Harvard instructor shares how companies can make their workers happier

The pandemic has led to crisis levels of mental health issues. After nearly two years of enduring a deadly virus, people have shared that they’ve been wrestling with depression, anxiety, stress and fear. They’re continually plagued with self-doubt, along with an erosion of confidence. (Forbes)

While many people have enjoyed the benefits of working from home, there are accompanying feelings of isolation.

You worry that since you’re working remotely, it’s “out of sight, out of mind” and your career could suffer from not being noticed by management. If you are raising young children, you need to deftly juggle a career, while tending to childcare.

It’s imperative that executives and groups, such as human resources, pay close attention to the mental and emotional well-being of their people.

They should make a practice of reaching out to their employees on a regular basis to check in and ask, “How are you?”—and mean it. Inquire how the company, its representatives and outside resources may assist with any mental, emotional or spiritual challenges that they are dealing with.

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In psychology, this is referred to as being in the “flow.” McCarthy writes, “When you are in flow, you are at the perfect intersection of an engaging challenge that your talents can conquer.” As workers and teams are in the flow, productivity and profitability is maximized.

The problem for many businesses is that roughly 85% of employees around the world are not connected with their jobs. These folks aren’t “actively engaged” with what they are doing all day long. Nearly 20% of employees are not just out of the flow, but “actively disengaged.”

These are the co-workers you see that are resentful, vengeful, gossipy, spread rumors, constantly complain and generally bring everyone down. They lack energy and passion and just go through the motions.

The key to creating an energized and motivated workforce, according to McCarthy, could be found through “positive psychology.” The founder of this movement is Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania.

Seligman calls for a model of well-being, referred to as PERMA. It’s an acronym for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. If a worker possesses these traits, they will likely outperform.

McCarthy offers real-world applications. For example, hiring decisions should include giving a voice and vote to the members of the department in the selection of a candidate. It empowers the employees and shows respect for their decision-making skills.

There’s an added benefit too. The odds are high that staffers who approved of the candidate will then do whatever it takes to make the new employee successful, in an effort to prove to management that they possess good judgement.

An employee will outperform if their tasks are aligned to their strengths and abilities. It’s important to provide them with autonomy and the room to succeed or fail.

Avoid micromanaging and overcriticizing. Instead, keep an open line of communications, if the person needs advice, guidance and feedback.

As an executive recruiter, I’ve noticed that when a person maintains a close group of work friends, they are harder to poach. The bonds keep people connected to the company. I’d often hear from a person that I’m soliciting for a new job, “Thanks, but I like it here and enjoy working with my colleagues.”

They’ll turn down better-paying jobs with great companies and growth prospects, as their work-wives/husbands and friends offer an emotional benefit that supersedes the extra cash and corporate titles.

The quickest way to discourage an employee is to withhold praise, gratitude and thanks. Without this, workers will think, “Why should I even bother?” The quality of their work will suffer, as they lose motivation.

Managers must make an attempt to acknowledge the achievements and victories of their staff. It could be in the form of a simple “thank you,” proverbial pat on the back, pizza celebration or an announcement in front of their peers. If a person didn’t meet a deadline or botched an assignment, be fair and not too judgmental with your feedback.

You should strive to pursue a job or career that offers the chance to be challenged. Find work that is meaningful, intellectually challenging and spiritually rewarding.

Inner satisfaction is sometimes found in a job that enables you to help others, promotes positive change and serves a higher purpose. If possible, find a career that is aligned with your core values and principles and could make the world a better place.

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