Dear Employers, Happiness at Work Isn’t Just Ping Pong Tables
This article was originally published on Rice Media.
She giggles, slightly conscious of the big words coming my way.
“Basically, I’m the… Corporate Responsibility, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lead at Sodexo.“
Qi Ni notices the confused expression on my face. She’s seen it before. Whenever she brings up her job title, most people fail to understand what it even entails. The fancy-sounding designation is only what’s on name cards and e-mail sign-offs, though. For her, happiness at work goes way beyond that.
Where she works is Sodexo, a global food services and facilities management giant which professes an altruistic mission. They implement systems that help prevent food waste and ensure that more kitchens source ingredients ethically.
But first, let’s paint a better picture of who Qi Ni is. By definition, Qi Ni is a millennial. Yet, she’s often described as a concerned ‘aunty’ by those who know her. She also sees herself getting more aligned with Gen Zs in thinking about purpose.
She’s the kind of person who requests for less portions when buying food—she hates contributing to food waste. She’s the same person who’d tell friends to donate to charities of their liking instead of buying a gift for her birthday.
Her own wedding, in fact, was far from the opulence of a hotel reception. She chose Enabling Village, a community space which celebrates inclusivity.
This predisposition for selflessness is few and far between in an increasingly self-centred world, so much so that it can be mistaken for an act.
Like a trusted ally in the corporate world, Qi Ni attempts to improve things that are increasingly important to the younger workforce—things like company culture, mental health support and flexible working hours.
What Makes People Happy at Work? (Aside From Pay)
For many, life used to revolve around work alone. Even when it sucked, we were told to suck it up. That started to shift in 2021. A phenomenon now termed The Great Resignation.
Post-pandemic, people were trying to return to ‘normal’. But that ‘normal’ was terrible. Quitting became an option for many. If not, they resort to quiet quitting to build healthier work boundaries.
After all, why go above and beyond for an organisation that doesn’t love you back?
Old ways had to go out the door—for some companies, that meant implementing flexible work practices. For others, that meant greater emphasis on nurturing mental health.
The Great Resignation isn’t just a buzzword: it’s reality. In a recent client engagement session organised by Sodexo, Qi Ni recalls how several companies shared their struggles in retaining talent.
In other words, there’s a labour shortage. It’s finally forcing employers to think deeper about their company’s mission and strategy.
“We’re living in a transformative era of the workplace, though we don’t often realise that,” Qi Ni remarks.
According to this recent Straits Times article, however, only about six in 10 employers are actively taking steps to address mental health challenges—a number much lower than the global average. Additionally, two in five workers will not accept a job if there are no flexible working arrangements today.
As someone who started her career in human resources, Qi Ni would be familiar with these issues. It amplified her ability to see things from a potential employee’s point of view. According to her, what young hires essentially look out for are companies with a genuine purpose.
“To the younger generation, the world is burning down. If you’re a company pursuing short-term profits at the expense of communities and the environment, it’s likely you’re not going to be their top choice,” she remarks.
“What’s your company’s purpose?’, they’ll ask during the interview.”
Gen Zs aren’t weak either. They’re simply more vocal about their demands and expect more from their employers.
People like it when there’s meaning built into the company culture. They want a rock-solid understanding of the organisation’s purpose, and how their individual work contributes to the larger picture. It’s clear that if old guards refuse to budge in the short term, it’ll come to hurt the business.
Qi Ni observes something else crucial to understanding Gen Zs: it’s a generation that doesn’t feel the need to stay in jobs that make them feel miserable.
“Honestly, I can relate to that. If I ever face personal issues—say, marital problems—Sodexo thankfully has an employee helpline where I can speak to a trained professional.”
How a company supports their employees gives significant weightage to job seekers these days. Potential hires are often impressed to know that such resources are available.
“That said,” she warns, “there’s still so much more to be done.”