NZ/AU tech workers much unhappier than the global average

Published on the 04/12/2019 | Written by Jonathan Cotton

Unhappy workers worldwide

A happy workplace is a productive workplace. So why is everyone in tech so miserable?…

New research from IT recruiter Halcyon Knights delves into the moods and morale of Australia and New Zealand’s IT and technology industry, and finds a tech populous unhappy with their nine to fives.

The report, Technically Happy: Is Australia’s tech industry happy? – ‘industry first research’ according to the company –  delves into the state of happiness in tech and what’s keeping tech professionals from loving what they do.

According to the research, even though 97 percent of survey respondents (just under 900 employees across various levels of seniority, demographic, income and age in the local technology industry) agreed that happiness at work is important, workers in tech-oriented roles downunder report an average ‘happiness level’ of six out of 10, a full two points below the global average of eight out of 10.

There’s a generational slump at play.

That’s affecting the bottom line, says Halcyon Knights.

“The business case for a focus on morale is a big one,” says Lincoln Benbow, the company’s CEO. “Happiness has proven to be a powerful force for success in the workplace, both economically and socially.

“In fact, studies have shown happiness to be one of the major sources of business success around the world, and remains key to retaining talent and improving advocacy.”

Cognisant of the business impact, it makes for even grimmer reading then: Only half of respondents (52 percent) would recommend their workplace as ‘a great place to work’ and almost 68 percent don’t believe there are good career opportunities for them at their current company.

So what’s keeping tech professionals from loving what they do? It’s complex, says the report.

When asked to report on the main influences of happiness in the workplace respondents said that colleagues’ attitudes and behaviors had the greatest effect (63 percent). Flexible working policies followed (53 percent), then the opportunity to do meaningful work (49 percent), salary (47 percent), working on innovative or exciting projects (41 percent), and finally ‘having an impact’ (37 percent).

So what’s disrupting that happiness? Stress, longer hours, discrimination and a lack of work-life balance are the majors.

Three quarters of employees have reported having experienced symptoms of stress because of work and three quarters of employees have been less productive at work due to stress (73 percent). Unrealistic expectations and/or workload (63 percent) and a lack of work/life balance (54.87 percent) are big factors when it comes to unhappiness too: 57 percent of employees said they feel like they regularly must work outside of normal hours to complete their expected work.

Especially troubling, 40 percent of people said discrimination or bullying based on identity (gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religious or other things) caused them to be unhappy at work.

There’s also a generational slump at play, says the recruitment company: While people aged either 18-24 or 65+ are the happiest at work (ranking their happiness as 7/10), those aged 45-54 were the unhappiest, with an average reported score of just 5/10.

So what to do about it? For starters, keep employees engaged, suggests the report.

“The most effective tech workers are usually those with a growth mindset – happiest when they are evolving and expanding their skillsets along with the fast-advancing tech industry.”

For these workers, fulfilment is important – whether through completing challenging pieces of work, or having real opportunities to innovate, says the report.

Secondly, competitive companies need to sell – and live – great employee value propositions (EVPs).

“A proposition that demonstrates a positive and inclusive culture, opportunities to grow and work with new tech, and a collaborative and informed management approach is powerful,” offers the report, “but the dream must match the reality.

“Employers can take stock of their EVP before hiring and look at elements specific to their tech teams, like the product roadmap, methodologies, and the technical literacy of leadership. They should be upfront with the good and bad and the ways they are working to improve.”

Finally, flexibility is a key factor when choosing employers, so tailor your offer to match expectations.

“Studies show that working from home for a few hours each week significantly increases job satisfaction across all industries.

“Freedom to tailor your own work schedule and environment to the modes that make you most productive for your particular working rhythms can reduce stress, and lead to higher reports of happiness.”

Just be clear about the responsibilities that come with those freedoms, says the report.

“Moving from rigid working hours and locations can involve a process of change. Managers should ensure that communication is open, expectations are set and measures are in place to assess the success of a flexible work program tailored for your unique business.”

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