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Businesses are failing to make their office workers happy

Staples Solutions created a pop-up happy space on Baker Street, London, to raise the spirits of office workers on 21 January 2019. Photo: Staples

Almost half of UK office workers are suffering from “vocation frustration” – feeling so undervalued and unproductive that they want to quit their job, according to statistics published on Monday.

In its latest report In Pursuit of Office Happiness, office supplier Staples published a survey of over 2,000 UK office workers conducted by research agency Arlington Research in October 2018. It found that 46% of participants felt they would be happier in a different job.

Four out of five (81%) of UK office workers said that their workspace has a direct impact on their mental health – but employers aren’t investing in those workspaces enough, the survey found.

Over two thirds (68%) of respondents said they would feel a lot more more valued if some extra money was put towards making their offices nicer. A sad one in five even went so far as to describe their workplace as “depressing”, while only 15% could say that they “love” their workspace.

READ MORE: What’s more important, loving your job or earning loads of cash?

Cramped workspaces were found to be one of the things making office workers most miserable, with a quarter of survey respondents saying their office is too small and confined. What’s more, a frustrated 15% said they feel like they don’t have “space to think”.

But noise was a much more significant issue, with 35% fed up at having to deal with workspaces that are too loud to concentrate or get work done.

Professor Cary Cooper, expert in workplace happiness and author of Well-being: Productivity and Happiness at Work, said he believes staff wellbeing is the key component to creating a happy workforce.

“Work can make you sick – and work can make you happy,” Prof Cooper said. “Which one happens depends on who you are, what you do, and how you are treated at work. So an improvement in staff wellbeing can be a catalyst to the development of workspaces that encourage happiness, fulfilment and productivity.”

READ MORE: The top 20 ways Britons slack off at work

The report also highlights simple and fun ways for employers to make their workspaces happier. Perks, or “happiness triggers”, that respondents said they would like to have in their office included an office dog (27%), healthy sacks (49%), hammocks or sleeping pods (20%), punch bags (15%) and better stationery (23%). The report notes that these perks are not long-term solutions but a good place to start.

Jeanette Bresitz, UK head of merchandising at Staples, said: “As many psychologists, including Professor Cooper, rightly point out, workplace happiness is about striking a balance between providing employees with the right physical space – such as giving them the tools they need to do their jobs well, and a workspace that promotes mental health – while also providing them with a nurturing culture in which they can grow.

“With nearly half of UK office workers telling us that they think they’d be happier in another job, we are urging businesses to make changes so staff feel more valued, productive and loyal to their employers. 

“It’s important to note that boosting the workspace with free snacks and office puppies isn’t the long term answer – achieving office happiness is about more than gimmicks – but our research shows that it’s a good place to start.”