Figures suggest that just over half the workforce is unhappy – with other estimates putting that number considerably higher. Either way, that’s a daunting number. But the good news is that recent studies have shown that 96% of employees do believe that it’s possible to be fulfilled at work – and 80% are willing to play a role in achieving that.
So for employers it’s about partnering with your employees; for employees it’s about understanding exactly why you don’t like your work – and how to fix it. With that in mind, here are five key reasons people are unhappy at work, and some solutions to go with them.
- Work/life balance
- The “fit”
- Your mental health
Working late several nights a week, losing weekends with your family – after a while it starts to drag you down. Your personal life disappears and your work-life balance is no balance at all.
This is made even worse if your extra hours are due to a colleague (or even manager) not pulling their own weight.
Of course there will always be the occasional times when you will need to work later than usual, but the problem comes when this is habitual, when the processes and workflow of the company create bottlenecks that you pay the price for.
Ask yourself – are you working long hours due to:
- Your own poor time management – and can you fix it if so?
- Or do you simply have too much work to do?
- In which case, is management to blame?
- If so, are employer and employee able to work on solutions to this together?
- If the answer is no, then it may be time for you to leave
It’s tough when your work is difficult, it’s even worse when you can do it with your eyes closed – or when there simply isn’t enough to do in the day. When your workload is too light, it’s a problem.
Working half a day seems great in theory, but the reality is that twiddling your thumbs all afternoon in the office is not a healthy state to be in. It can have a seriously negative impact on your overall morale.
What’s needed is a challenge.
But the challenge of an annoying boss is not the challenge that’s required here. To be fully engaged (and not bored), you need challenges at work which stretch you, and which excite you. Perhaps you learn something new in order to carry out a new task, perhaps you’re given a new responsibility. In short, you’re growing.
If you’re bored:
- Think about the feasibility of moving within the business
- Is there training/support to help with this?
- Talk to your boss about your current role and your desire for change
- If all else fails, it’s time to look for a new role elsewhere
While remuneration doesn’t always top lists of reasons why employees are unhappy, it’s so fundamental (you have to pay rent or mortgage, bills, etc) that it must be addressed. Even a great salary won’t keep you in a job you genuinely hate for very long; while a poor salary in a job you’re so-so about is guaranteed misery.
It’s important here to know how much money you need in order to happily live. For employers, it’s about looking at a total package – what else can you offer your employees to ensure they feel that they’re being compensated correctly – health benefits, pension, career development, social activities, etc.
One danger sign: for employees sometimes the money just feels too good to move on. But this is when you should think carefully about the other points on this list, and whether your job is also failing on those as well. A great salary can only take you so far.
What do we mean by fit? In one study, 83% of employees said that finding meaning in their day-to-day work was a top priority. This might take a number of forms:
- Do you feel out of place with the culture and personalities of your co-workers?
- Are you aligned with your company’s core values?
- Does the company treat its customers ethically?
- Does the company/role in general line up with your morals?
- Does your boss operate in a way that you can admire?
Solutions to this might be transferring to a different team within the company. Or perhaps you’re able to influence your team to move them in a slightly different direction. Failing that, it’s time to start looking elsewhere.
Your mental health
This is hugely important. Over the last couple of years, there has been increasing talk about mental health in the UAE workplace and the extent to which issues are not being addressed.
Stress, anxiety and depression are all too common – Dubai is a fast-paced environment and people arriving in the emirate are expected to get up to speed almost immediately.
What employees need to look out for in themselves:
- Loss of motivation towards work
- Feeling irritated or aggressive in the workplace
- Lower work performance
- Lower self-confidence
- Poor sleep
- Changes in eating habits
- Strain on relationships
- Existing physical problems increase in severity
What employers can do:
- Work to create a positive culture
- Learn to spot the signs of mental health problems among employees
- Create support and rehabilitation programmes
- Work to overcome the stigma of mental health
- Educate employees on mental health well-being
- Start mental health in workplace awareness days / stress management workshops
It’s not always about finding a new role. Sometimes, it’s making your own role – starting your own business. In the UAE, entrepreneurship is encouraged at every level. Just a quick look at government policies shows how highly startups are valued.
If you’re unhappy in your job, and you feel there isn’t a role out there for you, maybe starting your own venture is the next step.