U.S. Workforce: Why Is Everyone So Miserable And What Can We Do About It?

If you are employed but unhappy with your job you may have heard these words when depressed employeegrumbling about your work week to a friend, “At least you have a job.”  If you’re a manager do you feel your employees are lucky to even be employed?   This attitude might be influencing you to treat them in ways that do not contribute to their success or well being.  I mean if you believe they have no other place to go, then your investment in retaining them might be fairly minimal, fueling their disengagement.

A 2013 survey by Gallup indicates that just thirty percent of the U.S. workforce is actively engaged and on a global scale that percentage is a meager thirteen percent.  Recent research suggests that employees are happier and more productive when the following four core needs are met: Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

I will quickly breakdown each one and as you read through it, contemplate how many of these needs you as a manager try to accommodate.  Consider that if just one of the following needs is met, according to studies an employee’s performance improves across the board.

Physical – The need to recharge at work through occasional breaks.

Emotional – The need to feel valued for their contributions.

Mental – The need to focus on important tasks and decide when and where it gets done.

Spiritual – The need to do what they love most and feel connected to a higher purpose.

I bet you’re rolling your eyes right now.  Employees don’t need hugs and foosball breaks!  They need to get to work!  That’s why they are getting paid right?  Work is not supposed to be fun and enjoyable!

Well, consider these statistics gleaned from a global workforce study of 32,000 employees conducted by consulting firm, Towers Watson.

  • Employees who take a break every 90 minutes compared to those who took only one break or less have a 30 percent higher level of focus, a 50 percent greater ability to think creatively and a 46% higher level of well being.
  • An employee’s likelihood to stay at a company increased by 100% if their supervisor encouraged them to take breaks.
  • Employees who felt cared for by their supervisor were 67% more engaged.
  • Employees who found meaning in their work were three times more likely to stay and reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction.

According to Gallup’s research, when companies in the top quarter for employee engagement were compared to the bottom quarter, they were found to be 22% more profitable, had 28% less theft, nearly 50% fewer safety incidences and overall reported higher customer satisfaction.

Simply put, the way people feel at work significantly affects how well they perform.  In the past employers simply offered raises or bonuses but in today’s fearful economic climate, many aren’t even doing that.  Besides, recent research suggests that monetary rewards provide only a temporary change in employee behavior.

Antiquated thinking has us measuring an employee’s output by how many hours they put in, not how much they actually get done.  Therefore employees are urged to work longer and harder but research suggests that not only does a worker’s productivity decline the more hours they work past forty, their overall well being and engagement will plummet as well.

If you have read one of my more recent posts you’ll understand that the majority of employees this year will be looking for new jobs if you’re not engaged in engaging them.  I suggest you take a break from your old way of thinking and give your employees a break.

About Ryder Cullison

Ryder has more than 10 years of experience working with retained search clients as a search professional. As a pioneer of Interview4 he has great knowledge of video interviewing. He writes about all things hiring and looks forward to engaging with his audience on topics of leadership, recruiting, candidate screening, and employee satisfaction. Follow him on Twitter: @hireintelligent and @cullison1
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2 comments on “U.S. Workforce: Why Is Everyone So Miserable And What Can We Do About It?

  1. It’s really true… rewards have no long-term effects. Nowadays, for employees besides salary are much more important things such environment, how appreciate is their work, as an employee you want to see that all your hard work has results etc. All four core needs are important, but for me the most important is the emotional part – I feel really good and motivated when I see that my work has value. Every employee is motivated by one of these so the manager should find it and work with it !

    • Thank you for your comments Mihaela. The emotional aspect is truly a big part of feeling engaged and appreciated but would cost managers so little just to acknowledge employees for their accomplishments.

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