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The businesses overlook several practices that are essential to the well-being of employees


Alain Thériault

September 18, 2018 09:30

Photo : Freepik

According to the research firm McKinsey & Company, the control of, and access to social support can help the employee feel better at work, as companies often neglect these principles for the benefit of prevention through healthy life habits.

The urgency that creates the problem of stress in the workplace often diverts the business leaders of the fundamental element : the work environment. It is this that observes Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, in his book Dying for a Paycheck, published in 2018 by Harper Business.

Stress in the workplace takes a toll on more and more heavily on the physical and psychological health of workers, writes the researcher in the newsletter, the McKinsey Quarterly, published in September by the consulting firm dedicated to business leaders. They often react by encouraging good habits of sleep, exercise, meditation or even a nap at work.

200 billion US $

“Stress in the workplace costs each year close to 200 billion dollars in health care expenses for u.s. employers “, says Mr. Pfeffer.

He believes, however, that the companies could reduce health care spending and improve the health of their employees by giving them more control over their work and a social life more rich at work. These two elements should according to him be a top priority for managers. “Any company from any sector can activate these levers without breaking the bank. However, few are doing today, ” says the researcher.

The health by the self –

Decades of research demonstrate, supports Mr. Pfeffer : the margin of manoeuvre of the employees to determine what they do and how they do it plays a major role in their physical health. Recent research indicates that a limited amount of control of their work also has adverse effects on the mental health of employees.

He cites the studies of Whitehall Studies, conducted among employees in the public service by the british epidemiologist Michael Marmot. According to his work, the more an employee is at a high level in the company, less large are the incidence and mortality of cardiovascular diseases. The same goes for the degree of autonomy that it has in the work, which is also correlated to the importance of its role hierarchy, discovered the researchers. These workers the highest ranking are given more autonomy, and are better, even if their workload is higher.

Two times more sick

In contrast, the Whitehall Studies found that the less autonomy and a greater burden of work go together with risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. “Employees faced with the chronic stress had above and beyond two times more likely to be affected by metabolic syndrome than those without work stress “, said Mr. Pfeffer.

Other researchers have found such a link. A study of 8 500 white-collar swedes, who have gone through a reorganization has revealed that those with a greater influence and a greater degree of autonomy had fewer symptoms of illness. They were less frequently absent and suffered less depression.

Anxiety and depression

A study of 72 employees in various organisations in the north-eastern United States has shown that a lower degree of autonomy at work lead to more anxiety and depression.

A working environment made chaotic events that are uncontrollable may also harm affected the motivation, cognition, and the emotional state of employees. Research shows that the lack of autonomy demotivates employees, and reduces their efforts. “This significantly impedes their learning in the work place, adds Mr. Pfeffer. In a situation of reduced autonomy, people have less responsibilities and freedom to act, which undermines their sense of competence and accomplishment, and contributes to stress, anxiety and depression. “

Jeffrey Pfeffer suggests that organizations protect themselves against the adverse effects of a loss of control. Businesses need to create jobs that are more fluid and self-sustaining, and erecting a barrier against the micro-management. “The micromanagement is common in business, because many managers struggle to coach employees and to facilitate their work,” he observes. When leaders do micro-manage, their subordinates lose their autonomy and their sense of control over their work, in favor of their boss who does not delegate. “

Companies give the example

It can be otherwise, believes Mr. Pfeffer. He gives the example of Yves Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, a supplier in sports climbing. The leader applies the principle of “management by absence,” says the Stanford University professor. The structure flattened to the company reduces the risk of micro-managing, ” he says. There are more people that a manager cannot micromanage.

In Zillow, a company of real estate advertisements based in Seattle, the manager’s role is to support the team is to help remove obstacles, not to be a dictator, says one of its employees in learning and development.

The autonomy is not that to the top of the hierarchy to Collective Health, a firm of San Francisco, which offers navigation services in the health network to the participants of group insurance plans. Senior director, clinical solutions and networks of Collective Health, Andrew Halpert leads to highly selective in its recruits to the call centre to the use of key tools. It performs a bearing of their location and their tasks, to give them an overview of the operation of the business and empower them to solve problems they encounter. The system has increased employee retention. The benefits outweigh the costs of the firm and its clients, testified Mr. Halpert.

According to Mr. Pfeffer, this experience shows that a reconfiguration of the roles can improve both the health of employees and efficiency for the customer. “In fact, the two can mutually reinforce each other “, he adds.

Social support

The companies will also be required to avoid the preparation of the employees against each other by promoting a culture of competition. Another approach to be avoided : to consider the employee as a factor of production, with which we exchange money for work. These approaches weaken the collaboration and social connections.

Mr. Pfeffer recommends companies take four resolutions :

– Demonstrate your commitment to help

After the accidental death of an employee, the american multinational software SAS Institute decides to maintain the registration of their children in the day care of the employees of the company.

– Encourage employees to take care of each other

The health care company american DaVita has created a network that allows employees to contribute to a fund to help in times of crisis. DaVita is equal to the employee contributions, up to an amount of $250,000.

– Change the language

Avoid the language of titles that focuses on the divisions and adopt a language consistent with the idea of community. DaVita is described as a village. The CEO is often called himself the ” mayor “, and the employees are constantly designated as teammates rather than workers.

– Support shared connections

Promote events that bring people together in a way that is pleasant and meaningful, celebrations, volunteer work, celebration of an employee or product launch. For example, Southwest Airlines is known for its parties Halloween.

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