Reasons to be cheerful?

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

30 March 2016


For some operators, being cheerful is far from what they are experiencing right now but it seems that happiness is back on the agenda with at least two recent developments. The first is the publication of the new KVH Crewtoo Happiness survey. Aimed at creating an online community for seafarers, Crewtoo carries out regular happiness surveys among seafarers and publishes the results with a quarterly index. Over the three months covered in the latest report it seems that seafarer happiness levels have risen slightly but there are some bad points as well. Happiness with work levels, food, access to shore leave and ability to stay healthy show gains but satisfaction with wage levels, training provision and communications both with families and crew mates seems to have dropped. A cynic might say that as Crewtoo is part of KVH then there is a message to push but the results are in line with other independent surveys. Interestingly the latest report makes two telling points. On the matter of communication with families one respondent stressed how families need to manage their contact, and set goals. If they are in touch, there needs to be management of the “relationship”. Those left at home need to understand and appreciate the challenges for those at sea. For connected seafarers sometimes the stresses back at home can have an effect, so some seafarers stressed how they requested their families try and insulate them a little from any undue pressures at home. Being in constant contact can be uplifting, but can bring problems too. If a seafarer feels connected to issues at home, then despite being in touch they still may find it difficult as they are in essence helpless to an extent. This was something that some seafarers felt they needed help and support in managing. The latest report also highlighted that satisfaction levels with regards to interaction with fellow crewmembers took a dramatic fall, the largest single drop that Crewtoo has apparently seen in any question since the index began. The report says “There was much talk of “closed cabin doors”, and a breakdown in much of the social cohesion onboard. Where there is this “closed” feeling, and a lack of engagement, unity and camaraderie, it was stated that morale really does suffer. Such a drop in morale is the prelude to a whole host of problems, and this can play a significant role in stress and fatigue”. In a completely unrelated development, UAE-based ship repairer Drydocks World has also been thinking about happiness of employees and has launched a new happiness initiative in line with the company’s change and growth agenda. The new role of Happiness Manager has been created to drive this initiative to the forefront of Drydocks World’s strategic direction, the company said in a press release. Ahmed Ali Mohammad Ahmed has been selected for the position of Happiness Manager, and according to the company he will channel plans to further happiness in Drydocks World, aligning and driving policies to enhance satisfaction in the company. “The happiness initiative will focus on placing people first as our most valued asset and delivering on employee engagement, welfare, events, safety, CSR and business sustainability. The Happiness Manager will be part of the core HR team, adding value and bringing happiness to everyone throughout Drydocks World”. Perhaps some owners and operators can take a leaf out of Drydocks World’s books and create a similar position in their own organisations. Given the current economic situation it might be a challenge to make shareholders happy but at least conditions for crew might improve.