Is Stress a Major Factor in Low Employee Engagement?
Back in my corporate days, employee engagement was a big deal – and it still is today. As a Human Resources Business Partner, every year I partnered with Gallup and company leaders to run employee surveys, track metrics, and create and implement engagement programs with the goal to increase our employee engagement.
A highly engaged workforce means the difference between a company that outperforms its competitors and one that fails to grow. Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace survey finds striking differences between the most engaged workplaces and ones that aren’t, specifically: 21% greater profitability, 17% greater productivity, 41% less absenteeism and 24% less turnover. Gallup also reports in that same survey that 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Said in another way, only 15% of employees are engaged.
I think about employee engagement in a holistic way – looking at the employee as a whole person, not just the one that comes to work.
Human beings are complex, and multiple factors should be taken into consideration when looking to improve engagement including health, wellbeing, relationships, and finances. Because of my experience with chronic stress and burn-out, both personally and with helping others struggling, I know the impact that stress can have on engagement.
Think about it: when you’re under a lot of pressure, are you making the best choices or acting the same as you would when at ease? Even now, when I’m under a tight timeline to get something done, I can sometimes get short with colleagues and feel some unwanted anger and anxiety creeping in.
Too often at companies I worked for and with current coaching clients, I see conflict in the workplace due to the pressures of a fast-paced and toxic environment. The pressure and subsequent stress seemed to change the people and their typical behavior for the worse. They’d lash out, yell, get angry, and have to apologize later (some never did). It’s not the best behavior in a professional work environment, or any environment really.
Recognizing employees comprehensively, as complete people, is a great approach to increasing engagement. In fact, some companies are beginning to evolve their workplace wellness to address stress and provide unique all-encompassing offerings. For example, the company Asana has “nap rooms” where employees can de-stress and recharge. They also offer mentor programs that provide coaching, along with monthly workshops with different health-themed focuses like an immunity boost workshop before flu season.
Intuit’s program offers meditation and mindfulness classes as reimbursable expenses as well as incentives for employees engaging in stress-reduction habits, like practicing breathing exercises, taking walks or listening to calming music. Their website provides mindfulness resources and employees see “mindful moment” tips on the whiteboards in the conference rooms.
If you’re not fortunate enough to work at a company that provides these types of trailblazing programs, you still have options. If you’re in a leadership role, you can suggest bringing similar initiatives to your workplace, reinforcing the importance of high employee engagement and its impact on profitability.
Or you can personally pursue any of the examples above, like taking a walk, mindfulness classes, working with a coach or mentor, listening to calming music – until your company provides them. Yes, it would be better to have it included and paid for by your employer. But if you value your wellbeing, you’ll find the time and money.
We all can benefit from learning more about increasing engagement and taking steps to increase it. Prioritizing and supporting employees’ success at work, and our own success overall as people, is key.