Leadership: Take Care of Your Workforce and They Will Take Care of Business

Do your employees look forward to going to work in the morning?
Do they feel appreciated?
Do they feel that what they do makes a difference?
Do they get the training they need to be effective at their jobs?
Are they able to manage the persistent demands of today‘s digital technology?

For many, the answers to these questions are a resounding no. In fact, most Americans are not excited about their jobs. They feel depleted and unmotivated. About two-thirds are disengaged at work, according to a Gallup study on the American workplace.

Of the country’s approximately 100 million full-time employees, 51 percent aren’t engaged at work—meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs and tend to do the bare minimum. Another 17 percent are “actively disengaged.” They resent their jobs, complain to co-workers, impede office morale and feel negative about work and the workplace.

This number is clearly troubling. And even more disconcerting is the fact that the way people feel at work greatly influences how they perform at work.

The challenge for organizations is to inspire employees to work up to their potential each and every day. And the more an organization can meet people’s needs, the happier, healthier, engaged and productive they will become.

Inspiring Engagement and Productivity

So what actually influences engagement and productivity at work?

To find out, The Energy Project partnered with the Harvard Business Review to conduct the Quality of Life @ Work assessment—a survey of about 20,000 employees working in organizations of all sizes—designed to examine the world of work.

Results of the survey found that employees are more satisfied and productive when four of their core needs are met. These include physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.

Physical: The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel and the less engaged they become.

In order for humans to continue to work every day, they need to experience renewal in the form of daytime rest. Employees who take at least a brief break every 90 minutes have a 28% higher level of focus than those who take just one break—or no breaks at all. In addition, these employees have a 40% greater capacity to think creatively and a 30% higher level of health and well being.

Emotional: After one’s physical needs are met, emotional energy must be fueled. Feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction—as well as safety and trust—are critical to one’s emotional energy.

Feeling satisfied in one’s job is associated with 125% greater engagement and 54% better focus. And feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior.

Employees who do not receive useful feedback report 34% lower engagement, 33% less focus and 47% lower likelihood of staying in an organization.

Mental: Multitasking by employees can cause serious productivity decline. Studies show that switching between tasks can cause a loss of productivity as high as 40% when compared to single tasking. And workers who multitask are much less likely to engage in creative thinking than those whose work is not disjointed.

According to the Quality of Life @ Work survey, employees with the highest level of focus are 29% more engaged. Those who allocate time for creative and strategic thinking are 83% more likely to stay in their job. Employees who are able to effectively prioritize are 48% more engaged and 89% more likely to stay in their jobs.

Training also contributes to employees feeling more satisfied and productive. In fact, employee training not only develops skills and competency, but improves employee performance and organizational productivity.

Spiritual: Feeling connected to one’s company mission and finding a sense of meaning and purpose in work greatly improves company loyalty. Employees who derive a high level of meaning from work experience 93% more engagement and 177% greater likelihood of staying with an organization.

How can leaders have a positive impact on energy, sustainability and performance?

Leaders must consistently model and encourage positive work behaviors. For example, taking regular renewal breaks throughout the day will encourage employees to do the same. In addition, it is important for management to provide opportunities for employees to regularly renew and recharge at work. Organizations should offer fitness facilities and nap rooms, and provide healthy, high-quality snacks.

Always make employees feel valued by treating them with respect, recognize and appreciate their contributions, and strive to be positive and optimistic at work.

Leaders must focus on modeling and support. For example, set boundaries around when people are expected to answer email. Reinforce this by never sending out emails at night or on weekends, as this makes employees feel obligated to frequently read and respond to messages.

Communicate an organizational vision that is consistent, clear and inspiring. Employees who have this experience at work are 70% more satisfied with their jobs, 56% more engaged and 100% more likely to stay with their organizations. Employees who do what they enjoy will feel connected to a higher purpose at work.

Additionally, provide employees with an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world and reward leaders who exhibit empathy and humility. Also be sure to hold managers accountable for creating a toxic, stressful work environment.

It comes down to taking better care of employees in order to improve the business. When leaders support employees in fulfilling their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs, the more positive the impact. In turn, employees are more likely to experience lower stress levels and improved engagement, loyalty and job satisfaction.

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