Are you fed up with your job? Had enough of the way the age of austerity is having an impact on your workplace? Worried about redundancy? If you’re experiencing any of these emotions, you are certainly not alone. The latest figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Quarterly Employee Outlook suggest that while David Cameron can see light at the end of the tunnel, things are far gloomier for most employees of UK plc.
According to the CIPD’s research, which quizzed some 2,000 employees, overall standards of living are dropping and levels of job satisfaction are down. The only indicator that’s up is job insecurity. It’s a grim picture, suggesting the effects of the recession on workforce morale are undermining any attempts to improve employee engagement and workplace happiness. In the survey, 29 per cent of employees reported a falling standard of living over the last three months, with just 10 per cent saying things had improved. Meanwhile, the job satisfaction index has fallen to a record low of +35, down a point from last quarter. That compares to a recent high of +46 in summer 2009. About 20 per cent of employees wouldn’t be surprised to lose their job, while two-thirds say it would be hard to get a new one if they do.
So, in this age of recruitment freezes and pay cuts, what’s to be done? How can morale be boosted? Two well-known entrepreneurs have this week suggested different approaches. Emma Jones, founder of home business website and community Enterprise Nation, proposes setting up businesses in the evenings and weekends, as a way to stimulate creativity, raise self-confidence and morale and even boost income. In her latest book, Working 5 to 9, Jones tells the stories of 50 home-based entrepreneurs who have done just that. She says that she isn’t surprised by the CIPD survey: “I hear every day from employees who want to earn more and be in control of their working life,” she says. “Working 5 to 9 is the best way to start as you give yourself time to build confidence and cash.”
For Sahar Hashemi, another well-known entrepreneur with a book to plug, it’s better to stay put and make the best of your current circumstance. Having previously written Anyone Can Do It, a best-selling book encouraging everyone to have a go at starting a business, Hashemi has changed tack with her new book, Switched On. In fact, Hashemi says this whole reality-TV fuelled, celebrity entrepreneur thing is a little overplayed. “I think there has been too much talk of everyone being an entrepreneur,” she says. “What we need is that innovative spark and energy to be focused inside organisations. I do lots of talks for corporate clients and at the end of an Anyone Can Do It workshop senior people used to come up and say ‘that’s great, I want to go and open a tea shop’. It’s ridiculous, these are people in great jobs with a lot going for them.”
The answer, as Hashemi explains in Switched On, is to be more energetic in what you currently do. If people aren’t fully engaged by their career, she says, it’s because they aren’t being authentic enough and aren’t putting enough of themselves into their work. In her book she suggest eight “habits” that will help people enjoy their work and therefore their life more. The problem with Hashemi’s approach is that it presupposes a degree of control on the part of employees. It also assumes that in a frightened organisation, struggling in a tough market, there will still be room for individual talent to shine.
Hashemi’s defence is that all anyone can do is their individual best. At the very least it puts everyone in the best frame of mind when it comes to leaving the frightened and failing organisation. In some ways, the message from these two energetic, successful women is the same. Don’t sit in front of your computer moping about how crap life is, waiting for the sack. Pull yourself together and inject a bit of entrepreneurial energy, innovation and enthusiasm into your life. If we all took this message on board, the UK might just begin to see that light David Cameron has started talking about.