Only 27% of workers find themselves to have a healthy relationship with their job and work-life balance, according to the HP Workplace Relationship Index. Psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb outlines how workers are defining happiness and purpose in their jobs.
"A lot of people want to have more flexibility with work — they want to be more trusted with work in terms of how they manage their productivity, they want more connection at work," the NY Times Bestselling Author explains. "Many people are feeling disengaged, disconnected, so I think what people are saying is 'I have different expectations than I did before, and I can be a better worker if these expectations are met.'"
Gottlieb also comments on communication roadblocks employees may feel when speaking to management.
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- Lori, let me start with this stat, which surprised me, that 27%, just 27% of workers say they have a healthy relationship with work. That doesn't sound good, and I guess my first question was, Lori, how are you defining healthy here? How do you define that term?
LORI GOTTLIEB: Yeah, that's such an important question, because as a therapist, so many people come in and they talk about relationships, and one of the relationships they do talk about is work. So with this HP work relationship index, we're really learning what I'm already seeing in the therapy room, which is that a healthy relationship with work means a lot of things, including expectations that have changed, especially over the last two to three years.
So a lot of people want to have more flexibility with work. They want to be more trusted with work in terms of how they manage their productivity. They want more connection at work. Many people are feeling disengaged, disconnected. So I think what people are saying is, I have different expectations than I did before, and I can be a better worker if these expectations are met.
JULIE HYMAN: Lori, it's Julie here. I guess the other question I would have is, how much of the root of their unhappiness is things that they can control versus things that stem from work itself? In other words, you know, can they go in and approach work differently? Can they have different conversations with their managers, et cetera, to sort of shift how they feel about work?
LORI GOTTLIEB: Yes, absolutely. So a lot of people are afraid to go talk to their managers, and I think that the way that people can do it is to start slowly and to think about the way in which they ask. So instead of saying, you know what, I'd really like to work from home, you might say, what if we tried having me work from home one day? And let's try that for a month and see whether I'm more productive that way. And a lot of people will agree to that because it's a trial and you're just experimenting with it.
And I think the other thing too is to focus on what does this offer your employer. So if I work from home, I'm actually able to do more, and here's why. And there might even be little things. So employers don't realize sometimes, and I think this is where expectations have changed too, people are saying, I need to take care of my wellness. So if I need to go to a dentist appointment, if I need to go to a doctor's appointment, I want to have the flexibility to make that happen.
So it's about the whole culture at work and really looking at, how can I make sure that there's wellness incorporated into what we're doing here? Some companies are bringing in yoga, meditation. Even having just a quiet room where people can go if they're kind of in an open office, that can really help people to kind of focus on not only their productivity but their mental health.
And I think what people don't realize is that when people are feeling better, when their mental health is taken care of, when they're not so drained that they can't see friends or family, when they aren't so drained that all they're thinking about is work, you're actually going to get more out of them.
- And, Lori, as a therapist, I'm interested to get your take, when people aren't feeling good at work like this, what kind of toll does that take on them, both mentally and physically?
LORI GOTTLIEB: Well, that's the issue is that we're not just thinking about work when we're at work. We're thinking about it when we're outside of work too. And that's why in the HP work relationships index, they found that 83% of people would be willing to earn less in order to be happier at work, because when you're happier at work, you're happier outside of work.
So this means that when you're happier at work, you have more balance. You have the ability to make connections. We've talked about this loneliness epidemic. So people make more connections with friends and family when they're not thinking about work all the time and when they have the flexibility to make those connections. They can exercise. They eat better. They take better care of themselves. So these are all important aspects of how do we show up at work based on what we do outside of work.