Friday, January 25, 2013

Finding Happiness at Work

A Controller from Israel once wrote that he loves his job but there is too much focus on the technical aspect. Do you feel the same way? If you had the power, what is one thing that you will do to increase the level of happiness in the ATC unit? Do you think that happiness at work is important?  Let us consider the evidence from 2 studies and an investigation.

For the past 2 years, each year, over 100,000 employees had the chance to rate the best companies that have made their happiness levels increase. What did these employees consider to be important for their happiness at work? Was it more pay, more vacation, or the type of job? Au contraire! While employees valued compensation, the culture and the environment of the company was equally important. What are some features of work culture that contribute to our happiness at work?   

According to Forbes, here is what one employee from GE wrote,
"It offers fantastic opportunities for professional and personal development and career growth in a friendly and supportive environment with the best leaders I have ever met."  
Can you say the same of your ATC unit? What are the opportunities for professional and personal development? Are opportunities at career growth scoffed at or endorsed only when it suits administrative fancies? Is the work environment friendly and supportive? Would you describe the managers of your ATC unit as outstanding, charismatic, or narcissistic? 
One of Google's best incentives for its employees is to provide death benefits for the surviving spouse up till 10 years after the death of an employee.  There are no conditional clauses, no hard-bargaining with the union, no secret applications of this incentive. What is your favorite incentive in your ATC unit? In late 2011, Coca Cola decided to keep its workers happy by launching its highly interactive intranet system which would keep its 700,000 employees worldwide connected to each other.
Since the massive launch of its Employee Wellness Program over a decade ago, Johnson & Johnson, one of the happiest global companies can testify to sharp declines in smoking, hypertensive and obese employees. The CEO of this multinational happy company did not think that the responsibility rests upon the shoulders of his employees to deal with their health and other aspects of wellbeing. 
Fatigue remains an issue in ATC. What are the views of your Director of your ATC unit on fatigue? Does your ATC unit have a well-equipped restroom where an ATCO can take a power nap? In fact, the companies that have Nap rooms and Nap times, with the exception of NASA are in no way affiliated with aviation. Is it coincidental that these companies are at the top of our happiest companies listing?

Nap pod
In 2010, the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that ATCOs take power naps based on a study done with NASA's nap time. The study showed that a power nap improved performance and alertness.* How many ATC units can testify to the veracity or truthfulness of these claims? No wonder fatigue is an issue that is far from being resolved in the domain of ATC!
Improvements in ATC can neither be restricted to technological progress nor be described as cosmetic or superficial.  Managers need to be conscientious of the importance of a happy work environment in ATC  units and a work culture that increases the wellbeing of the ATCO. Is it reasonable to make such a claim? What drives workplace happiness in ATC? In Saturday's post - tomorrow, we will answer these questions by considering an investigation and the findings of a study on happiness in ATC...stay tuned! 

This photo was taken from Pfizer, Canada. Can you guess what efforts have been done to promote a happy work environment?

*Rosenkind, Mark et al. (1997) The NASA Ames Fatigue Countermeasures Program: The Next Generation

Reddit Digg Share on Tumblr Delicious StumbleUpon Follow Me on Pinterest Print Friendly and PDF


  1. Very interesting blog.

    I will read it in depth these days...

    Greetings from an ATCO in Spain.

    1. Merci beaucoup!
      It is a pleasure to receive feedback! I am glad that you find the blog interesting. I know that you will enjoy reading the posts.
      I enjoy researching the topic and applying it to ATC. I received a good foundation from my University seminars. They opened my eyes to see the bigger picture.
      I see now that there are many issues in ATC that we simply accept because we are unaware. If we remain unaware, we will never progress quickly enough and we will always be wondering what is hindering us. But we are really hindering ourselves.
      Merci encore! Passer une bonne soirée!