Happier, healthier, and more engaged employees make for more effective, efficient, and successful organizations. But achieving high levels of engagement can be challenging, as a multitude of factors affect an employee’s relationship with their organization: a person’s role and potential for growth; relationships with colleagues, managers, and leaders; obstacles real and perceived; the total rewards package; having a sense of purpose and faith in the company’s direction; and many others.
One of the most frequently talked about elements of the engagement mix is employee well-being. How someone feels — physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually — has a real impact on their ability to innovate, collaborate, and connect with others and the company’s mission. The good news is that most forward-thinking organizations understand that engagement is an important organizational metric and are investing in activities and initiatives that promote employee well-being which yield both short- and long-term benefits for all.
Stress: Eroding engagement of employees worldwide
The 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Index assesses how people around the world feel about their health and well-being by measuring physical, financial, workplace, social, and family wellness. “Overall, the global well-being index remained largely steady at 62.0 points, closer to 2017 levels, with a marginal improvement from 2018’s decline,” reads the summary report. “Stress continues to affect respondents, adversely affecting how people feel about the workplace and directly contributing to the decline in physical health.” According to the report, India is one of several countries that showed an improvement in overall wellness with the highest rise of 4.4 points, while the U.S. rating (as well as that of other countries) decreased year-over-year.
Unfortunately, recently, The Economic Times reported that “Work stresses out 84 percent Indian professionals.” No one wants to lose hard-won gains on the engagement front due to stress. As companies strive to balance business demands and experiment with various approaches to improve daily work life, a few practices stand out as areas of opportunity:
- Promoting a sense of autonomy and accomplishment: Drive author and leadership thinker Daniel Pink believes that “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” Employees who are empowered in their roles tend to take greater ownership of both their work product and results. Clarifying goals and unleashing your people to achieve them demonstrates that you trust in their ability to solve problems. (You did hire them for that reason, after all!) Then, recognize when employees deliver great work and reward them accordingly. Bonuses are great, but something as small as a thank you note or congratulatory email can do wonders to boost morale.
- Encouraging healthy lifestyle habits: Research shows that healthy people are more mindful and productive and vice-versa. Employees can’t fully focus on their work if suffering from psychological or physical illness, so it’s imperative that organizations provide support for mind and body wellness, and that employees prioritize both and take advantage of the support offered. For example, employers without full cafeteria service can subsidize healthy meals delivered to the office or provide free snacks and fruits. One-on-one meetings can be conducted during a walk outside; employees can schedule time in a wellness room to meditate, pray, or just take a breather; and managers can help reinforce work-life balance by encouraging people to take time off to spend with friends and family, limit off-hours communication to critical issues, and offer flexibility regarding where and when people do their work. There are many creative ways to combat fatigue and burnout. Organizations can also conduct regular health check-ups, out-door sports activities, and organize marathons.
- Having fun together: Whether coming together in service for a volunteer event, celebrating a holiday or festival, or engaging in a little good-natured competition, having fun is an important way to lower stress and sustain a healthy work culture. On- or off-site, getting employees away from their desks gives them a chance to interact in new ways. They return with shared memories and a deeper understanding of the people they work with, which helps to forge a stronger community.
Engagement: A work in progress
While no one can completely eliminate stress from the workplace, doing what we can to lessen it is a worthwhile pursuit for anyone who cares about employee engagement and, more importantly, the people who make up our organizations. Because business is what it is, results matter, and we’re often at the mercy of stakeholder demands, deadlines, and other stressors — in addition to what’s going on in our personal lives. So as practitioners whose focus is on people and building resilient organizations, let’s endeavor to listen to, understand, support, and nurture our employees. Doing these things is standard practice for companies acknowledged as the best employers, and it has the added benefit of creating the very ingredient that underlies long-term success: high employee engagement.