305 billion in increased productivity, revenue that is essential to maintaining the standard of living—and happiness—among Australia’s aging population.

Given all they have to gain, why aren’t Australian leaders making these changes?

In Australia, a whopping 83 percent of Australian employees rated their middle managers’ skills as average or below. Perhaps for this year’s International Day of Happiness, every business leader should take a few minutes to practice one act of positive leadership.

Here are five tested, simple ways any leader can get started:

  • Be aware of what you’re nurturing and spreading at the office
    Productivity can be greatly affected by the mood of employees, and the number one of predictor of their mood is their leader. So if you are a manager and you want to help people perform at their best, be sure you’re giving the right balance of positive to negative feedback and promoting wellbeing in the office. Take the free survey here at  www.positivityratio.com to see how you rate.
     
  • Focus your energy on strengths
    Research has found that giving people the chance to do what they do best each day improves engagement, productivity and customer satisfaction. Yet only about 20% of employees say they have a chance to use their strengths each day at work. Discover your team’s strengths by taking the survey at www.viame.org.
     
  • Invest in relationships
    We have a biological need for social support, and research has found that positive interactions with other people can lower stress levels and raise wellbeing at the office. It only takes a moment to genuinely connect with someone, and elevate both of your moods in the process.​
     
  • Be clear on your purpose
    When it comes to long-term sustainable innovation, culture maintenance and performance in organizations, studies suggest few other avenues offer better results than creating a sense of meaning for people in their work. So, as a manager, how would you finish this sentence: everything I do is to ___________, so that _________. And would others want to follow you there?
     
  • Celebrate the right kinds of accomplishment
    More important than simply believing in your abilities is believing that you can improve upon them. While most organizations are almost purely focused on outcomes, it’s focusing on effort that encourages growth mindsets where people are willing to embrace learning and the constant development towards mastery to produce superior performances. So don’t just say “well done” and expect your employees to flourish, spend a few more minutes and be specific about the effort you saw them making, why you valued it and how they can continue to improve on it. You’ll be surprised at the results.

A growing body of research shows us that these acts of positive leadership bring out the best in managers, their teams and their organizations.

So what are you doing to improve wellbeing and appreciation in your organization?

For more on how to be a Positive Leader sign up for the International Day of Happiness Virtual Conference which takes place on March 20, 2014. 

Facebook comments