Overworked Worker“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work” Aristotle

But with 1.2 million people who think their ill health is work related, is that a pipe-dream?

Do you leap out of bed each morning eager to get to work or does the thought of another day leave you feeling fed up and demotivated?

Well you’re not alone, according to a YouGov survey 27% of us are dissatisfied with our working life and 55% feel they are underpaid.

Given the amount that focussed on their pay, does that mean money rather than the job itself is the problem? For instance, what if you could do the job you really wanted; the sort of work that leaves you feeling happy and fulfilled; is that more desirable than an increase in salary?

And with everyone feeling happier about life, would the world be a better place to live or would we end up with a workforce consisting of Data Communication Analysts or Community Care Workers (amongst the most popular jobs) and no one wanting to empty rubbish bins or work in call centres (two of the least popular)?


Approximately one third of your waking hours are spent at work so it should come as no surprise that being unhappy at work will impact on the rest of your life.

Ever since the 1970s the concept of ‘good work’ has emerged and in a 2006 survey ‘Is work good for your health and well-being?’ the Government acknowledged the link between job satisfaction and good health.

In 2008 the Government Office for Science concluded “… a small increase in levels of well-being can produce a large decrease in mental health problems …”

However this rhetoric has fallen on deaf ears; latest statistics shows around 170 million working days are lost in Great Britain every year due to illness and 1.2 million sufferers think their ill health is work related.


Researchers in South Korea have been examining the levels of employee happiness; the findings of Dr Robert Rudolf in The Journal of Happiness Studies led to a 5 day working week reducing working hours from 44 to 40 and banning Saturday working.

The aim being to enhance living standards, boost the country’s flagging leisure industry and improve productivity. However, since 2004 when the policy began, there has been little in the way of improved job satisfaction.

In the UK there are over 3.3 million people who work in excess of 48 hours/week and in the 5 years to 2012, job security has decreased with 22% of UK workers taking a pay cut.

So is it money or the hours spent at work that is the cause of our unhappiness?


Economist Richard Easterlin conceived the ‘Easterlin Paradox’ when he discovered a correlation between high incomes and contentment; however long-term increased income does not lead to greater happiness. That is because we adjust our lifestyle to the money we earn, thus never reaching a level of satisfaction.

American psychologist Frederick Herzberg ‘Motivation-Hygiene’ theory maintains the factors that motivate people are not related to the elements that cause dissatisfaction.

The ‘motivators’ include setting goals, achieving your aims and control of your working life. These will help secure a longer term happier working life.

The ‘hygiene’ elements include salary, company car and working conditions; once achieved these are no longer determinants of your long term happiness.

So Herzberg like Easterlin, believes money is not a sustainable motivator.


There continues to be high levels of work related illnesses with ½ million people reportedly suffering from job related stress, depression, anxiety & lack of motivation and being generally ‘run down’.

The main reasons being given:

  • Lack of control of working environment
  • Repetitive/monotonous work
  • Lack of respect
  • Incompetent line management
  • Too much or too little work
  • Lack of training
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Long hours
  • Bullying

Desk rage is another office phenomenon; caused by rude customers, colleagues taking credit for your hard-work and computers crashing.

Other grievances include who makes the tea, length of smokers’ breaks, people using SM sites & surfing the web when they should be working, someone sitting at your desk without asking and the printer not working.

All these things may seem petty but when stress builds it’s the small things that become insurmountable.

The recent ‘Zero Hours Contract’ policy has caused further damage as people not only have less job security but are being paid only for the time they execute a task.

Even when working hours are reduced, the result is often that employers expect the same task to be completed in less time or holiday time is reduced.


Based on these findings, it would seem our level of job satisfaction is linked to career direction & recognition, more control over our working environment and job security.

Self-employed and those who work for smaller organisations (SMEs) seem to enjoy these benefits and are the happiest sector of the workforce.

But such a choice is not always easy, so if you can’t have the job you really want, is there an alternative?

You could try to improve your existing position: ask for extra training; if you enjoy helping others, offer to act as mentor to interns or trainees; ask to start a new project or look for secondment opportunities.

If there is no possibility of improving things and you have no choice but to stay put, then make changes outside of work: start a new hobby or activity; join a group or club; start writing that book … the possibilities are endless and it’s all up to you!

It’s Your Life – Live it!

Work To Live Or Live To Work?

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