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updated: 18 Nov 2019 in Cover story

In pursuit of happiness

Careers in Poland
Careers in Poland
Finding a fulfilling job in a new country is key to ensuring a happy expat life. In fact, new generations of employees are increasingly interested in overseas work opportunities and willing to move abroad in search of their dream jobs. Employers on the other hand, strive to meet candidates’ expectations and retain their best talent in today’s competitive market. In simpler terms – their aim today is to keep employees happy.
In pursuit of happiness

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“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work” – the idea that satisfaction leads to better job performance was already proposed by Aristotle over two thousand years ago. Yet a lot of employees today would have trouble associating the words “ joy” or “happiness” with any work-related activities. Until very recently, office work was perceived mostly in terms of economic necessity, rather than a means to personal fulfilment. This approach seems to be changing with today’s competitive candidate market and new generations of employees, bringing their own ideas and expectations to the table. The shift towards an employee-centred workplace has been further fostered by socio-demographic factors – an ageing society, leading to a decline in working age population, coupled with an ever increasing global mobility. Moving abroad in search of work has become easier in the technology-driven world, where expats can remain in daily contact with their families at home and budget air travel is accessible to virtually anyone.

SEARCHING FOR QUALITY

However, it should be noted that the majority of expatriates do not move abroad solely in search of better career opportunities, but an improved quality of life. According to the 2018 World Happiness Report, most migrants focus on what may be perceived as “the pursuit of happiness”: “Voluntary migrants mention a variety of motives for migration, including economic gain, career or study opportunities, living closer to family, or a more livable or suitable environment (e.g., more religious or political freedom). On the most general level, however, these concrete motives are different ways migrants attempt to improve their own or their families’ lives. Empirical research shows that, when making important decisions such as migration decisions, most people tend to choose the option they think will make them or their families happiest.” The report indicates that in most cases expats eventually succeed in achieving their initial goal: “By comparing migrants to matched potential migrants and stayers without migration plans, we estimate that migrants across the globe evaluate the quality of their lives on average 9% higher following migration.” (Sustainable Development Solutions Network, World Happiness Report, 2018). Considering the amount of time an average person spends at work during their lifetime, it seems worth pondering how a company’s culture can affect the employee’s well-being and, in consequence, how it can shape the migration experience – or in other words, the level of happiness – of its foreign workers.

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

When browsing Polish job offers, one might be left with the impression that everything has already been invented in terms of employee perks and benefits. Sports cards, access to private healthcare services, subsidised language courses, postgraduate studies or professional training are gradually becoming standard for Polish employees. Some job advertisements may also list a company car, an employee pension scheme, a holiday plan or even flexible work arrangements and additional days off. Today’s modern workplaces provide “recreational spaces” or special relaxation areas, where employees can unwind for a little while and recharge their energy levels before returning to work – the popular chill-out zones for example, are designed to help workers relax, clear their minds and collect their thoughts. A brief moment of peace and quiet provides much needed relief from the bustling open-plan offices, where the constant hum of voices may sometimes resemble the buzz of a beehive. Some companies go a step further, introducing “nap rooms” for those in need of a short power nap, mini-gyms or office gardens and terraces – these in turn, add a refreshing touch of nature to the otherwise urban surroundings. At the same time, more employers take their employees’ family responsibilities into consideration. Workplace facilities such as an on-site childcare centre, kindergartens or a private space for nursing mothers help working parents transition back to work from parental leave, relieve stress and reconcile their professional and family lives. A comfortable salary, benefits or amenities may seem like a guaranteed recipe for success to many employers. But are those enough to make workers “happy” with their jobs?

COMPONENTS OF WELL-BEING

Most available research leaves little doubt that perks and benefits help boost employee morale, but a sense of purpose seems to be the number one factor in employee satisfaction. In the end, nothing sounds more discouraging than performing meaningless work. The Well-Being Index, prepared by the Gallup Institute in partnership with Sharecare, lists five core elements that might have a bearing on the employee’s well-being and satisfaction:

  1. Purpose: willingness to achieve professional goals or a sense of enjoyment derived from one’s work;
  2. Social: friendly work environment, positive relationships with co-workers based on mutual kindness, honesty and openness as well as trust;
  3. Financial: a sense of stability and financial security, receiving adequate remuneration;
  4. Community: a sense of collectivity and taking pride in one’s workplace;
  5. Physical: good health condition and energy to perform daily activities.

Although only a small percentage of employees are lucky enough to thrive in all five areas, it is worth aiming for a sense of well-being at work. Employee satisfaction leads to increased productivity, engagement and ultimately better company performance. In addition, employees who find fulfilment at work are less likely to consider a job change – improving wellbeing in the workplace seems to be the best talent retention strategy.

But how exactly do employees define “happiness”? As proved in a recent survey by HRM Institute and AmRest (HRM Institute, Międzynarodowy Krajobraz Radości w Pracy, 2019), respondents from around the world share similar associations with happiness at work:

  1. Atmosphere where I feel comfortable and I am not afraid to express my opinions (36% of answers);
  2. Working with people who have a sense of humour and sharing laughs with them (31% of answers);
  3. Passion for my work (28% of answers);
  4. Positive feedback and appreciation coming from my co-workers and the manager (24% of respondents);
  5. Joy of completing a task (18% of respondents).

It seems then that tolerance, sense of humour, passion and a dash of praise make for a true – and universal – recipe for success.

POLISH TAKE ON HAPPINESS

What is the Polish opinion on well-being at work? According to the HRM Institute’s report, as much as 93% of Polish employees agree that happiness in the workplace matters to them. The majority of Poles value friendly team atmosphere, job stability and clear rules, namely knowing their position in the organisation and their manager’s expectations. At the same time, autonomy in the workplace is of great importance to many.

There can be no doubt that employees who feel at ease in their workplace are more willing to step outside their comfort zones, take the initiative and set ambitious goals. It is also worth remembering that positive feedback from the manager or co-workers strengthens the sense of belonging and identification with the company’s goals. And who, after all, can better promote the company than a happy employee?

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