Does well-being have a place at work?

·3-min read
Does well-being have a place at work?

Ping-pong tables, nurseries and sometimes even gyms. Companies are increasingly taking into account the well-being of employees by providing them with places to relax and benefits in kind. Studies have shown that a happy worker is a productive worker. But is it enough to define happiness just by our work environments?

Work happy to work better. According to a 2018 Harvard study, feeling happy at work increases productivity by 31% and creativity by 55%. The Covid-19 crisis supports this hypothesis. According to an Ifop survey, revealed last June, for 81% of workers, well-being at work is a priority.

The importance of well-being at work is a recent process," outlines Isabelle Barth, university professor and researcher in management sciences. "A century ago, this would not have been an objective of bosses."

Before speaking about the well-being of workers, companies must first think about "safety in the workplace." In France the 1898 Workers' Compensation Act marked the first turning point. "At first, companies simply complied with the law," reports the professor. But over time, expectations at work have grown. These days, "we expect social status, recognition and a salary from work," asserts the researcher.

Golden cage syndrome

To achieve this well-being, companies mainly play on the quality of life at work (QLW). In an approach in which "the worker is passive," it would be up to the company to provide what will make the employee happy, at the risk of having a hold over employees," reports the professional. This hedonic approach, based on pleasure, presents limits from a professional point of view. Well-being would be defined uniquely by rewards and a feeling of comfort. Meaning that pleasure could therefore be bought. Private life can then easily be mixed with the professional setting. There would then be a risk for the employee of "developing golden cage syndrome and to stay within a company for comfort and not for the work to be done," reports Isabelle Barth. In the event of departure or dismissal, employees would lose more than just their work, they would lose a component of their lifestyle.

With this approach, work gets reduced to simply the atmosphere of a company. In this context, the basic answer to "why do you go to work?" would be "because I like my team," a response based on affect. We therefore appeal to the irrational; we talk about emotion.

Empowerment and autonomy

The researcher proposes a second approach by placing more emphasis on the responsibility of the employee, approaching an eudaimonic position, in which the employee is active in their fulfillment. This was theorized notably by philosopher Aristotle. "With this approach, well-being would be the realization of their full potential," explains the professor. The employee is in an active seeking position and is in search of a position that allows them to blossom in their work and be proud of their achievements. In this setting, they complete tasks, not with the aim of immediate reward, but to achieve objectives specific to them. It is a "process of constant self-construction," notes Isabelle Barth, the path of which makes it possible to reach personal fulfillment.

Some will be drawn to the idea of benefits based on their desires and needs, while others will look for values in work such as autonomy, company values, quality of work performed, as well as personal goals. The key is to know what your needs are and how to meet them.

Louis Tardy