Why is wellbeing in the workplace so hard to achieve? 5 overlooked things that cause employee apathy

As the founder or manager, you probably hold your business quite close to your heart, and you’re doing everything you can to make it better every day. However, the way management perceives a business doesn’t always reflect employee experiences and financial incentives aren’t always enough to make employees feel content and inspired at work. In […]

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As the founder or manager, you probably hold your business quite close to your heart, and you’re doing everything you can to make it better every day. However, the way management perceives a business doesn’t always reflect employee experiences and financial incentives aren’t always enough to make employees feel content and inspired at work. In the UK, it is estimated that one out of six people struggles with mental health at the workplace, and 12.7% of sick days are taken because of a mental health condition.

Naturally, no leader wants their business to become toxic for employees. Nowadays, just about everyone acknowledges that happy employees are more loyal, productive, and proactive. And yet, workplaces can become unhappy places. The challenge lies in understanding what employees actually want from their job and having a closer look at the factors that matter just as much as pay raise.

The term workplace wellbeing often brings up corporations like Google, Microsoft, and SAS, which have the funds for epic wellness programs that include family counseling and health screenings, but you can still boost employee happiness even if you don’t have their budget. The secret is to be mindful of employee needs, actively listen, and create a long-term game plan.  

  1. Don’t build a culture that encourages burnout.

In short bursts, stress can fuel productivity and satisfaction. Sometimes, working extra hard to complete a project that impresses the client or overcoming a pesky work challenge will make you love your job even more and motivate you to be better. However, when stress becomes a part of your daily routine, it becomes burnout, and burnout is one of the most overlooked dangers for your health and career. Most employees understand that they have to work overtime in a critical situation, but a business culture that encourages burnout at all times is simply not sustainable.

And it’s not just about actively telling people to do overtime, lose sleep and skip meals over work. If you reward employees who exhaust themselves, look down on the ones who have a work/life balance, and you’re an example of burnout yourself, the workplace will still be stressful.

  1. Is the schedule flexible enough?

COVID-19 has completely transformed our definition of a productive work schedule, proving that you can work from home, at whatever hour feels comfortable, without affecting the company’s bottom line. Now that things are starting to return to normal, the previously unchallenged 9-to-5 schedule may no longer work, and it can even generate worker frustration. According to a 2020 survey, only 3% of employees want to return to work full-time, and 97% would prefer a hybrid schedule (a combination between working from home and from the office). With that in mind, giving your employees more control over their schedule, within the limits of their position, could boost satisfaction and allow them to achieve a better work/life balance. For example, a worker who knows that they can arrive at the office at 10 am instead of 9 am to drive their kid to work will be happier than one who struggles to arrive at work at 9 and gets written up for this.

  1. Is employee competition too fierce?

A bit of friendly employee competition can be an excellent motivator at times. But the problem with competition is that it’s an extrinsic factor, and those tend to burn quite fast. After a week or two, productivity usually drops. For sustainable results, employees should be motivated by intrinsic factors, and not feel that they’re constantly in an invisible race with co-workers.

Another issue with competition is that it can be unfair. If employees are encouraged to compete between themselves for sales, leads, and satisfied customers, but they’re not given the tools and training to perform, they will become frustrated. Their wellbeing will also be affected if they compete with more experienced colleagues, and the playing field is uneven. In this case, even if they do push their limits and learn something during the competition, their efforts still aren’t acknowledged.

  1. Do you have a clean workplace that boosts creativity?

You should never underestimate the importance of a clean, organized office, with a layout that encourages collaboration and creativity. Sadly, many offices are still built the old-fashioned way, to maximize space, not employee wellbeing, so you either have these small, claustrophobic cubicles where you can hardly breathe, or large open spaces for 100+ people where you’re constantly distracted. The ideal office layout is somewhere in the middle: open enough to allow collaboration and small enough to have a bit of privacy.

Good ventilation is also important, especially post COVID-19. If employees get headaches because they don’t breathe any fresh air for eight hours, office morale will never reach optimum levels. You should also invest in sustainability and workplace cleanliness as much as possible. For example, if your business produces a lot of waste, you can choose from different range of baler machines to save space and keep the workplace tidier. This also reduces the risk of injury from slipping and falling on waste and ensures you don’t have any pests around, which are major morale-killers.

  1. Do your employees really feel heard?

Communication is key for boosting productivity and employee wellbeing: more than a quarter of employees say that they failed to complete tasks because of poor communication, and 39% say that they don’t collaborate enough. When it comes to communication, there’s usually a discrepancy between what leaders imagine they offer and what they really offer. Many times, managers list communication as one of their core values but don’t actually take action to apply it. This leads to a situation when employees are, in theory, encouraged to speak their mind but, in reality, they feel guilty for doing so, don’t know who to talk to, or, if they do, they don’t get any follow-up. In order for communication to work, it needs to go two ways: employees should be able to express themselves without worrying about being judged, and management should act on their suggestions as much as possible.

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