Heather McKenzie has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Master of Education degree in Curriculum & Instruction, both from The University of Texas at Austin. She later returned to graduate school for a Master of Science in Counseling from North Carolina State University and is currently a licensed therapist in North Carolina, USA. She enjoys writing and training on a range of topics, including effective leadership strategies, decision making, self-development, and living intentionally.
How Managers Can Help Employees to Stop Hating Work
Let’s face it. If any of your employees win the lottery, they would stop coming to work. Most people prefer (and daydream about) never having to work another day of their lives. And yet, most people will not win the lottery, and will be clocking in day after day looking for you, their manager, to make life tolerable. Good news, however, as there are actually some research-backed ways that managers can help get employees to stop hating work.
In 2013, staff culture experts, The Energy Project, partnered with the Harvard Business Review to survey over 20,000 employees in a range of industries and found that without much variation, employees are more productive and pleased with their jobs when four of their basic human needs are met in the workplace. These four needs are: physical needs (recharging and renewing during the work day is encouraged and supported), mental needs (staff get to focus on projects that are stimulating and those which they are capable of doing with some autonomy); emotional needs (employees feel appreciated and valued for their efforts), and spiritual needs (the ability to contribute in ways that are enjoyable and also make an impact). It all boils down to this: the way your employees feel at work greatly impacts their engagement, performance, and overall job satisfaction.
So how can you increase engagement and fulfillment while simultaneously decrease burnout and negativity? Start by asking yourself (and your employees) “What would make you feel more cared about, more inspired, and more connected to the work you do here?” Next, consider options for improvement in those four basic need areas identified by The Energy Project.
Attend to physical needs in the workplace. Employees feel increasingly disengaged the longer they work continuously each day, but they feel respected and cared for when supervisors encourage them to take care of themselves. Encourage staff to take breaks at least once every 90 minutes. Those who take regular breaks experience a higher level of focus, creativity, and energy throughout the day. Suggest walking down the hall to chat or stepping outside for a breath of fresh air. Create welcoming lounge spaces with refreshments to invite staff to relax and rejuvenate their bodies and minds. Encourage and demonstrate appropriate work hours and set boundaries on sending emails after hours.
Assess mental needs of staff and foster growth accordingly. As humans, we all like to do work that we feel simultaneously capable of doing and also challenged by. Continually ask staff about the parts of their job they enjoy most and look for ways to increase the amount of exposure to those types of tasks. Limit unnecessary or redundant responsibilities and meeting times whenever possible. Avoid micro-managing the process. Focus on achieving outcomes and allow staff to find their own path to pre-determined goals. Look for leadership and growth opportunities at regular intervals and offer these to your employees, even if it’s only short-term or for single projects.
Acknowledge staff as emotional beings. Everyone you employ has feelings and a life outside
of work. Ask them about it. Express care for their loved ones and their hobbies. Employees who have supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay and are 67 percent more engaged in their work. Provide praise, reward effort, and give feedback as often as you can. Notice out loud when your staff do things well, show initiative, and reflect the corporate culture you aim to create. Monetary rewards and raises are popular, but the research tells us that staff who feel truly seen, respected, and cared for by their employers are much more likely to perform well and be committed to you with or without the extra cash compensation.
Allow space for what employees value. Identify ways to link the work your team does to what matters most to them. Employees who obtain meaning from their work are three times more likely to remain loyal to a company. Values are different for everyone and could mean supporting a community project during work hours, offering an in-house mentoring programme, creating a social or “fun” committee, having a forum for staff feedback where their ideas about the company are solicited and then implemented, and being able to telecommute on occasion. The most important point is to ask and understand what each team member values.
Being a good supervisor and retaining good employees is time consuming, but so is staff-turnover. Investing in these four basic need areas will be time well spent if you do it effectively and succeed at creating a positive work culture where staff feel engaged and passionate about what they do.