We spend a lot of time at work. Heck, even when we’re not physically at work, mentally, we’re often there. Over the past several decades, work has gone from a job to a career to one of the most important and defining aspects of our lives. Work can influence our moods, our families, and our overall well-being – financial and otherwise.
This changing work dynamic puts a new emphasis on the work environment, and the importance of the workplace being perceived as a positive place to be. The appeal of the cut-throat, up-or-out culture is diminishing, and more often than not, people want the workplace to be one that is fulfilling and collaborative.
Michigan State University has written about the importance of positive work environments and defines them as “workplaces where there is trust, cooperation, safety, risk-taking support, accountability, and equity.” Employees want to know that their colleagues and their managers have their backs, that toxic behavior will not be tolerated, and that they can safely express ideas and opinions without backlash. In many ways, the positive workplace mimics an ideal family dynamic. One that is supportive, is fair, and is caring.
It may seem like fluff to some executives, but data tells us that the benefits of a positive work environment are real. Leaders who think their workers will perform their best when under pressure and stress are in fact costing their organizations more money. According to HBR, healthcare expenditures increased by almost 50% in high-stress work environments. HBR notes research from The American Psychological Association which “estimates that more than $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy because of workplace stress, and 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job. Sixty percent to 80% of workplace accidents are attributed to stress, and it’s estimated that more than 80% of doctor visits are due to stress. Workplace stress has been linked to health problems ranging from metabolic syndrome to cardiovascular disease and mortality.” Making a deliberate effort to change the culture can positively impact the costs of healthcare – arguably one of the most exorbitant expenses US organizations face.
In addition to healthcare, employee turnover is also directly impacted by workplace culture. According to Forbes, “96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention.” We hear a lot about empathy these days, but what is it exactly? According to the Center for Creative Leadership, “empathy is the ability to perceive and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others. Those with high levels of empathy are skilled at understanding a situation from another person’s perspective and reacting with compassion.” As a leader, being able to accept and understand the emotions and experiences of others is a key component of success. Rather than disregard someone’s experience as a “one-off”, leaders should accept and consider those experiences, and allow them to influence how s/he leads. This will greatly impact engagement, retention, as well as employee happiness.
And let’s face it – it feels good to be happy! Cultivating a positive working environment will yield happier employees. This matters! It doesn’t only impact your employees, but customers as well. “Employee happiness is even more important to a business that requires client-facing roles, whether in person, over the phone or via email, as customers form opinions about a company based on their interactions with workers. Walk into a store full of happy staff members, and your experience is bound to be more pleasant, for example” (EU Business School). Focus on employee happiness and watch the ripple effects across your organization – and beyond.
Making a concerted effort to create a positive work environment protects your organization’s most valuable asset – its people! Organizations with a people-focused approach will reap the benefits of cost savings, happy customers, and loyal employees. Get started today.