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Jul 21

Smart Communication Tips for Creating a Healthy Workplace

By Dr. Jack Singer | Blog , Workplace Wellness

In previous articles, I mentioned the ongoing research cited by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence in embracing the principles of a “Psychologically Healthy Workplace.”  This is another piece of the Workplace Excellence puzzle—the role of smart communication in the design and implementation of healthy workplace practices.

Smart Communication in the Workplace

Bottom-up Communication

Management cannot initiate new workplace programs or initiatives without understanding employee needs, perceptions and concerns.

When a company invites me to help them develop a new workplace program, the first step is opening a series of programs where employees are encouraged to communicate.

Anonymity is often necessary in order for employees to feel safe in objectively relating their needs, perceptions and concerns.

Examples of Bottom-Up Communication Strategies:

  1. Employee surveys
  2. Suggestion boxes
  3. Individual or team meetings with managers
  4. Maintaining a participative, open, two-way communication culture

The information obtained by communicating with employees must be given genuine consideration by management.  Employees need to believe that the company is truly interested in their perceptions, concerns, and suggestions for improvement, rather than simply soliciting feedback from employees in order to make them feel important.  This includes not only assessing employee needs but directly involving them in the development and implementation of workplace practices that address those needs.

Top-Down Communication 

How management communicates with employees is critical to the successful implementation of new workplace practices.  Not only do employees need a basic awareness of the availability of new programs, but they need to know clearly how to gain access to them, along with strong messages that management encourages and supports these new initiatives.

Examples of Top-Down Communication Strategies:

  1. Newsletter, memos, etc. that explain the goals of Management
  2. Using multiple channels (e.g., print, electronic, and video, orientation and training sessions, staff and team meetings, etc.)
  3. Leading by example, where all levels of management regularly participate in the same psychologically healthy workplace activities with the employees

Nothing encourages employees more than knowing and believing that top management embraces the same workplace activities they are promoting for their employees.

Smart communication is an important part of building a psychologically healthy workplace. On that topic, the honorable Alexis M. Herman, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, said it best:

“This is not pie in the sky: this is about the bottom line. Building psychologically healthy workplaces isn’t just the right thing to do.  It’s also the smart thing to do.”

Jun 23

2016 APA Work and Well-Being Survey: Still a Long Way to Go in Workplace Wellness

By Dr. Jack Singer | Blog , Stress , Workplace Wellness

Every year the American Psychological Association conducts a survey to study stress, workplace wellness, and other critical factors among America’s workers. The 2016 survey was conducted in March and findings were released in June, so it’s time once again to examine the results of the APA Work and Well-Being Survey. The results show key areas where employers can improve their respective workplaces.

My overall thoughts on the 2016 APA Work and Well-Being Survey? The results are both surprising and disappointing.

Main Findings of the APA Work and Well-Being Survey

Overall, the findings show that after all of these years of consistent research findings by professional industrial/organizational psychologists, many companies are still failing in several critical areas.

Some of the most disappointing findings I read:

  • Only about half of those surveyed feel valued by their employer.
  • About half of workers still do not believe that their employer provides opportunities to participate in decision-making, solving problems, or setting goals.
  • The main sources of worker job stress are low salaries and insufficient opportunities for development and advancement

Feeling valued and having the opportunity to challenge yourself, reach goals, and grow as a worker are basic needs that every company must address. These crucial elements help employers nurture their most valued assets—their employees.

Workplace Wellness Findings

In addition to job stress, the APA Work and Well-Being Survey also examined workplace wellness, a topic that I have covered in recent blog posts.

Despite the research and anecdotal documentation of the wonderful benefits of workplace wellness programs, the survey found that only one-third of American workers regularly participates in such health-promoting programs, when provided by their employers.

Secondly, despite the plethora of research proving that workplace wellness programs promote health (for example, by proactively teaching employees how to manage stress), more than half of those surveyed believe that their work climate does not support employee wellness and a third still complain of chronic stress in their jobs!

There is evidence that more than half of the companies in the U.S. still do not see the benefits of promoting worker and job site wellness initiatives.

Much more education regarding the health and bottom line benefits for employees and their companies, respectively, must be provided for HR professionals.

[Tweet “2016 @APA #Work and #WellBeing Survey – still a long way to go in workplace #wellness.”]

What Key Element Differentiates Companies that Embrace Wellness Initiatives from Those that Do Not?

From the survey results, it seems that the key determinant of whether a company embraces workplace health and wellness programs is whether senior leadership supports and encourages wellness.  A whopping seventy-three percent of employees who have senior managers who show support and commitment to well-being initiatives said their companies encouraged and nurtured healthy workplace and healthy lifestyle plans.

There are also other significant, positive outcomes for employees with senior leadership that supports and encourages wellness. These employees:

  • Feel motivated to do their best.
  • Have higher job satisfaction.
  • Have positive relationships with their supervisors and co-workers.

Eighty-nine percent of these employees also recommended their company as a “good place to work” and were less likely to leave their job the next year.

Using the Findings to Create Better Workplaces

Results of the APA Work and Well-Being Survey demonstrate that the presence of senior leadership that embraces wellness programs is linked to many far-ranging outcomes. As David W. Ballard, director of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, concludes, “When supervisors’ actions match their words, employees notice.” 

The take-home message from the APA Work and Well-Being Survey is that employers must focus training on their senior leaders and be sure they understand the critical need for workplace health and well-being initiatives.  Ballard puts it succinctly: “Employers who truly embrace well-being as part of how they do business create a workplace where both employees and the organization thrive.”