It only takes a drop of red dye to turn a gallon of water pink. And it only takes a little office negativity to make employees feel perpetually blue.
When your workplace tenor turns toxic, acknowledging the problem isn’t good enough. Something has to change. Otherwise, all the factors dragging workers’ energy to the floor will directly impede their performance and everyone’s output. Plus, unhappy team members tend to resign en masse, leaving gaping holes in the system that are expensive to fill.
Although it isn’t possible to eradicate all negativity, you can boost overall morale by helping employees achieve optimal physical and emotional wellness.
For the past few decades, researchers have shown the link between feeling good personally and feeling more energized at work. As a researcher for Gallup, Tom Rath studied the phenomenon and wrote about his findings in the book “Are You Fully Charged?” He discovered that only 11% of people he studied felt energized. Not surprisingly, they were the ones who found meaning in what they achieved and took care of themselves through diet, exercise, and mental balance.
But what about the 89% who struggled to make it through the day? They’re the people on your payroll who are at the greatest risk of bringing the overall workplace mood way, way down. They also could be the most frustrating colleagues, always delivering projects late due to harmful habits like procrastination. As it turns out, procrastination may not be a time management problem but rather an emotional problem. People tend to procrastinate to avoid the negative emotions they associate with the tasks. Regrettably, that tactic is a short-lived remedy and often leads to heightened anxiety and eventual depression — and more darkness brought into the
Elevating the overall atmosphere in your office is a reliable antidote to pessimism, worry, and other ills. Though you can’t turn everyone’s dispositions sunnier, you do have the power to make changes aimed at improving the overall workplace experience. Begin by applying the following strategies to your leadership techniques.
We’ve been taught to value the people who grind their way through any problem, burning the midnight oil and overcoming exhaustion to get the job done. However, most employees can’t continue at that breakneck pace without suffering. Instead, they need to take mental breaks to recharge. Mindfulness is a great start.
In a randomized trial, participants who meditated regularly gained control over the amygdala, the part of the brain crucial to the processing of emotions. “Mindfulness meditation can help us remain calm and nonjudgmental in the face of work stress,” notes Sam Kemmis, founder of MyTravelNerd, “which makes us more able to engage with the tasks, which makes us less stressed — a positive feedback loop.” At work, consider hosting a workshop to train employees how to turn off unnecessary fight-or-flight neural responses so they can stay focused, see challenging work in a new light, and feel more enthusiastic.
Most workers sit at their desks all day, losing creativity and energy by the hour. Regular exercise can boost brainpower by enabling quicker learning over longer periods, and it’s a mood lifter, too. Beat back the traditional sedentary workplace lifestyle by embracing movement. Not sure personnel will go for yoga breaks or make use of an onsite gym space? Even swapping to adjustable-height desks and implementing walking meetings can help.
Of course, you won’t get anywhere if you don’t include yourself in the movement equation.
Jason McCann, CEO of active workspace furniture company Varidesk, reminds leaders that the best way to encourage activity is to engage in it with your employees. “When workers see their managers sweating alongside them, they let go of their worries and enjoy the good vibes,” he says.
Work involves stress: It’s a fact of life. Yet how you frame the stress can set the tone for everyone else. You can lament aloud or adopt a go-getting, “we’re in this together” attitude. Pick the latter for the best impact. According to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, contextualizing stress helps minimize negative symptoms and maximize positive outcomes.
Remember, stress isn’t always bad. It can keep us on our toes and force us to learn something we didn’t know. It can also give us a powerful boost of endorphins when we achieve something alone or as part of a team. Obviously, you don’t want your staff to wallow in chronic high stress, but helping them adapt positively to occasional stress slows the spread of toxic attitudes. Be sure everyone’s fueling, hydrating, and moving to stave off rising cortisol levels and the anxiety that comes with them.
Workers who develop trusting friendships with colleagues tend to look forward to work more than those who don’t. Foster positive interactions by promoting opportunities for team members to get to know each other. Going to conferences together, enjoying Friday happy hours, or volunteering as a group on work time can allow individuals to see each other in different lights.
As employees bond, they will be less likely to allow outside influences to reduce their optimism and energy. In addition, they will naturally become each other’s support systems on the job, increasing the chance that they will view their work lives as pleasant and important.
Every day can’t be all sun and no rain. Yet with the right elements in place, any team can weather the tougher times and come out still bright and cheerful about the good work that they do.
Originally published on The Ladders
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