Happiness and Wellbeing at Work: How to Shield Yourself from the Economic Crisis – by Ritsa Fotinatos-Ventouratos & Sir Cary L. Cooper

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What are the tactics that individuals can use to improve their wellbeing at work during this economic crisis? How can organisations survive these turbulent times? What strategies can be put into place to promote happiness amongst people affected by this recessionary period? Professor Ritsa Fotinatos-Ventouratos & Professor Sir Cary L. Cooper consider the best ways to promote happiness and wellbeing at work, despite economic uncertainty.

The answers to the above questions not only seem far- fetched but almost impossible to attain during this economic crisis period; and yet, Organisational Psychologists have for a substantial part of this time been assessing the impact of this ongoing economic crisis in terms of wellbeing at work and providing suitable preventative tactics to shield oneself from the brunt of this economic downturn and recessionary period – which is now entering its eighth year, and touching on the lives of almost all citizens around the globe.

The time has now come to put into practice the appropriate remedies and preventative tactics to ensure a healthier and psychologically more stable future. Given the economic problems that are now firmly embedded in societies there is a great need to address the psychological functioning of both the individual and organisation, and where possible, offer suitable solutions to the ongoing stressors of our times. This means, that at times like this, where full turbulence has set in, ensuing a correct and healthy

work-life balance is a necessity – so that each and everyone’s perception of work and non-work activities are compatible and promote growth in accordance with an individual’s life practices. Additionally, the time has now come to ‘install awareness’ amongst our citizens to promote preventative strategies to combat stress and install wellbeing both at work and at home. There is a great need today to change people’s thinking strategies   and to move people away from the consumption led societies that we have all become accustomed to – thus our values and practices need to be re-evaluated to provide people with simple coping strategies that can be achieved by a small walk in the park with the family, to a stroll by the beach, socializing with friends, and thereby changing our habits which are currently focused on consumer based activities. Admittedly improvements will not occur in leaps and bounds, rather simple and small steps are necessary to make the important changes that we all want to see.

The psychological implications of this economic crisis often implies that families, businesses and employees are working and operating on a “need to survive” basis, with recent figures telling us that stress, depression and anxiety in the UK currently accounts for 13.8million working days lost, or 46% of all reported illnesses – making this the single largest cause of all absences attributable to work related illnesses. In order to address these fundamental psychological issues, which have been accentuated during this global economic crisis period, there is a greater need than ever for all people to have the opportunity to relax, refocus and pursue activities which decrease stress rather than increase it. However, the simple qualities of everyday life often become a shadow that fails to materialize, which are indeed for most of us the vital safety net that we are looking for: Relaxation time from work does not have to be a grandiose event – what Organisational Psychologists advocate are the enjoyable and simple moments of life – for example, taking a walk, listening to music, socializing with friends – all of these things can be enjoyed and should not suffer: By taking a breath from a situation which is pulling us down, for example by reading, can give us the opportunity to ‘restart our engines’ and by being able to detach ourselves from the stressful moments of our lives – we are then able to regain energy and be better equipped to face the challenges of the next day with greater optimism and emotional strength.

9781781000496_4Just as an individual needs to shield themselves from the economic crisis, it is equally important that organisations take appropriate action and put suitable coping strategies into place to survive this recessionary period. Most certainly organisations must be ready to support their employee in the best possible way, and as noted amongst recent surveys conducted in the UK – the message is clear “Support your Staff and They Will Support You”. Being as transparent as possible in these difficult times allows for trust and cooperation to be installed. Furthermore, and playing a vital role is creating a strong organisational culture and this involves developing an attitude that is part of one’s everyday job, so it has to be a key strand of any leadership development programmes, with effective communication skills that allow managers to interact with their teams. In essence, it is suggested that a strong organizational culture requires important psychological groundwork which should entail employees being allowed to be ‘open and honest’ so that they are not afraid to express their feelings. Hence, employers should encourage employees to give all their talents without fear and apprehension, so that creativity in such difficult times is encouraged rather than repressed.

It is certainly correct to say that the provision of good psychological tactics will undoubtedly provide a safety net to individuals and families in these vulnerable times, to assist in ensuring better physical and psychological functioning at work. There is a great need, therefore, for all individuals, irrespective of their background, gender, age or occupation to feel in control of events and situations; human beings have an immense need to retain their self esteem, and this is often achieved by having feelings of control of events and situation, and most certainly the correct psychological support system of the organisation and employer. Taken together and in order to move to post economic crisis eras, we need to evaluate both organizational effectiveness and individual and societal wellbeing to ensure a solid vision for a healthier and psychologically more stable future.

Ventouratos-Fotinatos_Ritsa Ritsa Fotinatos-Ventouratos is Professor of Psychology at Deree College, The American College of Greece, Athens.

cary cooperSir Cary L. Cooper, CBE, is the 50th Anniversary Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, and President of the British Academy of Management.

Their new book The Economic Crisis and Occupational Stress is published by Edward Elgar.

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