Source | LinkedIn | Michael Papay
When I was in business school, I took a course in organizational development. I remember my professor describing how, while he was working in New York, he would watch people take huge breaths to brace themselves before grabbing the door handle to enter their buildings on their way to work. He commented to the class that if we ever found ourselves doing that, we might want to assess whether we had the right job fit. I’ve found that many people have simply resigned themselves to having unhappy work experiences. But if you take a closer look at the larger cost of unhappiness in the workplace, I believe it’s clear that this is an issue that business leaders need to address.
Why should we care?
We’ve all likely experienced the impact of unhappiness in the workplace. If you think about the difference between employees with exceptional output versus those with mediocre output, it’s day and night. Simply put, an unhappy workforce makes a huge impact on organizational productivity and profitability. According to Gallup, more than 80% of employees are not engaged at work, and actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars each year in lost productivity.
Unhappiness is having an even greater impact on individual employee health and well-being. The biggest driver of health problems is stress, and one of the biggest drivers of workplace stress is bad bosses. The reality is that we’re now working more than ever. The average person spends more than 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime, which can drastically diminish the amount of time they’re able to spend with family and loved ones. One study by Deloitte found that 40% of Americans believe it’s impossible to have a successful job and a balanced family life. But increased work time does not always translate into greater productivity or happiness. Asking people to be plugged in and responsive all the time can lead to burnout and work-related stress.
I believe workplace stress is also a humanitarian issue. In his book Dying for a Paycheck, professor and author Jeremy Pfeffer described the costs of extreme workloads. For example, workplace stress has been linked to premature death, various illnesses and hospitalization.
What can we do about it?
At a basic level, I believe human beings want to be connected. They want to know that they matter and that they are heard. When business leaders don’t listen to their employees, that connection can be lost.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Business leaders can promote connection and make the workplace more “human.” In a data-intensive reality where change and disruption are the norm, connection to one another and to our organizations is more vital than ever before. In fact, competitive business advantage today lies in the ability to find the right signals in a busy universe and apply these insights quickly.
As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve discovered three things you can do to help your employees feel more connected and have a greater sense of purpose in the workplace: