Resolve to Reset: Making a Better Workplace Environment

The beginning of the year is a reminder to take stock of all the ways we can improve on what we do and ways in which we can make positive changes. Most of us want improved well-being, and often this comes from maintaining a positive outlook. However, it can be difficult when so much of our time is spent at work, which is why it is paramount to create a positive work environment.

Managing a business small or large can be a challenge full of stressors, especially if there isn’t a wide margin of error financially. Many companies even foster cut-throat competition in order to push their employees to the limit. However, growing research on positive organizational psychology shows that this high-pressure work environment is actually harmful to productivity over time.

In one study, research shows that health care costs are 50% higher for companies with a high-pressure environment.

And research by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that stress in the workplace costs the US economy nearly $500 billion, with more than that number of workdays lost each year due to stress factors. On top of that, between 60 and 80% of workplace accidents are linked to stress.

These numbers are telling and a sign that workplace stress hurts not just individual employees but can negatively impact the company as a whole, not to mention the entire economy.

The physical effects of stress are only one factor to consider in the total cost of workplace stress. Another important factor is the cost of employee disengagement. When workers experience long-term stress in a cut-throat environment, they disengage from their duties, projects, and the people around them. This disengagement cuts performance and productivity, again impacting the company. The staggering numbers associated with the negative impact of disengagement are 37% higher absenteeism, a 49% increase in accidents, and a shocking 60% increase in errors and defects (for more on the cost of disengagement by the Queens School of Business, click here).

Keeping employees engaged and loyal by offering perks, such as the ability to work from home, are not enough. Some companies build on-site gyms or provide gym memberships as additional incentives. However, according to a Gallup poll, employees actually prefer workplace well-being to any material perk or benefit. And the only source of workplace well-being is a positive work culture.

First, a positive workplace environment includes showing genuine interest by caring for and maintaining responsibility for employees and colleagues, providing support and compassion, emphasizing respect and trust while highlighting the meaningfulness of the work, and avoiding blame (while forgiving mistakes).

Stress-filled workplaces are cultivated when employees are encouraged to be ultra-competitive and individualistic. Therefore, finding ways to promote social connections among the workforce can drastically improve well-being and engagement. Establishing a culture in which management goes out of its way to help and support employees has also shown to improve workplace well-being, and it serves to inspire confidence in performance as well as promote engagement. Employees are far more loyal to companies when there is mutual respect between management and staff. Astute employers know that empathizing with employees and encouraging interaction among all strata of staff establishes high levels of trust, which leads to a greater sense of empowerment. Combined with good training and a culture of collaboration and teamwork, this all leads to superior workplace performance—greater than any material perk can do. And keep in mind that happier employees also directly link to improved customer care.

Stress dominates our lives, and workplace stress is the leading cause; perhaps the best way to begin the year on a positive step is to promote overall well-being and diminish stress as much as possible.

If you’re currently suffering from stress or if you would like to know more about promoting workplace well-being, contact me at Stephen@PfeifferPhD.com or at my website www.pfeifferphd.com.

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