A new study has some bad news for us on happiness levels at work for older employees. Robert Half UK looked at more than 2,000 UK employees and found older workers tend to be less happy at work than their younger colleagues. 1 in 6 British workers over the age of 35 said they were unhappy - double the number of people under 35 who said the same thing. What's more, almost 1 in 3 people over 55 said they didn't feel appreciated for the work they do and 16% said they don't have friends at work.
There are a number of reasons the study gives for why we may lose our passion for our jobs as we get older. By 35, the initial newness and excitement of beginning full-time work fades away and we have enough experience now to start reflecting on where we are. We may have climbed up the career ladder quickly but sacrificed personal relationships and development that we now long for. Or we’re not where we want to be in our career and it’s dawning on us we need to take steps to change course.
“There comes a time when either you haven’t achieved success, work has burned you out, or lived experience tells you family is more important,” said Cary Cooper, a workplace researcher at Manchester Business School, according to Bloomberg. “You ask yourself: ‘What am I doing this for?’”
Obviously, there’s no single silver bullet for how to stay happy at work. But here are some things we can keep in mind as we search for that elusive sustainable happiness as we trudge into the office every morning.
Experiences are better shared among friends
We all need a friend or two to help see us through our time at the office. Not just a team member you enjoy working with but a true friend you enjoy talking to and sharing your days with. Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets this luxury and a lack of close friendships can have real impact on satisfaction. People who say they have good relationships with others on their team are 2.7 times more likely to be happy in their job than those who don’t.
Managers can help here by creating more opportunities for employees both inside and outside the team to meet and forge new relationships. After all, it’s in the company’s interest that your employees build strong lines of communication throughout the organization.
Regular and constructive feedback is essential
Clearly, when your manager expresses appreciation for your hard work, you’re more likely to be happy and stay engaged. But even negative feedback when constructive and clear is still better than no feedback at all.
“Employees ignored by their manager are twice as likely to be actively disengaged compared with workers whose manager focuses on their weaknesses”, says Gallup.
Managers need to keep in mind that their employees' moods and engagement levels hang critically on proper feedback channels and evaluations. A message that is sincere, specific, and timely can boost both self-esteem and productivity as well as set the proper expectations to help the employee succeed.
Work needs to be meaningful
Let’s be frank. Not everything you’ll end up doing at the office will result in resounding accolades from your peers and CEO. But no matter the task at hand, it’s still important to have a grasp on the big picture and how the things you do contribute to larger organizational goals. It’s information managers should be disseminating to their team members and which employees need to ask for to maintain motivation and a sense of purpose.
Just as importantly, we also need to make sure the work we do aligns with our personal interests and objectives. If it doesn’t, we may need to look for personal projects or opportunities to collaborate with other team members. This doesn’t have to be a grand endeavour, rather it’s about exploring ways to make our work feel right for us.
It’s inevitable that we’ll all fall out of love with our job at some point (or points) in the long course of our careers. Just know it’s also possible to bring that spark of happiness and satisfaction back. We just need to be willing to put in a long-term effort mixed in with a little creative thinking.