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Happiness at work 

Happiness at work 

Between waking up early, negotiating traffic, juggling multiple tasks, and working late to complete them, there’s also your life. And, for many, this means complex relationships, unbalanced finances, emotional baggage, and finding an hour somewhere to keep fit.

This is a day in the life of the average corporate South African. Add to it the socio-political pressures that many people face just by living in our beautiful country and, cumulatively, it’s enough to sap the life out of even the most capable person. With pressures like this, something’s got to give; often: productivity, performance and the company’s bottom line.

So, inspired by Corporate Wellness Week, we’re taking a closer look at what to do about it.

The Anti-Wellness Issues

There are many elements of modern work culture that impact on our wellbeing and productivity. These are three of the major ones you – and your staff – may be exposed to:

1. Presenteeism

Presenteeism is the act of coming to work, despite an inability to perform at your best due to illness (Hemp, 2014). And, according to PwC’s Nanie Rothman & Melissa-Anne Boschmans (2015), this accounts for a loss of about 6 working days per employee per year.

2. Telepressure

According to research by Barber & Santuzzi (Feintzeig, 2014), “telepressure is the urge to quickly respond to emails, texts and voicemails, regardless of what else is happening or whether one is even at work.” They found that people with higher levels of telepressure:

– agree with statements like, “I have no energy for going to work in the morning”;
– struggle to think clearly;
– are less likely to engage in challenging tasks;
– have poorer sleep quality; and
– are more likely to take sick leave.

To address this, Candice Lee Reeves of envisionme.co.za (2015), suggests managers demonstrate that hard work is smart, balanced work – not non-stop work. And that being permanently available could indicate a lack of time management during work hours.

3. Stress & burnout

Cumulative stress is stress compounded over time. Traditionally, it was experienced in jobs like fire fighting, police work, and trauma hospitals. But these days, heavy workloads, long hours and poor communications mean people in other industries are suffering too (Kerstin McSteen, 2012). Symptoms include apathy, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, poor appetite, migraines, heart problems, and even ulcers (Kerstin McSteen, 2012).

Engagement tips for businesses

A study by Andrew J Oswald et al (2014) shows that engaged employees are 12% more productive than unengaged employees. The best thing any organisation can do to increase engagement is to implement a top-down strategy that addresses culture, the work environment, and the health and wellness concerns of its people. Here’s why:

1. Focus on good health.

According to PwC’s Rothman & Boschmans (2015), an unhealthy workforce can have a significant impact on business. For instance:

– Unhealthy workers take 9 times more sick days than healthy workers.
– Productivity losses associated with chronic diseases cost 400% more than treatment.
– Organisations that don’t promote wellness are 4 times more likely to lose great talent.

Many companies implement corporate wellness programmes to address this; initiatives that, according to Christina Susanna Conradie et al (2016), not only boost overall performance and morale, but are also positively associated with companies’ financial bottom lines.

2. Prioritise mental wellbeing.

A focus on physical wellness isn’t enough, however. According to Mail & Guardian (2014), mental illness contributes to absenteeism, poor work quality, and impaired productivity. The social expense is high, too, as mental illness can result in substance abuse, violence, crime, and family breakdowns… costs that ultimately affect staff engagement and performance.

Healthy work environments offer psychological support to all staff, with processes and cultures that promote fairness, honesty, respect, personal and career growth, recognition, influence, a manageable workload, and flexible work arrangements (Mail & Guardian, 2014).

3. Build a healthy environment.

The physical environment has an impact on happiness and productivity. According to an article by global leaders in health and safety, SAMTRAC (2017), the most engaged employees work in environments that are temperate, noise-controlled, and free of crowds, with adequate fresh air. Take a look at yours – would you say that it qualifies?

Happiness at work for individuals

Relying solely on your organisation to improve your work life isn’t enough to achieve real wellness. Your happiness also depends on you. To keep you smiling, we recommend:

1. Keeping a positive mind.

Cutting yourself some slack can go a long way to feeling better. Focus on the positive things and point them out to others. Your warm outlook could rub off on your colleagues too. 

2. Look after yourself.

Slow down. Eat well. Exercise. A strong body and mind make you the best you can be. 

3. Take time to reflect.

Ignoring your own symptoms of stress and burnout will land you in more trouble than you need. Figure out what triggers your own negativity and work on ways to improve this. 

Ready to spread the happiness within your organisation? We hope so. Who knows? It could improve your productivity and/or your employers’ bottom line.


The Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa (SMASA) aims to promote self-care and to enable consumers to responsibly and appropriately self-medicate and self-treat primary ailments where possible. As such, SMASA represents companies involved in the provision, distribution and sale of healthcare products. SMASA also engages actively in legislative, regulatory and policy development.


1. PwC’s Nanie Rothman & Melissa-Anne Boschmans, ‘Employee wellness; Impact on an organisation’ 2015.
Available at: http://www.sara.co.za/sara/file%20storage/Documents/presentations/Employee%20wellness%20-%20SARA%20-%20Sept%202015.pdf

2. Paul Hemp, ‘Presenteeism: At Work—But Out of It’ 2004.
Available at: https://hbr.org/2004/10/presenteeism-at-work-but-out-of-it

3. Rachel Feintzeig, ‘Stressed at Work? Blame Your Email.’ 2014.
Available at: https://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2014/11/24/the-downside-to-speedy-email-responses-work-stress/

4. Kerstin McSteen, ‘Cumulative stress’ 2012.
Available at: http://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/the-total-nurse/cumulative-stress/article/233183/

5. Andrew J. Oswald et al, ‘Happiness and Productivity’ 2014.
Available at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/eproto/workingpapers/happinessproductivity.pdf

6. Christina Susanna Conradie et al, ‘Corporate Health and Wellness and the Financial Bottom Line; Evidence from South Africa’ 2016.
Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4730788/

7. Mail & Guardian, ‘It’s time to change attitudes on mental health’ 2014.
Available at: https://mg.co.za/article/2014-07-29-its-time-to-change-attitudes-on-mental-health

8. SAMTRAC, ‘The psychology of working in a safe environment’ 2017.
Available at: http://blog.samtrac.com/the-psychology-of-working-in-a-safe-environment-1?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=41907714&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–KJAUFhpfWUMt_v5Zs3UfeDmyATe9awfcYb3goeMkczLnTqt1jjiZAQWPPS1R40u12_rl3FujmWg7gi5h2TYSVQfNv9mn1JBKDlsgqzIi6I-JjpZQ&_hsmi=41907714

9. Candice Lee Reeves, ‘Don’t answer that email. It’s good for you.’ 2015.
Available at: http://blog.envisionme.co.za/dont-answer-that-email-its-good-for-you/

10. Bob Sullivan & Hugh Thompson, ‘Brain, Interrupted’ 2013.
Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/opinion/sunday/a-focus-on-distraction.html?_r=2&