It’s 2019 – Is a Happy Workforce Possible?

I was reviewing a New York Times Op-Ed piece “Why You Hate Work” that pointed out just 30% of the American workforce is satisfied. That’s a pretty dismal number and does not bode well for productivity, which in turn, affects the bottom line. Only 13% of the worldwide workforce is satisfied which is truly frightening considering that work/production is what makes the world go round.

The researchers found that there are 4 things workers are looking for in the workplace:

  • Engagement
  • Renewal
  • Value
  • Focus

Engagement is defined as more than just engaged in one’s job, it’s engagement in the organization, the cause, the mission or the greater good that the product or service is attempting to achieve. This is especially important for the millennial generation, they want to believe in something, and to make a difference. They found that the way people “feel” about their work directly correlates to how well they perform which translates to productivity. This is not a new concept, but certainly worth revisiting and asking ourselves as employers, how engaged are our employees?

Renewal:  This is the ability to take a break, to recharge and refresh. The study found that those employees who are able to take a break every 90 minutes report a 30% higher level of focus than those who don’t. They report a 50% greater capacity to think creatively and report a higher level of well-being. The more they work over 40 hours, the worse they feel. The 40-hour work week was put in place for a reason – humans are not robots.

Value: Feeling valued by one’s supervisor or leader has a significant impact on the way employees perform. It contributes to their sense of well-being and safety. If a person feels valued, they will be much less likely to be stolen away by a competitor, even when big dollars are dangled in front of them.

Focus:  Interestingly, only 20% of those surveyed said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, meaning, they were expected to focus on several.  However, those who could focus on just one were 50% more engaged! Only 50% said they could effectively prioritize their tasks, but when they could, they could focus on one thing at a time.

Clearly, we have a lot of work to do to help employees in the workplace! However, if we focus on these four areas, the dividends to the employees will be huge and the productivity (and profits) will follow.

Large companies will have a more difficult time with this because they will try to make it a process – likely making employees feel less valued and more used. Small employers, on the other hand, can likely implement these with more authenticity and speed. Small companies are more agile, less bureaucratic and better able to listen and respond to the need. It doesn’t take much and you could make your company an “employer of choice” in time for the new year!