Work does not have to feel like a battle 

Jan 27, 2023 -

We know that happy employees are 31% more productive, 2 times less sick, and 6 times less absent. This recent Harvard/MIT study is just one more example of the centuries-old reflections of philosophers and scientists on the human condition and its place in the production process of goods and services.  

Studied by Plato, mocked by Charlie Chaplin, and abhorred by Karl Marx, working conditions within the capitalist regime are now being reformed by the new winds of the 21st century. Increasingly focused on the individual and his essential needs, Western societies are revisiting their way of thinking to prioritize human beings. Today, companies and even schools are questioning their work methods. “It is important to dissociate professional and private life. At Ferrières, we seek to accompany students in identifying their strengths so that they can create their own career path but also life, putting meaning in what they undertake,” Krumma Jonsdottir, general manager at Ferrières, The School of French Excellence, has been working since 2019 to incorporate the well-being component into the students’ curriculum. For the school’s well-being representative, well-being is a skill that can be acquired in the same way as mental calculation or English: “I am approaching this preparation as if we were training a high-level athlete, on a 360° level, technically, physically, socially, and mentally. We are preparing tomorrow’s leaders in the hospitality and luxury industries and these exciting fields are known for their difficulty due to the frantic pace and emotional charge of the frequency and intensity of human relations”. 

In fact, although still taboo in companies, psychological and physical distress at work, particularly in the HR department, is becoming noticeable. Between burn-out and addictions, the mental health of the French speaks for itself. An Opinion Way survey, from October 2021, reveals that the burn-out rate in French companies has doubled in one year. Obviously, the health crisis has boosted these figures. In March 2022, 2.5 million French employees are in a state of severe burn-out and, on the HR side, 64% are in psychological distress, according to a study conducted by “Empreinte Humaine”, an independent firm specializing in the quality of life at work. “When faced with a person in distress, I think we should support them and above all not make them feel guilty. Even if it is true that, often, the manager’s selfish reflex is to respect his objectives and consider his company’s interests first. It happened to me, with one of my team members, who was going through a particularly difficult period. The misunderstanding and misinterpretations within the team did not help, so I decided to give her time to work from home, at her own pace. We exchanged, without forcing things, and finally found a solution. Unfortunately, these situations are often poorly managed, and people leave, even though they may be particularly good people”, says Jean-Charles Denis, General Manager at Sonder France.  

Managers are no exception to the pattern: 4 out of 10 managers in France will also suffer from severe burnout in 2022. Although the transformation of mindsets has begun, the unease does not spare any sphere of the company. Generation Y is also experiencing and will experience many pitfalls as they enter the workforce. Allen Yong, 24 years old, a graduate of Ferrières and Skema, confides his disenchantment when he entered his last internship: “This is a very good example of why my well-being is now essential. During this internship, my very demanding managers did not help me when I was very tired. With 11 hours of work a day, for them, work and training are more important than anything else. So, I learned to rely only on myself to ensure my own well-being. So, the well-being classes at Ferrières have allowed me to spend time thinking about important values like love and kindness. Values that I try to nurture in my everyday life”.  

To ensure a better future for our future generations, the government announced in March 2022 the launch of a “mental health first aid” training offered within the public service. To develop a culture of prevention and fight against the stigmatization of mental disorders, the OECD also has a plan: COMPASS 2030, an education project that will focus on supporting children born in 2012 and beyond in their personal development.  

Laura Mendez