Monday morning blues

What can Human Resources do to help staff overcome their fear of work?

The Church of England last week published aseries of prayers to help banish Monday morning blues and raise the spirits of people returning to work after holidays.

A commuter’s prayer, beginning “I failed to get a seat – again, too many people on the train”, is among the selection, together with an inspiration rhyme and a one-line prayer for workers about to answer the phone.

“People were going back to the daily ritual of work after a summer that was not exactly hot and sunny,” a Church spokesman told Personnel Today. “They were facing a tube strike and traffic jams around the country. It’s a spiritual uplift.”

And it’s no wonder the prayers were published if you look at how many people face work fear (ergophobia ).

Earlier this year, the City & Guilds’ annual Happiness Index found almost five million people admitted having a degree of ergophobia, when asked whether they looked forward to returning to work after a day off.

So what else can be done to ease the pain of workers worrying about work? What role do employers have in increasing the happiness of their workforce?

Chris Humphries, director general of City & Guilds, thinks HR could play a big role.

He said: “There should be some form of regular staff survey. Even taking the trouble to ask staff how they feel will give them more confidence in you. Then employers should be seen to act on at least a couple of aspects thrown up by the results.”

Clearly, HR managers have little control over striking tube workers and congested ring roads. But flexible working could be one answer to the drudgery of commuting.

“Flexible working is not always easily applied to every job. But any degree of flexibility offered by an employer – be it half an hour’s leeway on starting work or whatever- will receive pay back in terms of staff motivation.”

Interestingly, pay appears to have minimal impact when it comes to capturing the hearts and minds of a workforce.

The December 2006 CIPD engagement survey said that dissatisfaction with pay will often lead people to quit, and the body urged employers to introduce sound pay policies, including benchmarking surveys. But the report also said that “more important than pay is whether or not the content of the job is meaningful to the individual.”

Humphries added: “There’s not a lot of evidence that money seems to be a major factor in happiness at work. Over the years, the City & Guild’s Index has shown it to be one of the least important factors.

“More important – and this is for happiness as opposed to job satisfaction or other measurements – is that staff think the company cares, that it recognises that staff have a life outside work, and that the company listens and understands.”

Check out the selection of prayers combating work fear at

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