It is estimated that we spend an average of 1,800 to 2,000 hours a year at work. We are therefore at our desks for a substantial chunk of our adult lives, making it imperative that we enjoy the roles we are in.
If you find yourself dreading Sundays, checking the clock on your computer screen every five minutes to see if it is almost home time, and lacking any enthusiasm for your responsibilities, you will undoubtedly know the strain this has on your mental and physical health.
Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist at the Human Relations Institute (www.hridubai.com), says that people who spend their days in unfulfilling jobs suffer from increased mental stress, which in the long term can lead to both psychological and physiological burnout.
So, if you're in a role you are unhappy with, isn't it better to move on?
While it is possible to find new employment opportunities even during a global recession, options are limited, as the job market is saturated with people who have found themselves out of work due to redundancies.
This means that you may be clinging onto your role, even if you are deeply unsatisfied with it. It is therefore important to make the most of the job you're currently in until the market stabilises, and while it may not be possible to completely change your working conditions, it is certainly possible to improve them.
We consulted the experts and put together some advice on how you can try and love the job you're in, boosting your credentials in the process.
When to look for a new job
While there are many actions that can be taken to try and give your current role a boost, Hannah McNamara, career coach at HRM coaching, says that ideally you should start looking for a job before you get to the point where you can’t wait to leave your current position.
“If you leave under these circumstances, your decision making will be compromised and you’ll be tempted to take the first job you’re offered simply to get out,” she advises. “When you leave your job, you should do it when you’re on good terms with people – it’s a small world, so you can’t afford to have any resentment. Also make sure you factor in plenty of time to hand over your job to someone else.”
1. Ask for a pay rise
A 2010 salary satisfaction survey conducted in the Middle East by job site Bayt.com found that 30 per cent of respondents had low feelings of satisfaction with their current salary, with only six per cent scoring high. So if you are unhappy with what's going into your bank account at the end of the month, you are not alone.
If you feel you are underpaid, Hannah McNamara, career coach at HRM Coaching (www.hrmcoaching.com), suggests doing your homework before approaching your boss.
She advises that you look into how much other companies are paying people in similar roles, and seeing if this matches up to your current salary.
McNamara says you should also make sure that you're comparing like with like, as salaries will vary depending on industry sector. You may therefore find that two individuals with the same job title have a different set of responsibilities.
"When you're confident about the fact you're underpaid, you need to meet with your manager and present to him or her the evidence that shows the contribution you make to the company, and ideally back it up with figures. If you saved the organisation a lot of money last year, or are responsible for landing a big sale, point this out. The pay rise you're looking for may be very small in comparison to the value you bring."
If, as many are finding, your manager tells you there is a current freeze on salaries, McNamara suggests asking for things that won't come out of the company's salary budget,
2. Plan your time with your boss
A heavy workload can put a lot of strain on employees, but McNamara believes that by prioritising your outstanding projects with your boss, you can avoid being stressed out by those dreaded deadlines. This will also present you with the opportunity to demonstrate your time management skills.
"Make a list of everything you've been asked to do and go through it with your manager. Separate the list into things that are urgent and important [needs to be done right now and is business critical]; urgent but not important [someone's pushing you to do something that doesn't really matter]; not urgent but important [those tasks that really matter, but don't have a specific deadline]; and not important or urgent [things that might have been important at some time but they're no longer adding any value]." This will also provide you a solid framework from which to work with, and give you the opportunity to flag up any potential problems with your boss.
3. Boost your qualifications
Taking courses and learning new skills is a good way of improving the way you feel about your current role and boosting your morale, as well your future employment prospects. Thanks to the internet, a variety of long-distance courses, ranging from diplomas through to masters degrees, are now easily accessible, and you may be able to convince your company to fund your learning. McNamara suggests taking advantage of any opportunity to obtain further qualifications.
"The internet offers all sorts of courses, allowing each of us to take charge of our own development," she says.
"While your company might only provide the bare minimum in terms of training, there's nothing stopping you learning new skills by accessing online training. There you will find lots of business channels where experts teach essential skills such as sales techniques, time management and dealing with stress. You can even find technical skills training, all delivered in bite-sized chunks, as well as an abundance of free online tutorials on how to do things on Word and Excel. All of these skillscan then be added to your CV."
4. Take a step sideways
Dave Crane, life coach from The Life Designers, Dubai (www.thelifedesigners.com), says that asking for a promotion can be problematic during a global economic downturn, but that if you’re happy with the money you’re being paid in your current role, it is worth asking for opportunities to move sideways, to take on new skills by transferring to another department, or changing your core responsibilities. This will alleviate any boredom you may have in your current role, and open up a new world of opportunities to you in terms of the scope of work you can cover, and your skills.
5. Ask for new projects outside your area of responsibility
Bruce Hurwitz, executive recruiter and career counsellor at Hurwitz Stategic Staffing (www.hsstaffing.com), suggests that if you're looking to give a boost to your current role, you should consider approaching your boss for extra responsibility - a method he has successfully tried in the past. Hurwitz believes that this results in a win-win situation, as you come away with a new skill set, while the company benefits from your extra work and improved morale.
"To give your role new life, I suggest doing what I do. I go to the boss, and propose a new project, demonstrating its merits and potential benefits for the company. I don't mention that I am burnt out and need a change, or ask for increased compensation and other benefits - only to be responsible for the project. In one role, I suggested making a bi-weekly television show for the organisation I was working for. I produced and hosted it, as well as secured funding, so it cost nothing. It provided me with new challenges and rewards, and motivated me with my other duties. And when I wanted to leave my role, I could also choose to look for a position in television, as I had created a new option for myself by developing the show," he says.
If you're the boss…
As an employer, what can you do to motivate your employees during this time of global economic downturn?
Dr Saliha Afridi recommends employers consider a new theory on motivation that has been proposed by author Daniel Pink. "He says that although we need money, for individuals to have intrinsic motivation, a job must have elements of autonomy, mastery and purpose. Management can see how much of these three elements they can include in their respective jobs," she says.
With this in mind, she advises that employers consider the following:
Autonomy: "For individuals to feel motivated, they need to have autonomy over four aspects of their work: what they do, when they do it, how they do it, and who they do it with. Management can increase motivation by creating an environment that makes people feel good about participating," says Dr Afridi.
Mastery: "Mastery is the individual's need to do something better and better, keeping them engaged. So employers should give continued education and training."
Purpose: "For a person to feel motivated to go to work, they need to feel that what they do is in service of something larger than them. For people who are working in routine jobs, management can keep them motivated by offering a rationale for why the task is necessary, acknowledging the task is boring, and as much as possible allowing people to complete the task in their own way," she says.