Can company perks pick up productivity? Studies are showing that the average American worker, whose full-time work week is now topping 47 hours and 610 emails, may no longer be finding the professional peace they crave in office ping pong.
Unrealistic expectations coupled with long hours are increasing workers’ stress levels—leading to a more unproductive work culture. According to a 2014 survey, 57% of employees who identified as having “high stress at work” said they were less productive and disengaged with their tasks. By contrast, only 10% of “low-stress” employees reported the same feelings.
But it may not be the stress itself that is causing poor workplace productivity. While surveyed workers listed inadequate staffing as a major cause of anxiety, only 15% of senior managers globally acknowledged this might be a problem for their teams. A senior consultant on the study, Rebbekah Haymes, notes that real change only occurs when management truly connects with its teams: “Without this, even the most well-meaning management team can find itself focusing energy and resource on the wrong areas.”
When A Free Parking Spot Isn’t Enough
When workplace productivity is affected by stress, companies need to dig deep to uncover and address the root of their team’s disengagement. In other words, if the free lunch and parking spot isn’t working, it might be time to give that incentive program another look.
According to researchers of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation and human behavior, “contingent payment systems tend to undermine intrinsic motivation.” Linking artificial incentives to work behavior triggers sends a message of how employers have control over employees’ future behavior. As we are controlled over time, we lose interest in the activity. So, rather than feeling empowered by our work, we feel like only the potential reward drives our behavior.
There may be another way: The Harvard Business Review reveals that, even if it may not seem apparent at first, ethics is a core part of management. The adage “it’s just business” no longer applies to workers who are always connected and invested in their work beyond the traditional 9-to-5. Organizations shape individuals’ behavior, and the more they treat that responsibility with respect, the more everyone benefits. As it turns out, there are five key positive cultural values that can make the biggest impact on lowering employee stress and, in turn, boosting company competitiveness, workforce morale, and productivity.
5 Ways To Boost Workplace Productivity With A Positive Culture
1. Walk (Or Dance) A Mile
The ability to “put on another person’s shoes” and understand their situation and emotional state is a powerful tool in building healthy relationships. No artificial incentive can replace how you treat people in the workplace.
A brain-imaging study discovered that employees who remembered an unkind or unempathic supervisor showed increased activation in areas of the brain associated with avoidance and negative emotion. Productivity begins with supervisors treating their co-workers with kindness and cultivating confidence in their teams. Says executive life coach DeLores Pressley: “Empathetic executives and managers realize that the bottom line of any business is only reached through and with people. Therefore, they have an attitude of openness towards and understanding of the feelings and emotions of their team members.”
Fortunately, empathy can be learned. Being an enthusiastic, involved supporter of each team member is a leadership starting point for managers and leaders aspiring to build positive culture company.
2. Dish Out What’s Deserved
A study in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science explains how the most effective productivity practices are rooted in people’s belief in inherent human decency. It’s an indication of why senior and middle management must treat their overworked colleagues with respect, trust, and integrity.
Validation matters to people who consistently put 110% into their job. In this case, earning respect means as much as earning a paycheck. It’s uplifting to see how work impacts the company’s vision.
This might mean being more transparent about company performance, projections, and even doubts and fears. Work with employees to carve out the core values and goals for the company. By giving respect at a foundational level, your business earns work productivity through being emotionally intelligent.
And if stress or other factors are already negatively affecting an employee’s work quality? A supportive manager inspires employees to find a greater meaning in their work. Instead of blaming employees, practice forgiveness to transform mistakes into life lessons. Show compassion to colleagues who may need to address personal issues at work, and recognize people’s strengths while avoiding destructive criticism.
3. Make Gratitude Competitive
In toxic workplaces, gratitude is often left at the company’s doorsteps. Employees compete viciously to undermine their colleagues in order to impress the boss or to earn the highest sales targets for the week.
But competition in the workplace doesn’t have to be destructive. There’s room for gratitude and productivity to co-exist among team members. Research reveals that individuals practicing gratitude exercises were more prosocial than others. Prosocial means “promoting other’s well being, usually through altruistic acts.” Just like rising tides lift all boards, individual performance benefits everyone’s ultimate success.
Supportive environments give employees the confidence and self-assurance to focus on their work and not petty office politics. Integrate gratitude into your company culture by reminding employees to help each other with projects. Make it a weekly team effort to recognize co-workers performing at their best and reward teamwork early and often.
4. Turn On The Creative Taps
Workplace productivity shouldn’t be the arch nemesis to creativity, although it happens easily when companies cripple workers by over-structuring, instilling fear when someone colors outside the lines. Process doesn’t help productivity when it limits empowerment to take positive risks. And with a creativity crisis affecting new generations of workers (who have been over-structured since childhood), companies can’t afford to not explicitly motivate employees to explore new ways of thinking and find offbeat solutions to old problems.
Off-the-cuff creativity still needs a little process to implement at a corporate level, however, leading to programs like Google’s “20 percent time” which gives employees structured time for creative exploration. Facebook’s “Hackamonth” program gives employees the chance to work on a different team for a month to encourage new perspectives and experiences.
Teams who feel empowered to be creative become emotionally invested in their work, are less afraid of failure, and feel more positive about making a real impact in their workplace. Doesn’t that sound inspiring?
5. Uncover What Engagement Really Means
A Gallup poll uncovered that engaged employees drive innovation and feel a connection with their employers. On the other hand, disengaged workers lack the energy due to their unhappiness with the job. And sometimes, they undermine the work of engaged co-workers—costing businesses as much as $2,000 per employee per year in lost productivity. That’s a hard pill to swallow for managers tasked with leading a large team.
To promote engagement, start by connecting with your whole company and defining what engagement means as a group. The answer may have nothing to do with work. Simply providing opportunities to connect in a social setting through after-hours events or structured bonding time during office hours can go a long way.
Engagement also means learning and helping workers achieve their personal goals. Author and business coach Brett Baughman suggests taking the first step by being engaged as a manager: “Meet with your employees and find out what they are working toward. What are their goals? Are they trying to pay off debt or do they have a child they need to put through college? Define their purpose and become a driving force to help them succeed.” Aligning personal and team goals means everyone at your company will be rowing in the same direction, and hitting more successes more often.
Spreading Positivity to Gain Productivity
Workplace productivity goes beyond meeting monthly output goals, and achieving better worker engagement isn’t as easy as setting up a foosball table or handing out an employee-of-the-month parking spot. To achieve true productivity, the people hired and trained to produce the work need a positive environment.
Indeed, it’s not enough to control employees with hollow incentive programs that pit workers against one another. Now is the time to build a workplace culture around empathy, gratitude, and respect. To build better team productivity, values must lead the way.