WhoaWhen I saw the business section of the Sunday Times last week I got that crazy kind of excited I get when I see an article book or blog that supports all the yak-yak-yakking I do about creating happier workplaces and happier customers. The first line of the article called “Why You Hate Work” began with the sentence “The way we’re working isn’t’ working.”
Amen. I settled in with my coffee to read.

It’s an article about burnout, engagement and sustainable performance. It concludes sadly that for most (based on Gallup’s surveys that say 70% of America’s workforce is not feeling engaged at work) work is a depleting, dispiriting experience that seems to be getting worse, not better. (Not if I can help it!)

A recent survey – a partnership of the Harvard Business Review and one of the co-authors of the article, Tony Schwartz’s company, The Energy Project – shows that employees are vastly more satisfied and productive when four of their core needs are being met.

Both in the article and in Tony’s book “The Power of Full Engagement”, which is dog-eared and well used in my office, he and his partner, Jim Loehr, address four separate but related sources of energy in work and life – Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. All four need to be working together in order to perform at our best.

The better a leader can support employees in drawing from all these sources, the better their performance and the engagement will be.

The authors say what you’ve been hearing me say over and over. “Put simply, the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform.” In a 2012 meta-analysis of 263 research studies over 192 companies Gallup found that those in the top quartile for engaged employees had 22% higher profitability, 10% higher customer ratings, 28% less theft and 48% fewer safety incidents . (As compared to the bottom quartile.)

Other studies I’ve seen contribute even higher customer results. That’s pretty intuitive – when your employees are engaged in their job and come to work with purpose and passion for your mission, they are more likely to engage your customers.

The rest is not quite so intuitive, since we have decades of history where leadership made employees feel they were “lucky to have job” and “ought to be grateful.” Today people want more than just a job – they want a place where they can feel important, where they can use their strengths and talents, where they can be challenged to improve without feeling embarrassed or humiliated.Let’s take a look at two of the four systems here in this tip (two more to follow in the next issue.)
Physical – Of course we want to work in a safe environment, one that is pleasant to be in and we want to get paid what the work is worth, that’s a given. This dimension though also calls for the opportunity to renew and recharge at work. Tal Ben Shahar, who taught Positive Psychology (Happiness 101) at Harvard, says that we live in a work that is hostile to rest. There is no place that demonstrates that more than the workplace.

I know it seems to be a badge of courage to work long hours (trust me, I know) but the more hours people work past those 40, the worse they feel and the less engaged they become. It may make the boss feel good to see people work late – but is it really getting you the high performance you seek?

Renewal in the form of a breather every 90 minutes works more naturally with the body’s rhythm. The ability to get up and walk around for office workers, or sit down for those on their feet all day, goes a long way in helping people stay healthy. I’ve been teaching my clients mindfulness exercises and even meditation when they will let me. There is much evidence that mediation and mindfulness can lead to more happiness and well-being. Even taking a few moments to breathe deeply helps the body and brain recover from stress.

To meet the increased demand in our lives we must open ourselves to techniques that help the body and brain renew. It’s a long established fact that positive emotion actually creates new cells while negative emotion kills off brain cells. Over tired, overworked and stressed employees simply can’t do the best job that your customers deserve. The human body needs rest to recover and heal – what can you do to build short periods of rest and renewal right into your workday?

Emotional – When employees feel valued and appreciated they are more apt to deliver that discretionary go-the-extra-mile behavior we are all seek. Feeling cared for by a boss has a significant impact on an employee’s sense of trust and safety. According to the article, employees that feel that are 67% more engaged. (And imagine how your customers feel when dealing with employees that really feel good about their work!)

The customer’s experience is emotional. It’s the sum total of all the feelings that take place at each and every place they touch your company.

When I recently asked a group of participants in a Positive Leadership workshop I was conducting what inspired them to do a great job they listed: respect, recognition, accomplishment, confidence, great leadership, loving what you do, gratitude, reward, praise, smile, opportunity, positive environment, the people you work with, a cause. And yes, they also mentioned money/budget and new equipment as well. E-motion stands for Energy in Motion in my book – these things will get the energy in motion and moving in the direction of your goals when you pay attention to what people really need.

What are you as a leader doing to create a great physical and emotional experience for those who work with and for you?

In our next Customer Care Tip, we’ll cover the remaining two systems: Mental and Spiritual
You can read the Times article here: “Why You Hate Work”

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