Expert interview: Creating a working environment where employees feel motivated and valued

 

As an organizational psychologist I study the behaviour of people in the workplace. 

One thing I have noticed over the past 18 months is the struggle for people to adjust to the merge of their working lives into their home environments. You can no longer leave your work in the office, as your office is your home. This invasion has thrown up some challenges for people to contend with, both as employees and employers. 

Yes, for many, working from home has brought with it a sense of freedom. No longer being tied to an office for 8 hours a day has been helpful for many workers. Being able to come and go from your work when you please has also liberated many. But when your workstation is always there, it’s easy to end up working outside your normal hours. 

That’s why we are witnessing a tsunami of burn-out across the globe. 

In this article, I am going to explore three key factors that can contribute to ensuring employees remain motivated and feel valued.

1. Building trust is pivotal in ensuring a happy workforce

Just like a relationship, trust is something you work towards and build. Before you can build trust, you must show respect for one another and show that you care. This is applicable to workplace relationships as well. 

This is a basic human psychology that has been previously overlooked. The workplace was never formed around trust. But as we lose face-to-face time and colleagues are geographically distributed, it’s now something businesses across the world need to build. 

Time and investment is needed to build this mutual relationship. And those that will fare better as managers, are those with higher emotional intelligence. 

When employees feel trusted, they feel free to manage their workload in a way that works for them. It gives them the freedom to find a work-life balance. It keeps your employees productive.

2. Disconnecting home and work life to avoid burn-out

As mentioned, the merge between offices and home environments has thrown up new challenges for employees. Here are a few tips I have to help you step away from the desk and de-stress:

Remember to take a break 

The brain cannot concentrate for more than 2 hours. You need to take breaks to allow your brain to digest information you have just consumed, and reset ready for the next task or project. If you do not allow your brain to process this information in the day, then you will pay for it at night. 

A good night’s sleep

We sleep for a third of our lives for a reason. We need it! It provides the opportunity to clean your mind and thoughts from the day before, and set us up to be productive the next day. 

Get close to nature

Tactics to de-stress are unique to each of us, and it takes exploration to discover what works best for you. But one thing that scientifically is proven to help is being amongst trees and nature. Trees release antimicrobial essential oils, called phytoncides, that have a host of health benefits like reducing stress and anxiety, and improving sleep and creativity. 

Movement or stillness

Both are good for the mind. Getting active is commonly known to release endorphins that help relieve stress. And meditation, with a lot of practise, can also be great for your mind. 

It takes trial and error to discover a work-life balance, and employers need to support their employees on that journey. 

3. Engaging a distributed workforce

Managers have needed to rethink the workplace, but also what management looks like in the new workplace. 

Although offices are re-opening to certain degrees, for most there is no longer the option for Friday trips to the pub, or staff socials. 

As humans, socialising is part of our DNA. Creativity is made by those connections. As an example, think of a music band – you can play music by yourself, but it will take a totally different direction and be a more fulfilling experience to play together. 

We have already been contending with social media making us a more anti-social society, we now have to contend with remote working. 

The hybrid working environment which allows employees to work from home and the office is a solution that allows social engagement to happen, but also gives employees flexibility. All helping to build trust. 

Another important area is learning and development. This has become a very important part of workplace culture today. 

Much like fashion, we have circled back to old ways of thinking – we now expect on the job training. Something that was witnessed before the 70s when the workforce was under qualified. 

The pressure for training now is more to do with people wanting personal development and to improve their employability, partly due to the competitive jobs marketplace. 

However, as an employer, if you offer training it should be a gift, not a burden. It shouldn’t sit outside of working hours and disrupt work-life balances.

To summarise, employees need to take care of themselves and find time to de-stress so we don’t have a global burn-out crisis. But it is up to businesses to empower their employees to feel that they can do so. We’re all in this together after all!

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