From the TUC

Good work, if you can get it

04 Mar 2010, by in Working Life

Today we’ve got a new ToUChstone Extra pamphlet out, “In Sickness and in Health? Good work – and how to achieve it“. It’s challenging the Government and employers to ensure that workplaces don’t just prevent staff from becoming ill, but actively promote good health and well-being through the idea of  ‘good work’.

We spend around a third of our waking hours at work. More than being just an economic process where employees simply trade their time for a wage, work is centrally important to us as human beings. It helps us define our identities, our physical and emotional well being, and even how long we live. We all deserve a fulfilling working life, with job satisfaction and the opportunity to achieve more of our full potential.

But too many of us get stuck with ‘bad work’ instead. You know you’re in this category if you have symptoms like a lack of control over work, poverty pay, repetitive or monotonous tasks, a lack of respect, incompetent line managers, work overload (or indeed getting too little to do), an absence of training and personal development, unsafe working conditions, over-long hours and bullying.

This ‘bad work’ really hurts us. It leads to stress, ill-health and lower motivation. There is a strong link between stress and the use of tobacco, recreational drugs and alcohol, while being stuck at your desk all day and snatched 20 minute junk food lunch breaks can lead to obesity. Workplaces suffer higher sickness absence, higher staff turnover and reduced levels of productivity as a result.

For those employers unimpressed by the idea of helping their staff improve their personal well-being, the idea’s hardly pure altruism. It could lead to a better, more successful organisation with loyal, motivated and productive staff.

We’d like to see a national standard for ‘good work’. Having a practical index for this potentially nebulous idea would help employers look at work organisation and job design, and include effective channels for employee engagement. Of course, many jobs are always going to involve elements of monotony or demanding physical effort, but an index would at least help employers recognise where this is, and compensate to make work better fitted to the people that do it.

It would hopefully encourage employers and employees to work together to ensure that work is no longer seen just as a place where employees go to earn enough for material sustenance, but as an activity that helps satisfy some of Maslow’s higher needs; belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.

We don’t often quote Audrey Hepburn on this blog, so before sending you off to read the pamphlet, I’ll remedy this oversight by giving her the last word:

“Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.”