3 Powerful Ways to Promote Workplace Optimism

You and your team deserve to enjoy work. The workplace should be a positive influence on people and their lives. Yet for too many it’s just not the case. In one study, 48% of employees frequently feel a lot of stress in their work. This adversely affects their wellbeing. Boutique consultancy Root found that 68% of workers feel that their managers are more focused on their own success instead of inspiring their employees. The workplace has become lopsided—too much negativity and not enough optimism.

I’ve written about workplace optimism here and here and here. In short, though, it is a mood in the environment that gives people hope that good things can come from their work. Furthermore, people have meaningful relationships and work that fulfill basic needs.

So what, then, can a leader do to cultivate such a vibe? Let’s take a look at some actionable ways to find some balance in the lopsided workplace.

  1. Repair the Relationship with Employees

For too long hierarchy has characterized the leader-employee role. This has prevented many leaders from learning about their employees’ aspirations, strengths, interests, or family life.

Family life is important here. Work influences a person’s family life. Most do not “turn off” work when they go home for the day. The stressors of the day linger, work emails beckon, and project deadlines loom. A powerful way to repair the relationship between you and your employee is to pay attention and do something about how the workplace affects your team’s family life.

  1. Help Employees Find Purpose

Entrepreneur Aaron Hurst wrote in Purpose Economy that “[purpose] is fundamentally fueled by our pursuit of the fulfillment of [connection and self expression.]”

A powerful way to repair the relationship between you and your employee is to pay attention and do something about how the workplace affects your team’s family life.

While most of us are familiar with understanding the organization’s purpose, it’s not enough. Optimistic workplaces encourage employees to uncover their own purpose.

The savvy leader harnesses this enthusiasm, the passion, to help people grow into who they are. While the Industrial Age leader may see this as “fluffy,” today’s leader recognizes that self-expression can be good for business.

Gallup has found that self-expression is a positive outcome when engagement, productivity and personal well-being are part of a person’s work experience. Gallup goes on to explain “focusing on that means working towards a more prosperous world—and perhaps a safer one.”

Helping employees find purpose in their work and personal life is key to workplace optimism. The place to start with this is ensuring you spend time learning about your employees aspirations and goals, taking you back to the first item listed here.

  1. Focus on Developing your Employees

While this may seem obvious, it’s not done enough. Sending people off to training is hardly the only solution. How do you integrate what was learned into the employee’s development plan? What on-the-job assignments are you lining up for your employee to deepen her knowledge, strengths, and abilities? And just as important, develop your employees by leveraging her strengths—work that energizes. Training is rarely the only solution to developing your employees.

The three items listed above are great starts to cultivating an environment marked by optimism. It takes persistence and a passion for people to thrive in their life, both at work and home. This shift in perspective is key to promote workplace optimism.

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How To Improve Work Culture (And Avoid Staff Burnouts)

A company work culture is defined by its employees. Their values, their motivation, and their personal goals are essential to creating a positive and successful working environment.

Happy employees bring many benefits to businesses, including a 31% increase in productivity and a 37% increase in sales. However, 68% of employees feel their company isn’t doing enough to create a work culture in which employees have a sense of purpose and a meaningful impact. Are you one of those companies?

You don’t need to be a creative genius to improve work culture and end staff burnouts forever, but you do need to care about your company and your workforce. Here are four simple ways to do it.

Have a Vision

What does your company want to achieve? Have dreams, have aspirations, have a vision. Without an ultimate goal, no one will know what they are working toward and this will cause motivation levels to dwindle. Communicate your company vision to your employees and get them as enthusiastic about achieving it as you are. Having a vision doesn’t mean just telling staff to make something happen, it’s about putting their work into a broader perspective. Explain your strategy, create short-term targets for each worker, and work together to achieve long-term goals.

How do you make that vision come alive? Don’t forget about it, and don’t let your employees forget about it either. Coca-Cola commissioned a 6.5-meter-high art installation for its new London HQ celebrating the values and culture of its brand. The display is there to inspire employees and create a sense of pride in Coca-Cola’s 128-year heritage. But you don’t need to a multi-billion-dollar company to achieve this; SMEs can do it too. Exposure Ninja, a web design and marketing company, simply painted a client testimonial on the wall of its office to motivate employees and boost camaraderie at work.

Transparent Communication

When it comes to communication, have an open-door policy. Management who make decisions behind closed doors alienate the rest of their workforce and create a breeding ground for rumor and gossip. Be clear and open about the state of the company and decisions that are in the pipeline, and always be the first to tell your staff about changes.

Worried about lost memos? Use a company intranet to send email and text notifications of important bulletins to each employee. How about inefficient meetings? Make meetings  more specific and stick to a printed agenda. Delegate key speakers to inform the team about what progress has been made since the previous meeting and invite others to contribute their ideas afterward. Most importantly, don’t let anyone walk away from the meeting room without an assigned task that they need to achieve in time for the next meeting.

Invest in Training and Development

Ask your employees where see themselves in five years. Write down each employee’s answer and help him or her achieve it. If your sales assistant wants to be heading up the sales department, offer him/her training to enhance his/her product knowledge and to develop managerial skills. If one of your secretarial staff wants to make the move into web design, let him/her shadow a designer for half a day each week.

