I’d hardly call myself a natural Daily Mail reader, but – if you’ve ever accused it of being the paper that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing (rather like Yes, Prime Minister, which described it as being “read by the wives of the people who run the country”), one article yesterday might change your mind. We’re not bowled over by the scientific accuracy – asking 1000 people to compare 50 life events to the pleasure of winning the lottery – but the answers are certainly interesting. It might not tell business leaders how to value their staff, but it certainly tells them what their staff are really valuing.
We’re assuming the respondents weren’t natural Daily Mail readers either: either that, or ‘going off message’ wasn’t a penalty carrying activity. The work ethic made no appearance in the top three:
Having good health: £180,105
Hearing someone tell you “I love you”: £163,424
Being in a stable relationship: £154,849
Turning to the Daily Telegraph – (Yes, Prime Minister: “The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country, and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it already is”) – for further information, we noted not only that the paper felt the headline “Value of love is £163,424, study finds” was the most salient point, but that line managers, HR departments and Corporate Wellness Persons across the country may be wondering where they went wrong.
Unless ‘savouring the peace and quiet’ (10th place: £89,828) or – heaven forbid (especially for the Mail and Telegraph) – ‘having sex’ (8th place: £105,210 – it turns out the British really do prefer a good laugh) are part of your normal workplace routine, the office makes no showing in the Top Ten. Or even further down the table. And just look at these findings:
Being happy at work is £37,229 but it doesn’t compare with a looking forward to the weekend which is £49,764 and taking a day off comes has a value of £54,428. The prospect the getting up in the morning and anticipating a good day is worth £17,652 whereas the reality is we prefer getting home in the evening which is worth £45,328.”
For all our employers’ efforts to motivate, charm, encourage and enthuse us, ‘being happy at work’ means less – in a very literal sense – to us than chocolate. (£40,808, in case you were wondering.)
And it begs some very awkward questions about return on investment too: given an average price of about 60p, a bar of chocolate is giving a return of about 24,484%. And saying “I love you” costs nothing. Let’s not do the same calculation with, for example, a railway season ticket or an office parking space …
In the face of this evidence, I think we should call immediately for three things:
- Greater scientific rigour in future public surveys
- Stern interviews with the nation’s line managers and HR Directors to gauge their self-awareness about their comparative lack of value to those they lead and help them formulate their Action Plans
- Free chocolate dispensers in every office corridor.