Time and experience has taught us the importance of employee wellbeing when boosting and maintaining business productivity in an increasingly competitive and fast-paced world. It goes without saying that contented employees are better equipped to deal with new situations and challenges in the workplace. Job-related anxiety, anger and fatigue are factors which can detract from employee wellbeing and, as a result, businesses should do all they can to prevent this from happening. Research in the area of Organisational Psychology has brought to light the links between some characteristics of peoples’ jobs and their overall wellbeing, giving insight into changes that you, as a manager, can implement to improve the wellbeing of your team.
Psychology students at Macquarie University examined the effects of certain characteristics of peoples’ workplace roles on their wellbeing. For up to five days, individuals were asked to complete a short daily survey about characteristics of their job, such as the extent to which they understood the requirements of their role, their expectations for a workday as either a potentially negative or positive experience, and their ensuing levels of anxiety, fatigue and anger. Two characteristics of the work environment that were found to have a noticeable impact upon the wellbeing of the people studied were the extent to which they felt they faced time pressure and the degree to which they were allowed to make independent decisions relating to their work.
Employees who felt time pressured at work reported feeling slightly anxious, fatigued and angry. Based upon this, it follows that managers who understand the importance of employee wellbeing cannot afford to ignore this detrimental factor; at the same time, time pressure is an inevitable feature of most modern work environments. Tasks accumulate, situations escalate, and deadlines tighten. An article in the Harvard Business Review focusing on the effects of time pressure suggests employee creativity and innovation is often dampened by time pressure: managers should aim to preserve these traits in the interests of business¬¬ competitiveness and improvement.
While it may be impossible to eliminate all forms of time demands in a work environment, there are still straightforward modifications that you can make which will lessen the amount of time pressure faced by your employees. Giving employees tasks well before they are due for completion is an obvious example, but considering the dynamic nature of most modern workplaces and the tendency for urgent matters to spontaneously ‘pop up’, it is not necessarily the easiest change to implement. Instead, capable employees could split the workload so each employee has less to do. Additionally, you could avoid delegating urgent tasks to staff that already have enough on their plate, instead allocating them employees who can give them higher priority. It is important to consult employees before implementing deadlines or planning schedules to make sure that your plans are realistic and achievable, and that your employees have the abilities and resources to successfully complete their tasks. Budget permitting, you may want to consider optional time-management and organisation seminars to empower employees with skills that may improve the way they handle work responsibilities.
The importance of consulting employees is relevant to the Macquarie students’ findings regarding employees retaining a sense of independence in their jobs. Employees who experienced greater autonomy at work felt less anxious, fatigued and angry. While the link between job independence and employee wellbeing was found to be weaker than that between time pressure and well being, it is nevertheless of great practical significance since the changes required to improve employees’ sense of autonomy are relatively easy to implement. Any simple changes which can be made to improve employee wellbeing are worth putting into practice, given the benefits of doing so.
You could begin by, as mentioned previously, consulting employees with regards to tasks and their roles. Employees should be given the opportunity to plan how to approach tasks, decide who they want to collaborate with and manage their own time. If possible, they should be allowed to work on a ‘flexi-time’ basis, enabling them greater control when juggling their job and personal commitments. Employees should be encouraged to take responsibility for their work performance and consistency. Rewarding employees and providing them with incentives (such as via an ‘Employee of the Month’ scheme) for outstanding work reinforces their sense of autonomy and promotes excellence, emphasising the importance an individual’s contribution to the wider team.
Therefore, by making simple changes to your management style, you can greatly improve the wellbeing of your employees and create a more harmonious workplace whilst boosting productivity and innovation.
Article written by Felicity Wilson, Macquarie University
Amabile, T.M., Hadley C.N., & Kramer S.J. (2002) Creativity Under the Gun. Harvard Business Review, 80(8), 52–61. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12195920.
Study conducted by PSY 338 (Organisational Psychology) students, Session 1, Macquarie University.