What it takes to make the workplace better

It’s not just what you do, but where you do it — and the people with whom you do it — that determines how you feel about your work.

A recent column in the New York Times with the provocative headline Why You Hate Work  is not surprisingly the Times’ most emailed article.

In it, Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath of consulting firm The Energy Project, share their insights on the four key needs of employees. According to their research, workers are more satisfied and productive when they have:

  • Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.
  • Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.
  • Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.
  • Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.
We feel value at work when we get renewal, value, focus and purpose -- not when we feel we're wasting our time on needless bureaucracy, like filling out TPS reports. (Art by John Tebeau)

We feel value at work when we get renewal, value, focus and purpose — not when we feel we’re wasting our time on needless bureaucracy, like filling out TPS reports. (Art by John Tebeau)

Years ago I had a pretty demanding job that didn’t pay especially well and the hours could be grueling at times. But I felt satisfaction with what I did, I got to take a day off to recharge after my most taxing production days, and my boss was quick to say thank you. I still think of that as perhaps my best job ever.

What can you do to take care of your need for renewal at work? Can you get outside at lunch time or take a short afternoon walk? Can you turn your phone off after dinner or on the weekend?

Can you create your own focus by turning off email notifications while you work on an important task?

How about telling others you work with how much you value them, or how much you value their work and how it serves the organization?

Read the rest of Why You Hate Work to get ideas about how you might like your work a bit more and how you can help make your workplace better.

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Categories: career

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