As economies advance and the drive for organisational efficiency becomes near-universal, every worker can make the difference between an organisation that is high performing and one that is struggling.

The productivity and innovation of workers genuinely matters, but understanding how to improve employee experience – the heartbeat of sustainable productivity – remains largely a mystery for most organisations.

New research from business psychologists Robertson Cooper has analysed thousands of pieces of data to understand exactly what it means to have a ‘Good Day at Work’, and how more good days contribute to business performance.

The findings of the research are published in a report called ‘A Guide to Creating Good Days at Work’. This research follows on from a previous 2018 report by Robertson Cooper entitled ‘What Makes a Good Day at Work?’  which aimed to demystify how perceived good days at work can impact employee wellbeing.

Four key elements for a good day

The research report revealed that good days at work must contain four key elements:

Experiencing positive emotions – Whether it’s confidence, curiosity, excitement or amusement, positive emotions will contribute to a good day at work.

Feeling Connected – When people develop a meaningful connection with their teams, leaders or managers, they are more likely to experience a good day at work.

Achieving tasks – Almost everyone has a desire to achieve goals, whether it’s a big goal or simply ticking off tasks on a list. We have good days at work when we’re productive and can motor through our tasks.

Performing meaningful work – When at least some of the tasks that people perform clearly and positively contribute to something bigger, then they’ll be heading for more good days at work.

Not every employee is going to experience all these outcomes all the time. But if one’s missing, a person’s day is likely to be less good and this can have negative ramifications for an individual’s work performance. In this case, it makes sense for employers and employees alike to take positive steps to maximise these four elements in their working lives.

Measuring impact of a good day at work

The report explains that there is a strong relationship between a good day as work and several traditional HR performance metrics. If an employer deliberately tries to create more good days for its employees, it generates a measurable impact in areas of people management and HR within an organisation.

The research found that by increasing the average number of good days at work by just one day per week, it can result in five fewer days of sickness absence per year, a 12 per cent reduction in intention to leave, a nine per cent increase in productivity, and a 10 per cent increase in advocacy for the organisation. But the question remains, how do we create consistent good days at work for all employees?

Personality matters

In recognising that there is no silver bullet to create endless good days at work, the report highlights a number of tools and factors which have significant impacts for the individual and employer alike. The research revealed two of the most important areas of influence: employee personalities and organisational structures, processes and cultures.

Individual personality is a critical determinant of the number of good days at work we experience. According to research, personality alone accounts for 15 per cent of why we do or don’t have a good day at work. The data analysis in the report revealed that there are two personality traits that significantly impact how we experience good days at work: emotional stability and our innate level of self-discipline and planning (conscientiousness).

‘Personality is a critical determinant of the number of good days we experience…’

This means that two people can experience the same day with the same stimuli and support levels very differently from each other. People who were found to have low conscientiousness and low emotional stability had on average 3.5 good days at work per week, whereas those with high levels of conscientiousness and emotional stability had on average 4.6 good days at work per week. An effective approach to providing good days at work is engineered to reflect these differing support requirements.

So, while it’s only part of the story, personality is highly influential in the effect on employee experience. However, while many companies have wised up to the concept that ‘one-size-fits-all’ is not an effective approach, the alternative of personalising everything for every person feels logistically unachievable. So, how can organisations accommodate the myriad of needs of individual employees in a realistic way?

The answer is to empower and equip employees to be aware of their health and wellbeing needs, giving them freedom to act upon their own specific requirements as part of a positive, supportive culture.

Integrating into company strategies

This approach is heavily embedded in the health and wellbeing strategies of organisations. The report outlines three tips for how principles of creating good days of work can be integrated into organisational strategies. The first is to empower employees to understand their own needs. This can be done by creating personalised reports for each employee, which give them an insight into their own personality and wellbeing – this can inform the basis of next-level personal development.

The second is to equip managers to support the diverse personality-driven health and wellbeing needs in their teams. The pandemic has accelerated diversity in many remote teams, and employees are now working from a spectrum of environments which all require different levels of support. As managers fulfil their roles as facilitators to enable the best work from their employees, they need to be equipped with the tools to do their job effectively.

Thirdly, organisations should offer a range of initiatives and support services that are guided by clear values and communication. These initiatives should promote good employee decision-making when it comes to health, wellbeing and performance. One of the key outcomes of the pandemic is the amount of control individuals have over their work environments. While this is largely a positive leap for the world of work, employees need support and guidance to make informed choices which enable their best work.

Six essentials for good days at work

The research concludes with six essentials to create more good days at work. The factor which has the highest impact on the number of good days had at work is the quality of work relationships an individual has. This is followed by the quality of work conditions, balance of workload, the amount of resource and communication, the amount of control, and finally, the degree of job security and change.

Of all the rapid shifts the pandemic has brought to the workplace, the most prevalent has been the shift towards people. Never before have organisations recognised so markedly the significant impact of people’s health, wellbeing and happiness on the performance of their business. This report marks a turning point in which employers are considering how to improve the employee experience largely from a people perspective, instead of from a exclusively space and design perspective.

This article is based on a research report by Robertson Cooper called ‘A Guide to Creating Good Days at Work’, authored by Kasia Maynard, Content Editor of WORKTECH Academy. WORKTECH Academy is a leading knowledge platform and member network exploring the future of work and the workplace –  

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