We’ve all probably experienced it at one point or another in our personal or professional lives, the dreadful sight of a constant nagger approaching. What could there possibly be to complain about first thing in the day, when the coffee is still hot? They’ll find something. If you don’t find an exit strategy, you’ll find yourself captive audience to the negative chatter, and suddenly your mood is affected too. As will be the next person you encounter, and so on. Negativity is contagious and will undoubtedly impact the work atmosphere in such a way that productivity suffers and employees disengage.
This is just one example of the way working conditions can hinder engagement and make business objectives harder to meet.
Since 1949, May has been Mental Health Awareness Month, so it’s an appropriate time to round out the month with Part 7 of our HR Employee Experience Series, which focuses on the dimension of Conditions. The consequences of adverse working conditions don’t just impact your organization’s productivity and business outcomes, but they can have severe implications on employees’ mental wellness. Long-term health problems like stress, anxiety and depression can be a direct result of a poor work environment. Similarly, a cyclical effect may be created, as when employees have mental health struggles, their productivity will also decline.
The good news is, just as negativity is contagious, so is positivity. Here are ways that Dr. Jack Wiley suggests HR leaders can improve working conditions and increase engagement and productivity.
1. Hire team players. To help create a culture and environment of cooperation and teamwork, Human Resources should emphasize on hiring individuals with these characteristics. Employees desire a social climate that is free of negative or hostile supervisors and coworkers, and is friendly, cooperative and low in stressors. Hiring people who exude positivity and have a willingness to be part of the team can help keep the negativity at bay.
2. Integrate work-life balance year-round. Discussions on this topic are not just for company handbooks and employee orientation. Schedule monthly or quarterly seminars on work-life balance for employees to help them understand the benefits and to promote better work and personal habits. Offering employees a flexible work schedule and adequate time off can help combat stress and burnout, as well as other mental health conditions.
3. Implement sound staffing processes. Human Resources should ensure that there is enough staff within each department to reduce work overload for current employees and that newly hired employees are skilled and qualified for their positions. If you want employees to show up in good spirits and ready to seize the day, adequate staffing should be in place. This can lead to employees complaining less about how much work they must do (which also eats into productivity) and more efficiency in their responsibilities.
In addition to these three key strategies, employees want to work in an efficient and pleasant environment – one that is physically and technologically satisfying. They cannot do their jobs effectively with broken equipment, in unsafe conditions or in an environment fraught with office politics. Human Resource leaders must take efforts to ensure that their atmosphere is one that cultivates positivity, and by doing so, they can help ensure their employees have strong mental health that leads to better engagement.
NOTE: This is part of a blog series based on Dr. Jack Wiley’s paper Suggested Actions for Human Resources to Create a Better Employee Experience. Be sure to check out the other parts of the series:
Part 4: Seeking [Job] Security
Part 5: Fundamental to Work: Fair Pay