Take advantage of apps like IdeaScale and Kindling so that employees can offer feedback on the company work culture and their own ideas. Providing staff with training, learning opportunities and a chance to offer feedback is a vital way to avoid staff feeling as though they are stuck in a “dead-end job.” When you support their career development, your staff will be re-energized and ready to face new challenges. Remember, if they are performing at the top of their games, your organization will be too.

Reward Employees for Their Efforts

Naturally, employees want to be recognized for their hard work and commitment. Reward everyone who performs at or above the level expected of them, no matter what position they hold in your team. If your cleaners always have the office spotless, praise them for it. If your sales team punch above their targets, praise them too. Let all of your employees know that they are a valuable asset in your team.

You don’t need to shed out $1,000 bonuses and 10% raises for every employee like Google to reward your employees. Simple rewards like verbal praise and buying employees a coffee can work well too. The aim is to encourage positive practices. Treating your employees equally and responding to behavior in the correct way will improve workplace culture and encourage employees to work at their best.

Ron Stewart has worked in the recruitment industry for 30 years, having owned companies in the IT, Construction and Medical sectors. He is currently running the Jobs4Group, and is CEO of Jobs4Medical.

photo credit: Mr.TinDC via photopin cc

Job Hunting? Look For Employers That Care About Your Future

Written by Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin Pulse

Are you pursuing new job opportunities — hoping to take the next step in your career? How do you determine if a potential employer is a wise choice? What criteria really count?

If wellness programs aren’t on your “must have” list, you may want to reconsider. The evidence is mounting. Companies committed to workforce wellness — particularly those committed to total quality of life at work and at home — are likely to be your best bet.

Unfortunately, not all companies make that kind of commitment. It’s no doubt one reason why employee engagement is so poor. Of course, engagement is influenced by multiple factors, but in general today’s workforce isn’t feeling the love. In fact, Gallup research revealed last year that 70% of U.S. employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged — and it’s costing companies over $300 billion a year.

The Workforce Wellness Difference

If you’re looking for a new gig, it makes sense to bypass organizations whose employees just aren’t dialed in to the work they’re doing, or the company’s mission, or its culture. But how do you find a great place to work?

There are some amazing companies out there that demonstrate their commitment to employees by investing directly in their health and happiness. We see them every day.

Leaders at these companies recognize that employees who are engaged in life inside and outside of their work environment are likely to be more productive and loyal over time. These types of companies support their workforce with comprehensive wellness options, like healthy food choices in the cafeteria, free group exercise classes in corporate gym facilities, paid time off to volunteer in the community, and even cold, hard cash incentives to reward healthy behavior.

Why Total Wellness Matters

By improving your health in multiple ways — physical, mental, social and financial — you’ll improve your total quality of life and maximize your potential in your job. Smart companies know this, and smart job seekers do, too. According to our own research, 87% of employees believe robust workplace wellness programs are paramount when choosing a place to work.

In recent years, with technology advances like the Internet, smartphones, teleconferencing and a variety of devices that help us work productively no matter where we’re located, the lines are blurring between work and home life. Employers recognize this, and increasingly are helping employees improve their total quality of life — not only by offering stellar benefits and workplace wellness programs, but also by extending those benefits to family and friends. This way, employees can rely on their natural support network to influence and reinforce their healthy habits.

Including family members is a no-brainer for employers, since spouses and dependents help boost wellness program participation. It should be a no-brainer for you, too. When exercising and dieting with a friend or family member, you have a 57% greater chance of losing weight than by going it alone, according to the Framingham Heart Study. Plus, getting healthy is more fun when you don’t fly solo. With innovative wellness programs that include your family and friends, you can challenge one another to simple, healthy competitions. For example, you can win bragging rights by tracking who climbs the most stairs at work, or who eats the most fruits and vegetables each week.

Employee Health Is More Than Fun and Games

But all of that fun also has serious impact. If your employer offers wellness programs you enjoy, and you take advantage of those programs, you’re more likely to adopt and sustain healthy lifestyle changes for the long-term. What’s more, the link between companies that provide robust workplace wellness programs and sustained employee engagement is strong. Our research shows that, at these organizations, 80% of employees feel their employer cares about their well-being.

So, in the long run, what can you expect? The payback of choosing a company that cares includes: fewer sick days, fewer workplace safety incidents, and an increased sense that your contributions at work have a greater overall impact, according to multiple sources. You’ll also feel a stronger connection with your employer, as you’re encouraged to stay active and healthy, and you see a similar commitment to those you love.

Bottom line: Healthier, happier employees are more engaged employees. And engaged employees perform more effectively at work. This can opening avenues to upward mobility and promotions that you might never have realized otherwise.

Factor these elements into your job search today, and I am confident that, in the future, you’ll find greater benefits both at work and in every other facet of life.

Chris-Boyce_color_web2(About the Author: Chris Boyce is CEO of Virgin Pulse. He is an accomplished technology entrepreneur who brings more than 15 years of consumer loyalty, enterprise and consumer software experience to Virgin Pulse. Leveraging Virgin’s philosophy that business should be a force for good, Chris’ leadership has been instrumental in guiding Virgin Pulse’s development of market-leading, technology-based products and services that help employers improve workforce health, boost employee engagement, and enhance corporate culture. Chris has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.)

(Editor’s Note: Chris Boyce discussed employee engagement with the TalentCulture community this week at #TChat Events. See full highlights and resource links in the Recap: “Employee Engagement: Say It Like You Mean It.“)

Image Credit: Pixabay