The YOUI Insurance call centre at Lake Kawana is a fun, happy place to work. Pictured clowning around are staff members (L-R) Sarah McKenzie, Sean Smith, Luke Towers and Koppo Kopcikas.
The YOUI Insurance call centre at Lake Kawana is a fun, happy place to work. Pictured clowning around are staff members (L-R) Sarah McKenzie, Sean Smith, Luke Towers and Koppo Kopcikas. Brett Wortman

When work becomes a fun day out

THE minimum hours an average person working full-time will spend at work in a year: 2080.

It may be less if they take a holiday, but is likely to be more with overtime.

Combine that with an average 30-minute commute each way, and you are left with about 15 hours in the day.

Now consider the recommended sleep an average adult should aim for is between seven and eight hours each night, and what you're left with is precious few leisure hours between weekends.

Numerous studies have investigated the link between job satisfaction and happiness to higher productivity.

There is some debate in the research, but experts agree raising the happiness levels of staff does no harm at an individual level, which can only be a good thing for business.

Ascent Psychology founder Suzanne Robertson said if employers wanted a more productive staff, they needed to ensure their staff were happy and satisfied in their roles.

"Unhappy staff are not as productive," she said.

"(They) take more sick leave and may leave the workplace, so it is in the employer's best interests to ensure staff are happy."

Ms Robertson, based at Buddina, worked in counselling and psychology for almost 20 years before qualifying as a psychologist in 2004.

She has a special interest in personal development psychology, and completed her masters on the concept of workplace burnout - the result of poor relationships between management and staff.

Ms Robertson said appreciation was vital across all levels of an organisation, for the team to be productive at an optimal level.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ms Robertson said it was about the simple things, like acknowledging good work and promoting social events for the team.

Ms Robertson suggested individual interviews and collective surveys as ways management teams could determine the contentment levels of employees.

The aroma of fresh coffee, smiling faces and the sound of relaxed laughter may not be the image one would conjure up when asked to picture a call-centre, but it's the refreshing reality at Youi Insurance.

The company is proud of what it calls the "Youi culture" - a way of being it has worked hard to cultivate since the business began on the Sunshine Coast three years ago.

Human resources chief Ivan Pierce said the management team was acutely aware of the potential for workplace burnout.

He said you could not get the best out of people by running them into the ground.

"It's one of the key challenges for modern business," he said.

"It's really about finding that balance between performance and fun."

It appears there is no shortage of fun in this office.

There are table-soccer tables and gaming consoles as well as free coffee and not the instant variety. The dress code is strictly casual, and jeans are encouraged - even in management.

"When you decide to base a corporate business on the Coast you have to understand that some people live here for the lifestyle," Mr Pierce said.

"We know that a collar and tie doesn't fit the environment. We have people that go to the beach on their lunch break."

Don't get the wrong idea.

Mr Pierce said the team was still expected to meet sales targets, but workloads were precisely managed to the individual.

Perhaps it's an essential strategy, reflective of the slow economy, but Youi also recognises the importance of measuring staff satisfaction.

Mr Pierce said management-employee engagement was crucial to any company's ability to grow strongly.

"We haven't got a really formal management team," he said.

"Employees regularly get the opportunity to sit with the CEO and myself and discuss the business."

Top New Year Resolutions

1. Prioritise your happiness and health.

2. Spend more time with the right people.

3. Deal with toxic relationships. You may need to disengage altogether from particularly toxic people. Your health will thank you for it.

4. Reassess your happiness at work. This is must for those in a negative work culture which is leaving them feeling overworked, uncertain of their future, anxious or stressed.

5. Don't let any negative emotions control you. Resolve to develop awareness of when you're feeling upset or frustrated before it spoils your day. Examine your part in this. What can you do personally to make yourself feel better?