Creating a Happier Workplace

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Tuesday, 24 September 2013 14:39

Keeping employees happy is crucial to ensuring their loyalty and preventing high turnover, which is very costly to organizations.  That happiness, however, is dependent on much more than a person’s salary. In fact, according to Forbes, most employees say a company’s benefit programs, work-life balance, incentive programs and opportunities for development and advancement matter more than the size of their paycheck.

There are many things employers can do to increase employee happiness and job satisfaction. Some of these include:

Flexible work arrangements.  As the world becomes smaller and businesses become increasingly “paperless,” thanks to technological advances, many employees are able to work from home with a computer and phone without ever entering an office or encountering a single coworker or client in person.  In addition, as more companies are operating globally, they find that offering flex time to employees is a big incentive.  It generally proves to be a win-win, as it enables the company to respond to unique time demands of its clients, as well as the schedule needs of the employee who may be trying to maintain a healthier work-life balance.

Health insurance.  As healthcare and insurance costs rise and more employers drop or decrease this benefit, employers who offer a comprehensive plan automatically have an edge over their competitors when it comes to recruiting and keeping talented associates.

Continuing education. Whether it comes in the form of tuition reimbursement or offering on-site classes for continuing education and job training at little to no cost, this benefit is important to many employees.

Supporting community involvement and volunteer work. Many companies support community agencies such as the local United Way in the form of annual pledge drives.  Some employers go a step further in giving back to their communities by sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity house or a local charity fundraising event, such as a gala or walk. The best employers, however, encourage their associates to make a personal contribution the community by paying them for community service time, instead of requiring them to use vacation time, when these employees volunteer at a local school or participate in a neighborhood beautification project during normal company hours.

Guilt-free paid time off.  In the past, many corporations had policies that allowed employees to sell back their unused vacation or personal time at the end of the year. This contributed to a “workaholic” environment, however, where employees were essentially discouraged to use their earned time off in exchange for the lucrative payout at the end of the calendar year.  Many employers have abandoned this unhealthy policy in exchange for a “use it or lose it” policy that requires employees to use earned paid time off by the calendar year.

Team activities that foster camaraderie.  Many companies have an annual holiday party where associates are encouraged to mingle and get to know one another.  In many organizations, these events are mandatory and dreaded by employees, because they are often seen as monotonous and impersonal.  Good companies will put on an event that is truly enjoyable for their employees. They are willing to spend some money on quality food and/or entertainment to show team members they are valued. The best employers, however, also offer at least one annual event where associates are welcome to bring their spouse and children.  In addition, they often host quarterly teambuilding activities within departments, to foster a genuine team spirit.

Ergonomic and environmentally friendly workspace.  Many employers utilize ergonomic keyboards and chairs, but the most desired employers take workspace sensitivity to a higher level, by evaluating their office lighting, offering fun, friendly break-room/dining areas, prohibiting perfumes and colognes which may irritate a co-worker’s allergies, and offering comprehensive recycling programs throughout the premises.

Employee recognition. Everyone likes to be rewarded for their loyalty and a job well done.  While some companies may acknowledge a service anniversary with a memo in a company newsletter or a post on their intranet, great companies and leaders go out of their way to personally acknowledge dedicated employees who have it a service milestone and reward those who have achieved something special, be it completion of a degree or certification, achieving a lofty sales goal, or a project that is completed early and/or under budget.

In addition to the items above, which are often staples in a “good” compensation package, many organizations have adopted additional programs to help increase both associate satisfaction and associate health, which can also help an organization save money in the long-term.  Some of these programs include corporate weight loss programs/challenges, such as Weight Watchers at Work or Corporate-sponsored challenges; smoking cessation programs/incentives; classes and groups  devoted to improving mental health; health screenings, such as skin cancer evaluations, blood pressure tests and mammograms; health & wellness fairs that offer things some of the above-mentioned screenings, plus items as free massages, chiropractic evaluations, and nutrition and dietary information; and fitness or exercise programs at work, such as yoga, martial arts, walking clubs, stair-walking challenges and discounted gym memberships. Several of these programs, such as weight loss and fitness, are able to utilize some of the available health technology on the market, as participants are encouraged to track their weight, diet, daily physical activity, etc. on phone and tablet apps that help them monitor their progress and calculate changes need to help them achieve their wellness goals.

Fortunately, most of the programs referenced above can often be offered to employees in the healthcare sector at little to no cost to the employer, due to the resources available within the organization.  Many can be offered at little expense at other companies, too, however. For instance, it costs an organization nothing to offer a walking club that meets and walks around the parking lot or at a nearby park over a lunch hour or before work.

CoreTech has recently adopted an internal health initiative that consists of a bi-weekly newsletter with fitness and diet tips, such as suggestions on items as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and a calendar that lists local walks/runs and other events employees might choose to participate in to improve their health and wellbeing.  We have already found that encouraging our team members to get moving together (by participating in local 5k charity walks, etc.) has helped foster camaraderie among employees who don’t often work in the same location and see each other on a regular basis.  Of course, it has also helped contribute to healthier employees.

Great companies have learned that spending a little extra energy and money to increase employees’ job satisfaction will likely save the company money in the long run by preventing high turnover. By investing in employees to ensure their individual happiness and well-being, an organization ultimately contributes to its own wellbeing and likelihood of success in the marketplace.

~ Melissa McCain