November 13, 2015

Wellbeing in the Workplace

Wellbeing at work was highlighted as a key business issue at the CIPD’s latest annual conference. It was the topic of Professor Sir Cary Cooper’s, 50th anniversary professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School, talk when he opened the conference.

Cooper made reference to a 2012 Chartered Management Institute report that he co-authored. Called ‘The Quality of Working Life 2012. Managers’ Wellbeing, Motivation and Productivity’, the report is full of statistics that demonstrate high levels of workplace stress among managers. It is the seventh report in a series that started in 1997 and contains some important trends.

While there is lots of talk about and research into general levels of stress in the UK workforce, this research is interesting because it focuses on a less well documented area – the stress reported by managers and directors.

So what did the research tell us? Here are some key statistics:

– 46% of managers worked two hours per day over their contracted hours in 2012, compared to 38% in 2007. The average manager worked around 1.5 hours per day over contract, which equates to roughly extra 46 working days a year
– 59% were concerned about the effects on their stress levels, with 56% being concerned about their psychological health
– 42% of managers said they had good health, 37% satisfactory health and 21% poor health
– However, 42% said they were suffering from symptoms of stress (an increase of 7% from 2007) and 18% reported depression (up 3% from 2007)
– 43% of managers reported a culture of presenteeism (going to work when ill), compared to 32% in 2007.
A sizeable chunk said that economic pressures had adversely affected the organizational culture in terms of employee wellbeing – 39% thought that senior management’s commitment to employee wellbeing had declined, a drop of 16% since 2007.

The report showed that when organizational change is effected badly, it undermines managers’ sense of their own wellbeing and their attitude to the organisation. Managers then display lower levels of engagement and productivity, a situation that has a ripple down effect through the organisation.

Also under the spotlight was leadership styles and how this impacts on managers. The research demonstrated that one of the strongest determinants of job satisfaction is the dominant leadership style in an organisation. High levels of job satisfaction are fostered by a sense of achievement, autonomy, the sense of a good career path and being part of a team. The four words that stand out as being important for managers are respect, autonomy, trust and achievement. That’s what motivates them. What demotivates them? High pressure and limited prospects.

The report found that the most common leadership styles reported were as follows:

– bureaucratic 45%, an increase of 5%
– reactive 33%, a decrease of 4%
– and authoritarian 30%, an increase of 1%

Moreover, the leadership styles associated with organizational growth and employee wellbeing were in the minority.

Other, more recent reports, talk of a prevailing culture of presenteeism (such as the CIPD report covered in a DPG blog post recently. It will be interesting to see what the CMI finds if and when it conducts its next piece of research into employee wellbeing and the effect on managers.