We spend most of our time in our workplace during the day. Employees chit chat, take breaks, work extremely hard and give their all to meet targets and achieve organizational success.
But what happens when the workplace gets toxic?
What happens when the workplace no longer cares about your wellbeing?
What happens when you’re pushed to achieve while ignoring your personal needs?
What happens when you burnout and slowly fade away?
Many employees have lost their sense of self and overall wellbeing while working in these
unhealthy workplaces. Recent research has shown that 65 % employees experience workplace stress that has caused a loss of more than $300 billion dollars per year (Heckman, 2022).
What can really help change these numbers for the better?
The answer lies within psychology. When we speak about stress and other mental health conditions of employees, we are speaking about their psychology. This constitutes their thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and the environment they are in. The workplace has a significant influence on an employee’s psychological wellbeing which impacts their productivity and performance leading to the success of the organization. Due to this many companies are focusing on wellbeing at three levels- individuals, teams, and the organization, making them shift from being good to great.
To unleash the power of psychology to make workplaces healthy, one can focus on:
- Increasing Employee Engagement using Empathy
Employee Engagement encourages individuals and teams to interact with each other, engage in
company processes and the work they do. An employee will engage only when they are trusted
and felt respected in the organization. To build this trust, empathy plays an important role. It forms a strong foundation for the organization to work. By having an empathetic culture, employees become open to sharing their feelings and being heard.
Many team building activities using creative methodologies like art, dance, and other movements can help instill empathy within the organization. These activities need to be facilitated using deeper and longer interventions for impactful shifts. Empathy based interventions have shown to reduce absenteeism, increase retention, promotes ownership, enhances performance, and unlocks creativity.
- Employee Growth and Beliefs
This involves personal and professional development of employees. For a healthy workplace, it is necessary for people to evolve their knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Many people hold a fixed mindset that compromises their work and organizational success. This includes the beliefs they hold about themselves, others, and the company itself. If you have an employee who does not feel confident about their work despite his/her qualifications, their work quality gets compromised.
If employees hold negative beliefs and biases about others, it will have an impact on relationships causing more conflicts within teams. These examples highlight the importance of changing beliefs from negative to positive. This calls for workshops, programs, counselling, and even coaching to help employees shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. The benefits of this don’t just stop at work but extend into their personal life.
The beliefs which employees hold signify the roots from which their success shoots. The more they nourish the negative beliefs, they are more likely to have an unhealthy workplace.
What you focus on grows!
- Shifting Workplace Rules and Policies
Inculcating flexibility and balance in workplaces mean that employee needs are heard. Having flexible schedules, options to work from home, and smooth leave applications can help ease the burden of the employees. For instance, introducing mental health leaves can help accelerate an awareness culture and improve productivity. To avoid misuse, policies can be laid down using appropriate criteria for the leave application.
Reducing micromanaging and loosening of control over the work of employees can also help lower stress. Feedback and mentoring can be used to involve employees in workplace related decisions. These opportunities help foster wellbeing and help retain valuable employees.
- Shared Visions of Organizations and Employees
This involves alignment of the organizations vision with the personal vision of employees. Each individual has a vision which drives them to achieve their goals. If the employees’ personal vision is not aligned with the organizational vision, it can lead to demotivation and lowered wellbeing. This involves the organization sharing their mission and being open to improvements/feedbacks from employees. Petere Senge describes shared vision as: “People are not playing according to the rules of the game, but feed responsible for the game.”
This can be achieved by facilitating guided visualizations and self-reflection workshops, ultimately leading to alignment. The company starts operating as a family where each individual is valued. Shared visions help employees connect their work to a greater purpose and mission, making it fulfilling.
- Wellbeing Interventions and Trainings
A company investing in developing wellbeing programs is investing in a place of profit. This includes leadership trainings, mental health workshops, creating buddy systems, making counselling and coaching available, and having a functional crisis helpline.
In the rat race, individuals forget that breathing and pausing will only help them leap faster to success. Therefore, having a culture that encourages employees to share their feelings and be mindful can help improve their wellbeing. Companies like Google have used mindfulness-based apps to help employees pause and stay in the present moment which led to lowered stress levels and higher productivity.
- Appreciation and Gratitude at Work
Appreciation and Gratitude makes employees feel valued and respected, in turn creating a healthy workplace. One could use the following ways to appreciate employees at work,
– Words of Affirmation: Using encouraging words to show you value your employees and
– Quality of time: Spend some time with focused attention and listening to employees
– Acts of service: Help employees with something they are struggling with at the moment
– Tangible gifts: Incorporate gifting something of meaning
– Value effort: Recognize achievements using awards/titles and highlight efforts by verbally expressing and encouraging
Another simple and powerful psychological concept that can transform workplaces is gratitude. It helps improve mood, productivity, improved relationships and healthier work environment. Some gratitude practices include,
– Saying “thank you” when someone says or does something for you
– Morning greetings and regular smiles at work
– Having a gratitude tree at the workplace where employees hang 1-3 things, they are grateful for
– Organizing lunches or high tea to encourage team bonding
Psychology provides a win-win solution to create healthier and happier workplaces for employees. This leads companies to make investments in improving employee wellbeing which consequently ups the company’s success. Employees can go home with a smile despite a stressful day and look forward to the next day at work. Hence, it is crucial for companies to take care of those who take care of them.
- Fehr, R., Fulmer, A., Awtrey, E., &; Miller, J. (2017). The Grateful Workplace: A Multilevel Model of Gratitude in Organizations. Academy Of Management Review, 42(2), 361-381. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2014.0374
- Headspace. (2022). Headspace & Google and Roche. Headspace. Retrieved from https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/4137181/hs_b2b_google_roche_casestudy.pdf_hsmi=200867927&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–JB8orOrDjruIyzeskxsT2AKSp6cfu7fuHjp9MU_5NZbkymuY1d27m-LisaCtEcusuajQ33cXKNkHWPlRN0rtZnIMUS6km0MGBkgl-vT6Nif1ELs
- Heckman, W. (2022). 42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics – The American Institute of Stress. The American Institute of Stress. Retrieved 27 July 2022, from https://www.stress.org/42-worrying-workplace-stress-statistics.
- Senge, P. (1990). Peter Senge and the learning organization. Rcuperado de. The Importance of Empathy in the Workplace | CCL. CCL. (2022). Retrieved 27 July 2022, from https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/empathy-in-the-workplace-a-tool-for-effective-leadership/.
- Yeager, D., &; Dweck, C. (2020). What can be learned from growth mindset controversies?. American Psychologist, 75(9), 1269-1284. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000794
About the author:
Noorain Fathima is a psychologist and was honored a Gold Medal for her academic work by the Governor of Karnataka. She is also a certified mental health first aider and a NLP practitioner. She focuses on empowerment and highlighting of her client’s strengths and not just problems. She is a mental health advocate and has collaborated with various influencers to spread the message. Noorain has designed and delivered corporate workshops to help not only de-stress and focus on wellbeing but also to instill an empathetic culture within. She believes the success of the organization is deeply connected to the wellbeing of their employees. Additionally, she has a keen interest in writing research papers and has undertaken several research projects. Her key area of interest is holistic wellbeing, self-compassion, employee wellness, and organizational growth.